Our whirlwind tour of Berlin started in Alexanderplatz and ended with severe back, knee and foot pain. You see, this was a walking tour, and our tour guide/friend, Marta, refused to let any sight go unseen.
We “did” the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, Berliner Dom, Berlin Wall, Sony Center and several other cathedrals and memorials whose names will need to be memorized with future trips.
After all that name dropping, what do I really think of the city? It’s the European capital of culture, with enough music, theater and museums to keep even the most ADD resident entertained and intrigued. Yet there is no old town, authentic or reconstructed, making Berlin seem more of a modern, international city than a place in Germany.
If you do happen to momentarily forget which country you are in there is always a beer garden nearby to remind you. And, if you look closer along the street that passes between the Tiergarten and the Brandenburg Gate, you can see the inlayed stones tracing the path of the Berlin Wall. Names and pictures line the surrounding area, created with nothing sturdier than laminated paper, reminding us of those who died trying to cross into Western Germany. I wonder if it’s fitting or taunting that the memorial is technically on the West German side.
I guess that’s the way things are in Berlin. History comes at you in two distinct ways: world-class but rigid museums or, more subtly and hauntingly in crumbling pieces of concrete and ad-hoc memorials.