Our first trip to Berlin (February 2008) taught me a very important lesson about travelling: no matter how small your carry-on suitcase may be, always, ALWAYS pack a spare pair of shoes.
The weekend we visited Berlin, it rained. Non-stop, sideways, torrential rain. I had one pair of jeans that were too long, and one pair of canvas street shoes…..and we decided to do a walking tour of the city.
The tour was fantastic. It was one of the free New Europe Tours; the tour guides work extra hard to give you as much insight and history as possible, in the hopes that you will give them a big tip at the end of the tour (which we did; our Irish guide was awesome!). The tour started at the Brandenburg Gate (the symbol of Berlin’s separation, and now the symbol of its unity), and included (among many other sites) the Reichstag (with its domed glass ceiling, to ensure that all future government action is “transparent” and open to the people), the site of Hitler’s bunker (where he is said to have committed suicide; above which is now an area many people take their dogs to…ahem…do their business), the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie and the memorial to the Jews who were killed during Hitler’s reign.
There are still sections of the Berlin Wall that remain, but where it has been removed completely is a trail of bricks set into the roads and footpaths, as a constant reminder of where this amazing city was once separated. It’s also a reminder that this city has so much history, yet is really only 21 years old.
When there was a break in the rain on our second day in Berlin, we took the subway a little further out of town and visited Wilhelm Kirche, a church which was a casualty of bombing during World War Two. The gaping holes in the spire are a stark reminder of the destruction and devastation caused by war.
We also met up with a friend of mine who came to Dunedin on an exchange way back in 1994; I’d been promising to visit her in Germany for over 16 years, and it was great to finally get there!
I imagine that visiting this vibrant, multicultural city would be so different without the rain; it seemed relatively easy to explore, and there was so much to see and do that a couple of fine days would have been just perfect. However, we got rain, and there’s not much anyone can do about changing that!