Berlin

It was the morning of December 6th and I was introduced to the tradition of Nikolaus (similair to what Americans do for the 3 kings) We had breakfast with a friend and he brought me a chocolate egg with a tiny toy inside. I’m sure the kids love getting these every year.

We rode the ICE to Berlin and met with Christine who had a big day planned. Before we hit the streets running we had a second breakfast of Brot, frucht, erdbeerjoghurt and froot loops (yes, those were for me) for breakfast. We headed to the Oberbaumbrücke and walked the East side Gallery to admire all of the artwork that is painted on what is left of the Berlin wall. This section of the wall is 1.3km-long and is located near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world covered this memorial for freedom and made it the largest open air gallery in the world.  

In front of the wall sat a Trabi….a teeny tiny car. You used to have to wait 10 years on a waiting list to get one of these little things! This automobile was produced by former East German auto maker VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau in Zwickau, Sachsen. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany, and was also exported to countries both inside and outside the communist bloc. With its mediocre performance, smoky two-stroke engine, and production shortages, the Trabant is often cited as an example of the disadvantages of centralized planning; on the other hand, it is regarded with derisive affection as a symbol of the failed former East Germany and of the fall of communism (in former West Germany, as many East Germans streamed into West Berlin and West Germany in their Trabants after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989). It was in production without any significant changes for nearly 30 years with 3,096,099 Trabants produced in total. After we left the gallery we had our pictures taken with some Berlin Bears (Berlin’s mascot)

The day was filled with enthusiastic enjoyment as we exchanged thoughts and experiences on the differences in life styles between US and Germany. We stood in front of the Brandenburger Tor. From 1961 – 1989 you weren’t allowed to stand near this because you might be shot since it was located near the death zone of the Berlin Wall.

The next stop was Checkpoint Charlie – A border crossing operated by the Allied military between East and West Berlin that became a symbol of the Cold War. The name “Charlie” represents the letter ‘c’ in the military alphabet, after the Alpha and Bravo checkpoints on the outskirts of Berlin. Allied military, diplomats, and foreigners used the crossing. Checkpoint Charlie was the site of the famous “tank confrontation” of late 1961. On October 22, the East German border police denied entrance to U.S. representatives after their refusal, in accordance with Allied law, to submit to checks. Tanks were subsequently deployed on both sides of the checkpoint. After several days, Moscow and East Berlin capitulated. It was the first time that Soviet and American tanks had faced each other directly since World War II, and it was the only time during the Cold War that they did so.

Lunch time rolled around so we stopped at Meilenstein Cafe to have Äpfelstrudel. We visited Christine’s workplace where I was introduced to the Paternoster…..strangest elevator I’ve ever been in…..no doors, just step in and go. Pretty cool! We walked over to the Berlin Weihnachtsmarkt in drink some Glüehwein and thaw out. I love all of the Weihnachtsmarkts in Germany. Each town has one the whole month of December. So festive and brings everyone together. Afterwards we made our way to the The Holocaust Memorial (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas) created in remembrance of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust of the lives that were destroyed by Hitler and his followers. It consists of a 19,000 square meter (4.7 acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, one for each page of the Talmud arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae vary in height and were designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason. Building began on April 1, 2003 and was finished on December 15, 2004. It was inaugurated on May 10, 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II, and opened to the public on May 12 of the same year. It is located one block south of the Brandenburg Gate, in the Friedrichstadt neighborhood. It was a sad and quiet place, but I was glad to see a heart felt effort at remembering the lives that were lost.Tears came to my eyes as I listened to all of the horrific stories of families that were betrayed by the Nazis Gestapo and lives that were ruined because of sheer ignorance.

Our schedule for the day was completed. We headed to a Thai restaurant where we had a large mango drinks and appetizing meats. On the way home we walked through the  Unter den Linden to see all of the trees covered with lights. What a beautiful way to end the night 🙂

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