"And you will be pleased to know that the weather in Berlin is much better than in London", the pilot announced in English, 20 minutes prior to landing. He was as wrong as BBC weather forecast most of the time is and could have warranted a complaint from me for misleading information, but of course I'm just exaggerating.
Berlin weather was just as dire, which leaves me unsurprised why most Brits wouldn't pick a Germanic break, but the difference not only lies in Germany having much better beer and more exciting local cuisine, but in the latter's capital having more open and uncrowded spaces, a more relaxed pace, and a 20th century place in history that I've always been very curious about but only ever got acquainted with via documentaries.
While I don't hang on to personal baggage, I tend to cling onto historical places, events, and figures, which may not necessarily have anything directly to do with me, but have shaped my understanding of the world around me. From a 12-year-old who has read Anne Frank's diary, to the young woman who spent marathon viewings of History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, and more recently, Yesterday on Freeview, I finally decided to visit one of the German cities whose war reverberated and rippled in my own Southeast Asian corner of the world. Come and take a quick tour with me.
|First stop: the 360m Berlin TV Tower with a panoramic floor and a bar and restaurant.|
|Berliner Fernsehturm opened on 3 October 1969, which incidentally was my father's 24th birthday.|
|The first level is where the panoramic floor and bar are. The second or top floor is where the restaurant Sphere is, and that's where Mr Tattler and I were headed to.|
|Right where the lift opens at the panoramic floor, is this gold plaque where the height of the level we were in was engraved.|
|I did tell you how dire the weather was. Taken at the rooftop restaurant at the Reichstag building. We'll visit that later on.|
|Straße des 17. Juni (17 June Street) across the memorial that leads to the East-West divide.|
|Mr Tattler poses in front of a tank model used by the Soviets during the war, on display outside the Soviet War Memorial.|
|The Brandenburg Gate as seen from the former East Berlin side. Built in 1791 during the reign of the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm II, Napoleon was the first to use the gate for a triumphant procession.|
|Parts of the Wall emblazoned with graffiti on display outside the Potsdamer Platz underground station.|
|A panoramic view of the 1.3-km long section of the Berlin Wall left standing. The East Side Gallery is an international memorial for freedom featuring works of 105 artists from all over the world.|
|The Wall from another angle. The top was lined with smooth pipe to make it more difficult to climb and scale. It is against the law to deface the Wall.|
These are a few of the some I managed to take photos of before my feet gave up on me.
|The famous 'Some Heads' by Thierry Noir|
A first-time trip to Berlin will not be complete without dropping by Checkpoint Charlie, despite it being quite comical now, with seemingly out-of-work actors dressed in military gear, shouting at passers-by.
Sans the signage to the left, how would you know that you're now entering the American sector of the wall?
|My own passport stamped and ready to enter both East and West Berlin.|
Up in Potsdamer Platz station where other sections of the Wall were displayed, a German student in the exhibition worked as a passport stamper. Tourists have the option to have the stamp on a replica of a piece of pass during the Cold War or on your real passport. I opted to have mine on my passport. That's €3 and a very touristy thing to do that our tour guide the following day advised us against, which I obviously didn't admit to doing.
|A view of the Reichstag from Brandenburger Tor station exit|
Next time, we'll have a look inside the Reichstag, find out about The Story of Berlin, and explore the culinary and sartorial offerings of the city. Stay with me!
Have a good week everyone!