Berlin, Germany is so many things. The mayor of the city in 2004, Klaus Wowereit, put it perfectly when he said, “Berlin is poor, but sexy”. I continue to use this quote for multiple reasons; it’s hilarious but it’s so true! Berlin is an astonishing city, but in reality it is quite poor compared to the other German cities. The incredible thing about this city is the history, as it is so recent, and the ways this history is remembered throughout the city. Additionally, Berlin has now turned into an alternative sort of place that seems to attract young people, while still holding onto much of its past culture through older locals. All of this comes together to create this absolutely wonderful city of Berlin, Germany.One of my biggest suggestions for Berlin is doing tours through Sandeman’s New Europe Tours. We did a FREE two and a half hour walking tour around the city and saw nearly every sight necessary to see in Berlin. We also did their Pub Crawl that night and had an absolute blast visiting local bars and clubs with almost 50 other visitors. They have a bunch of other tours through the company, and I would seriously suggest booking anything through them!
The tour started in Paris Plaza(there’s quite an explanation behind this one!) next to the Hotel Adlon. Hotel Adlon may not mean much to you, but it is actually quite popular! We realized it was a very nice hotel when there were crowds and police cars surrounding the street and exit, awaiting someone’s departure. We have zero idea who exited that hotel, but we saw them and they were a big deal!! This hotel has had many famous guests, including our very own Barack Obama, but the most famous of guests was the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Why is this so special? Well, this is the iconic hotel where he draped his baby over the edge of the balcony….now you know the hotel, huh!On the tour, we saw tons of sights, like I said earlier. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe(also known as the Holocaust Memorial) is one of the most moving sights in Berlin. This memorial was only finished in 2004 and contains 2711 concrete slabs of different heights. It is specifically for the Jewish people that were murdered during the Holocaust, as in a close by park there are memorials for other groups such as homosexuals and the mentally ill or handicapped that were murdered. It was a very important decision to give each group their own memorial within the city, but it is extremely meaningful and considerate in my opinion. In the Holocaust Memorial, you are able to walk throughout the entire outdoor memorial and create your own feelings and interpretations of the history that is portrayed through the memorial. It is really a beautiful and moving memorial to visit if you are ever in Berlin. You can also visit the museum right next to the memorial, and only a block away is a parking lot where underneath, Hitler’s bunker used to exist. This is where he ended up killing himself, but there is absolutely nothing to mark this or commemorate him, as it should be. The next stop was Gendarmenmarkt, a square surrounded by three stunning buildings. Directly in the center is the Concert House of Berlin, to the left is the Neue Kirche(German cathedral), and the right is a nearly identical French cathedral. The French built their’s first and the German’s wanted to out do them, so they made nearly an identical cathedral that has a few characteristics that are better. It’s another funny story in Berlin’s history to learn about! We also went by Humboldt University, which used to be a palace that was nicknamed the “Baby Making Palace” since the old king made it for his brother. His brother had to have a child for him to carry on the monarchy, as the king himself could not have children and was gay, so his brother asked what was in it for him and the king gave him a palace. Add that to the list of humor within Berlin. Also, can you imagine going to university in an old palace??(step up your game Iowa, Macbride Hall is not impressive in comparison…). Humboldt sits on Bebelplatz, a plaza that includes the State Opera House and a memorial for the infamous Nazi book burning that took place in the square in May of 1933. A plaque is also included in the plaza with the words(in English), “This was a prelude only, where you burn books, you burn people at the end”. Another moving memorial within Berlin.We ended the tour next to the Neue Wache, which is a simple yet powerful memorial to all victims of war and dictatorships. Within the building, there is a single room with a single statue in the middle called Mother and Her Dead Son, symbolizing the victims of the war being the families that lost loved ones.
Some other great sights on the tour included:
The Berlin Cathedral(again, this place is Iowa Pentacrest GOALS!):The Radio Tower(or “Pope’s Revenge” hahahah Google the story behind this one):I loved the above ground pipes throughout the city, running down the streets in bright pink and blue colors. This is because the city is built on top of an old swamp. The last sight we had to see was obviously the Berlin Wall and East Side Gallery. Both are absolutely beautiful and must see sights when visiting the city. The East Side Gallery is the more iconic part of the wall, with murals covering the long portion of the wall. The other part of the wall is a very basic, cement wall that has not been painted over. Lastly(I promise), we had to experience Germany through much of the food and drink of course! Bratwursts, sauerkraut, currywurst(a Berlin must), wienerschnitzel, and of course flights of local beers. Not much more you could ever ask for!