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Berlin – Memorials and Monuments

September 16, 2013 DESTINATION, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Berlin is a busy, fascinating and vibrant city; one which requires some serious exploration in order to get the true picture.

After three fast paced days, where we had well and truly covered some of the major sights and buildings we took time out from simple sightseeing and took a closer look at some of the cities darker history.download

We started at the Berlin Wall memorial, to be exact the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, which is located on Bernauer Strasse, one of the major streets that was cut in half by the wall, virtually overnight, in August 1961. The memorial is a moving exhibition to the events of that time and of the next 28 years when Berlin was split in two. Some Berlin families were kept apart for the entire 28 years by the concrete walls (there are actually two walls) – that became THE symbol of the Cold War!

download (1)Walking through the memorial over the ground that was once the gap between those two walls, or “the killing ground” as it was known between 1961 and 1989; it is a tad unreal.

The grass now is lush and green, and the wall does not seem at all intrusive, it is (after all) only a short section of the actual wall itself. The atmosphere is, without any doubt, very different indeed, and an air of quiet and calmness hangs over the site. It is when you read the information plaques, listen to the stories, look at the remembrance wall and see the remains of Bernauer Strasse, as it was back in 1961 that the story becomes much more real and focussed.

The clincher for me (at least) was the ghost station display at Nordbahnhof UBahn station, and the realisation of exactly what the wall and the border closure really meant. Ordinary Berliners download (2)travelling on the UBahn on two different lines, between two points in West Berlin, had to travel underground through the East, passing these “ghost stations” that were once an integral part of the rail network. These stations were manned by East german guards but were otherwise deserted and left, exactly as they were for 28 years.

From the wall we stepped further back in time, as we headed to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. The memorial park is located just near the immensely impressive Brandenburg Gate, and opposite the Tiergarten, only minutes from the centre of Berlin. Here we spent another two hours immersed in what I still consider to be an almost unbelievable piece of world history. The holocaust has been written about, commented on, studied and talked about by so many people that one more comment is simply unnecessary.

download (3)Suffice to say, the simple black concrete pillars in the memorial park are memorable and moving enough on their own, but the museum and the archives attached to it, below ground is stunning. What happened from 1933 – 1945 is almost beyond belief but it is there in all its stark reality, with real stories, real photos and real people. The irony, if you like, is that the site the memorial has been built on is just a short distance from where Adolf Hitlers bunker is buried!

Berlin is a great city, with much to offer, and much to get excited about! It is a modern, thriving metropolis but it has a history, and that history is well represented by these two memorials,and others like them, that need to be visited, viewed and understood. We spent a memorable day, that in my view is the highlight, at least so far of our visit to Berlin! I expect it will stay that way.

Written by : Peter Watson

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