12.04.2013

Berlin: Historically Interesting.

People go to Berlin for two reasons: 

1. History. Between the World War II history and the Berlin wall, the city is swimming in history.
2. For that all-night/all-day techno club that doesn't close between Thursday and Sunday.

Because I like to do things like sleep occasionally, I went for the first reason. 
Japanese Art Inspired BERLYN wall.
There this thing about big cities where when they get all gentrified and ritzy, the creative art scene utterly tanks. Fortunately for Berlin's artistic integrity, rent is still super cheap! You can find vibrant art things and some communist buildings crumbling into bleak ruin bars. And of course you have to visit the very nice East Side Gallery to see the most complete and bemuraled section of Berlin wall sitting around.

Amsterdam Substances Inspired Berlin Wall.

Unfortunately for tourists, Berlin is a confusing city to visit. It has many disjointed sections and an initially confusing public transit network, so if you go in unprepared, you lose a lot of time figuring out what you should be doing and where.

Museums: not quite the center of night life.

If you want to skip any sense of being in a vibrant, living city, stay in the museum district! It has all kinds of mostly reconstructed buildings to look at. Note: any really dark statues are old enough to be dirty. That's how you know they're original!

Not quite hopping.

However, it is highly recommended to walk through this district at least once: you can find a really great flea market of old stuff.. Especially if you are collecting steampunk: there was one guy who exclusively sold old binoculars. Or, if you're feeling cheap, you can settle for some communist pins.

Museum District! Vibrant! Young! Calcified!

WWII: Plenty of stuff to see.

In Hamburg, I had first encountered WWII history as told by Germans, which tended to be very carefully neutral and factual. Unfortunately, the free walking tour I took in Berlin was guided by an Englishman. Sure, it was factual and interesting, but it was more of the same history written by the winners.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews: will not cheer you up.

Actually, the walking tour in Berlin is totally worth the three hour tromp. You can, without any research, see where the museums are, and get a sense of which ones you want to visit. You'll pass the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, and even get to stand on top of the parking lot that covers the bunker where Hitler did his famous double suicide thing!

Bleak Blocks
In school, I know at some point or another, you studied WWII history, and whether you fell asleep during lectures or not, every corner you turn in Berlin becomes an "oh right, that happened" moment.

Decorative elements around the city sometimes give you pause.

Eagles, huh? What exactly are you locking your love to?

Well, those Eagles: they have old roots in Germany, and have been a part of their coat of arms as long ago as Charlemagne. But in a city that has such strong WWII history, it can't quite avoid reminding visitors of that period of national socialist repurposing.

Note: Not a swastika.
There are also tons of museums that talk about the run-up to the war. If you want WWII content, they've got lots.

 Berlin Wall: Also some History

There is a Checkpoint Charlie museum, which some locals warned me away from. The East Side Gallery (see above) is highly recommended if you like art. But really, you can't go anywhere in the city without seeing the marks of the wall on the ground, or sections flung up as a reminder of the way things were. 

Wall Remnants: often less pretty than East Side Gallery.

The wall went up overnight, and changed everything. It came down almost 25 years ago, and is still being milked for tourist dollars!

Big Brother's Rosetta Stone

Potsdam: land of palaces. 

If you get tired of the Berlin post-communist aesthetic, take the train out to Potsdam, and see all the fabulous palaces that rich people built a long time ago!

Pots-dayum!
Pro Tip: Take the time to actually check to be sure that these places are open! You can also see the Other Brandenburg Gate.

More like a Brandenburg Cake.

Most importantly, there is a building in Berlin that was clearly designed by a crazy cat-lady.

Crazy
Cat
Lady

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