We got up a bit earlier today to try to get a bit more in. We started with a quick (but surprisingly huge) breakfast near Boxhagener Platz, a trendy area in the neighborhood we are staying in. From there we walked down to the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of still-standing wall in the city, and the location of the Wall Museum, which was our first stop for the day.
Despite the name, the Wall Museum actually doesn’t talk a whole lot about the wall itself or its contraction, but instead covers a lot about the political situation and decisions made in regards to the people of East Germany. It pays particular attention to the reforms made by Gorbachev as part of his Perestroika and Glasnost platform, and how that lead to the end of the wall and the reunification of Germany. The museum contains a lot of individual stories which are quite fascinating, and interviews by both former border patrol soldiers, escapes, and attempted escapes. Finally, it talks a lot of West German Vice Chancellor Genscher and his work in getting the East German refugees who stormed the embassy in Prague into West Germany.
We then wandered down the East Side Gallery taking pictures of the various graffiti and art on the wall, and then walked more or less along the walls path to Checkpoint Charlie. This walk was actually the first time that we actually past into West Berlin since we got here, besides the ride in from the airport. There isn’t much immediate difference between the two, although there are no tram lines in West Berlin, only in East Berlin. They predate the war, and apparently West Berlin removed them in the 60’s or so to encourage people to use their cars, such is the wisdom of humans. East Berliners didn’t really have cars, so they kept their tram. We didn’t really spend much time at Checkpoint Charlie, and moved on from there.
Next was a stop to the Topography of Terror site, which is on the former grounds of the Gestapo, SS, and the Main Security Office (responsible for much of the planning surrounding the concentration camps), among others. Today, the site includes an outdoor walk which outlines the buildings that used to be there, and an indoor section which goes into detail of the period between 1933 and 1946 about the systematic prosecution of target groups and individuals. The original buildings were, for the most part, destroyed by bombing during the war, and if they weren’t, they were blown up between 1953 and 1956. We spent quite a bit of time here, and it really is quite extensive, and includes a great deal of photos to look through.
Eventually we left and met up with Jesse at Potsdamer Platz, near the large traffic light, a monument for the first traffic light in Europe. After dinner we wandered up to the Brandenburg Gate, which is quite spectacular at night.
Now, we are off to bed, to get some sleep for our last full day in Berlin tomorrow.