In October 2013, my family and I spent a few days in Berlin, taking in the sights of the city and soaking up the atmosphere. We stayed in a hotel just off Tiergarten which is the oldest public park in Berlin and the home of the Berlin Zoo and Bellevue Palace, the residence of the German President.
After landing at Schönefeld Airport late on a night, we took the clean and efficient S-Bahn train to our hotel at Tiergarten. We awoke the next day to a drizzly October morning in Berlin and, after a hearty breakfast, headed off to the S-Bahn station to catch a train to the Reichstag, the German parliament building.
There were trips around the parliament building going on, but these had to be pre-booked so we made do with admiring the facade from the street. We then carried on walking towards the Brandenburg Gate. I remember this part of Berlin when the Berlin Wall came down as it quite prominently in the media coverage in 1989.
Next, we headed past the Brandenburg Gate and to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. We were able to look around the memorial (which we revisited the next day when it was dark and very mysterious) but the museum wasn't open so we came back the next day to check it out.
The traffic lights in Berlin had a little man on them with a hat called the Ampelmännchen. He was one of the few things that were saved from East Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall and he now has cult status, being very popular in the souvenir shops.
Another popular item in the tourist shops was the Berlin bear, which appears on the coat of arms of the city. Also, dotted around the city were statues of bears, in many bright colours, which we later found out are called United Buddy Bears and symbolise peace, international understanding and tolerance among the nations, cultures and religions of this world.
There was also a lot of public art around the city, pictures of which are below, including the East German Trabant cars painted in lots of different colours.
The Topography of Terror is an indoor and outdoor museum situated next to some of the old remaining wall and was the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS during the war. The museum was very quiet and incredibly moving and served as a reminder of what people are capable of doing and that it should never happen again.
One of the many interesting exhibits inside was the coloured index cards that covered an entire wall and gave the names, dates of birth and notes about the unknown members of the SS and Gestapo.
We then walked across the city to the Berlinische Galerie (or the Berlin Museum of Modern Art), which is one of the newest museums in the German capital, and collects art from Berlin dating from 1870 to the present day.
The next day we visited the East Side Gallery which is a 1.3 km long section of the wall and an international memorial for freedom. The Gallery consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world, painted in 1990 and includes one painting of The Wall album art by Pink Floyd.
We spent a lot of time exploring the old town and went on a cruise down the River Spree which was really enjoyable.
Time was spent checking out the museums on Museum Island, the Pergamon Museum and Alexanderplatz, the home of the world clock and the Fernsehturm, a massive tower that overlooks the city. In Alexanderplatz there were a few sausage sellers that walked around with barbecues hanging in front of them. We thought this was a great idea!
As the evening drew in we headed through the Brandenburg Gate, which was illuminated in the dark, and walked down through the Tiergarten towards our hotel and the inevitable journey back to England. This was my first time in Germany and I was impressed: what an interesting city and what a super city break!