Wars and Walls in Berlin, also a cauliflower.


Berlin has always been a source of curiosity for me. As a student, I studied the city as a centre of conflict and turmoil across two global conflicts and into the Cold War, so naturally, I was eager to spend the few days we had spare in Germany’s capital. We’d organized to meet a couple of friends while we were there as they’d stayed with us in Australia, and the plan was to wander around the city before making our way back to The Netherlands for the journey home to Perth.

CHECKPOINT CHARLIE: A little different these days.

NEW ENEMY: The wall is down, so now the checkpoint watches the new enemy… An orange clown.

Our first stop was Checkpoint Charlie, the infamous passage between East and West Germany from the Cold War. The American gatehouse remains in the middle of the road with mannequins set up, now – ironically guarding a global giant fast food outlet. We spent some time at the Berlin Wall exhibit where you can see a multimedia reproduction of the wall and reflections of those who lived alongside. We also took a tour through the Stasi HQ and Museum which certainly scratched my Cold War history itch.

PANORAMA: This mural showed the wall before it came down in an exhibit with comments from former East and West German residents.

While it was Berlin’s history that most interested me in the city, the winter visage of the place is what stayed with me. I am not used to icy cityscapes, and the mixture of ice and water reflected the city’s architecture beautifully – especially at night. After a walk through the city centre at dusk, we made our way by train to a night spot, the name of which eludes me, before turning in.

On our second day, we subjected ourselves to a visit to the Holocaust Museum. This was a harrowing, yet thoroughly necessary experience. The museum lays clear the scale and effect of the tragedy and is a clear and fitting reminder of the dangers of unchecked xenophobia. My reflective sorrow was matched, however, by my ire at the number of tourists who thought it was a good idea to climb the labyrinthine memorial above the museum and take travel shots. Perhaps a memorial to genocide could be treated with a mite more respect…

Having recovered from an emotional morning we ate dinner at a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in the city (I ate a whole cauliflower) before having a second, less-vegetarian dinner to deal with our hunger.  We only spend two days in Berlin, but I loved it and look forward to returning.

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