[travel] Eastern Europe tour: Berlin day 1&2

First of all, the authors are terribly sorry they haven’t been updating this blog recently. Both of us have been fighting with midterm exams to the point of exhaustion. Han is still on her (fatal) educational conquest, while I, once done with exams, had to hop on the train immediately to start a 10-day Eastern Europe trip or organized by UCDean–“a Netherlands based, independent non-profit travel group that aims at acquainting students and young professionals (aged 16-35) with the new and future EU member-states in Central and Eastern Europe.” This is our schedule and yes it is a hectic one. Berlin, however, is truly beautiful.

We arrived in Berlin (after ~10hours on the train -.-) at 7pm. Tired, but had no time to waste. After checking in at Check In Hostel, we hurriedly had dinner as UCDean had already booked our tickets to visit The Reichstag at 10pm. The impressive Reichstag building, now hosting the meetings of German Parliament, has a long, equally impressive, and painful history.

It was dark, but we were all wowed by the sheer size of the building. It was massive, sturdy, solemn, and, well, German… My poor phone couldn’t take any decent pictures of the building (and I wish I could see it in daylight too to take in all its grandeur), but then we have something called Google image if you are curious….

Our tickets allowed us to the top of the building to see the renowned Reichstag Dome.

This cool glass provides natural lighting system for the building ;A;

The Dome:

The next day, we started relatively late (10am) but everyone needed a good night sleep anyway, because we were about to walk around Berlin for 8 hours -.- The Hostel we stayed at is located quite close to Checkpoint Charlie–a Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Visitors can take photos with these friendly ‘US soldiers’:

Across the street from the Checkpoint were remnants of the Berlin wall, now whimsically and colorfully painted by artists:

On our way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, we passed by a garage full of Trabants–“the most common vehicle in East Germany, which was also exported to countries both inside and outside the communist bloc.”

Well we also saw a Berlin bear holding a Currywurst…

On the other side of the street was the massive, stonecold building of German Financial Ministry. Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus is definitely the most government-ish building any government could ask for…

During the Third Reich, it was constructed to house the German Ministry of Aviation. The building is now still awash with history and memories:

On the streets of Berlin you can easily catch this sight of Ampelman–a symbol shown on pedestrian signals in the former German Democratic Republic, but now eagerly embraced by the German people. He is uber cute, and I sure wish he was on the street lights in the rest of the world.

ART -[]-

This is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is “a 19,000 m2 site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field.” I have read a lot about it, and the sober, confusing, heavy effect it can have on one’s mood.

A place to remember and be horrified:

A must-visit place in Berlin if you have some knowledge about the Nazis and WWII. And I sure hope that the parents, when they bring their kids here next time, will tell them to shut up and teach them a bit about this painful history of mankind. Oh, and adults too, please shut up and lower your heads when you are here. Sincerely.

Autumn leaves..

We passed by Brandenburg Gate–the city gate of Berlin:

and the river…

to reach Tränenpalast. This “Palace of Tears” is actually the former “border crossing station at the Berlin Friedrichstraße station, where East Germans said goodbye to their families and visitors going back to West Germany.” It is now a museum, telling the moving story of long, sometimes life-long, separation of the German people. Again, a must-go place. It does not wow you with size or beauty, but the history and stories will surely move your heart. For someone who has always been fascinated by WWII and the Cold War, this place was my favorite destination of the day:

An English audio guide is available and entrance fee is free, so there is no excuse to not go there:

Another favorite destination of the day… a German restaurant!

We went to Fritz for some German cuisine:

Mmmm Pretzelssss! (1.5eu)

The pretzels were super excellent. They were soft, chewy, and absolutely delish. Can eat this stuff forever.

The German sausage platter was less spectacular, sadly. Only the red one was good, the rest were just super-market quality stuff:

A German burger with sauerkraut inside ;)

Berlin’s autumn ;A;

We walked by Humboldt University:

and reached the Museum Island:

Bear-lin =} sorry bad pun:

My favorite German people in history at Marx-Engels Forum =}

Saint Nicholas’s Church of Berlin with its interesting structure:

The area around the church:

Another massive, Germanic building: Rotes Rathaus aka Berlin City Hall:

Andddd the symbol of Berlin, Fernsehturm Berlin–the TV Tower:

Our last destination of the day was the Topography of Terror–“an outdoor and indoor museum in Berlin, Germany. It is located on Niederkirchnerstrasse, formerly Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse, on the site of buildings which during the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945 were the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS, the principal instruments of repression during the Nazi era.” Another must-go place for those who are interested in history. The museum itself was not big but is filled with photos and information, so make sure to give this place ample time:

A remnant of the Berlin wall:

Behind the wall is the building of Ministry of Finance mentioned above:


These images were just heart-breaking:

While SS men and women were taking a break from a murder…

My first 2 days in Berlin have been filled with nostalgia and history. The city itself is beautiful (but feels a bit chaotic because of a massive, city-wide construction work going on), but it is the history that interests me. Oh and the pretzels too. Stay tuned for my report of my second and last day in Berlin ;) and of the rest of my Europe trip as well!


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