Around Berlin: Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall, Topography of Terror, and more

Today was my first and only full day in Berlin. I leave tomorrow afternoon back to Frankfurt. My dad had sent a great list of the must see items from when he was here with the fam, so I took to getting as much done as possible on the list. I started the morning walking Friedrichstraße towards Checkpoint Charlie, taking a few photos of the site as well as spending a lot of time reading all the signs along the way. I spoke to the ‘guard’ who was taking photos with tourists there and asked him if he was American. He said yes, and for a moment I thought he was but actually I think he’s just a really well accented German. Strange encounter.

I went from Checkpoint Charlie to the Berlin Wall Museum and read through all the escapes, deaths and other sad stories that the Wall become a symbol of. The museum is a bit dated, but the amount of material they present is staggering. I walked down from there to Wilhelmstrasse / Niederkirchnerstraße to see additional remains of the Berlin Wall, plus to see the museum at the Topography of Terror. While walking there I stumbed in to the Stasi museum along one of the side streets. More modern in its history that much of the rest of the day it was very well presented and depicted the haunting the Stasi performed on the GDRs own citizens.

I made my way to the Topography of Terror. The museum is stunning and riveting, walking you through 50 years of the Nazi’s and then of the separation of Germany. The museum is just incredible. It takes a long time to get through but it’s well worth the time. Right next to the exhibit is the last (?) remaining Nazi building, the old Luftwaffe headquarters that is now occupied by the German finance ministry. It’s an imposing old building.

Looking for a change of pace, I went over to Kurfürstendamm and walked around for a while until I landed in KaDeWe and parked myself in the foodhalls for a while. From there I went across town to Alexanderplatz (which I think is in the Jason Borne movies) and took a tram to Hackescher Markt. Very cool part of town with little shops, squares, cafes and bars. The area right next to the train station is very well developed with people milling about.

Tomorrow I head back to Frankfurt via ICE at about 330, so I think I’m going to see the Museuminsel and hopefully Gendarmenmarkt time permitting. If the weather is good, I may even attempt to rent a bicycle (it rained on and off most of today). Impressions of Berlin thus far: incredibly clean city, amazingly well spoken English, but it all feels very new and very modern. Not terribly ‘quaint’ but I guess that’s what’s to be expected post-war. Also very bicycle friendly and the S-U Bahn system is unbelievably good.