One Way to do Berlin

“Ich bin ein Berliner is a quotation from a June 26, 1963, speech by U.S. President John F. Kennedy. At the time the message was a clear statement to the Soviets regarding the division of Berlin.
Continuing my series of ‘One way to do…’ this particular thread is a record of a visit made by my wife and I to the now reunited Berlin and to show just what can be seen during a short visit to this fascinating city and Capital of Germany.
Our visit was the culmination of a journey along the River Elbe, between Prague and Berlin, on board the Viking River Cruise ship, Clara Schumann. We stayed at the Hilton Berlin Hotel in Mohrenstrasse,  sat on the edge of the historic Gendarmenmarkt, the most beautiful square in Berlin and ideally positioned for visiting the most iconic sites of the City.
A review of the hotel can be found at…
As usual we had made good preparations in order to maximise our time in Berlin and had made a small investment in a very good guide book…

Crossing from our hotel into the Gendarmenmarkt,  which  is named after the cuirassier regiment Gens d’Armes  (mounted cavalry soldiers), which was deployed at this square until 1773, its centre is occupied by a statue of the German poet Friedrich Schiller and surrounded on three sides by the Konzerthaus and the German and French Cathedrals….
Deutscher Dom…

The German Cathedral

The German Cathedral was completely destroyed by fire in 1945. Following German reunification it was rebuilt, finished in 1993 and re-opened in 1996 as a museum of German history.
Central to the three historic buildings is the Konzerthaus Berlin…
It was built in 1821 as the Schauspielhaus, based on the ruins of the National Theatre, which was destroyed by fire in 1817. Parts of the building contain columns and some outside walls from the destroyed building. Like the other buildings on the square, it was also badly damaged during World War II. The reconstruction, finished in 1984, turned the theatre into a concert hall. Today, it is the home of the Berlin Concert Orchestra.
The Friedrich Schiller statue mentioned earlier can be seen in front of the Konzerthaus photograph.
The third building is The French Cathedral (in German: Französischer Dom) the older of the two cathedrals and was built by thHuguenot community between 1701 and 1705.
The cathedral was modelled after the destroyed Huguenot church in Charentan-Saint-Maurice, France. The French cathedral has a viewing platform, a restaurant and a Huguenot museum.

The French Cathedral

Interesting to note that one of Berlin’s most popular Christmas markets is hosted at the Gendarmenmarkt
We now made our way to the  Bebelplatz,  a public square in the central Mitte district. The square is located on the south side of the Unter den Linden boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare in the city centre
The square is bordered by the State Opera, St Hedwig’s Cathedral and the Alte Bibliothek of the Humboldt University. Unfortunately the first two mentioned buildings were undergoing major refurbishment work with boarding and scaffolding precluding photographs. However, the Alte Bibliothek and another ‘memorial’ were to provide our motivation for visiting the Bebelplatz.
The Bebelplatz is also known as the site of the infamous Nazi book burning ceremony held in the evening of May 10, 1933 by members of the SA, SS and Hitler Youth. groups, on the instigation of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. They burned around 20,000 books.
The Alte Bibliothek…

The Memorial…
The memorial,  by Micha Ullman, consists of a glass plate set into the cobbles, giving a view of empty bookcases.
Furthermore, a line of Heinrich Heine’s play, Almansor, written in 1821, is engraved on a plaque inset in the square: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (in English: “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people“)….
Students at Humboldt University hold a book sale in the square every year to mark the anniversary.
 
Leaving the Bebelplatz we proceeded to walk along the Unter den Linden Boulevard in the direction of the Brandenburg Gate. We first passed the magnificent monumental equestrian statue of Frederick the Great, referred to by Berliners as ‘Old Fritz’
Perhaps the most iconic monument representing Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate, is now clearly visible further along the Unter den Linden Boulevard. It certainly attracts tourists and no reason not too, it is a truly magnificent structure…

I just love the touristy add ons…

Barely a few minutes walk from the Brandenburg Gate is the Reichstag

Opened originally in 1894 it housed the Diet until 1933, when it was severely damaged in a fire. After World war II the ruined building was made safe against the elements and partially refurbished in the 1960s, but no attempt at full restoration was made until after German reunification on 3 October 1990, when it underwent a reconstruction led by internationally renowned architect Norman Foster.

After its completion in 1999, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament: the modern Bundestag

The dome features as a tourist attraction and long queues form for entrance.

Both the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag stand on the edge of Tiergarten . A large  urban park which, prior to German reunification formed part of West Berlin…

Tiergarten with the Reichstag and Brandenburg gate in the distance

A short walk along the central dual carriage way running through Tiergarten, The Straße des 17. Juni , is the Soviet War memorial.

Central in the Tiergarten is the the Victory Column,  a monument to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War,  inaugurated on 2 September 1873

The Victory Column is open to visitors and those willing, and capable, to climb the 283 steps will be in for some spectacular views across Berlin…
 

view West along Straße des 17. Juni towards the Charlottenburg Gate

…and towards Potsdamer Platz  and the Sony Building…

While at the same time taking the opportunity to gaze down on the Otto Von Bismark memorial in Tiergarten…

The Victory Column was the furthest distance we travelled from our hotel. We had planned to visit three other places of interest to us before completing our first day, the first of those being  the touching and quite amazing Holocaust Memorial, which was on our return route…
Secondly was Checkpoint Charlie
…and not to miss another touristy add-on…
and finally, in the same street as our hotel, the Fassbender & Rausch Chocolate shop.
An iconic Berlin retailer with a difference  you can browse chocolate counters with 200 varieties of fresh filled chocolates and truffles.  Only here can you see the entire range of the pure Rausch Plantagen Schokolade and only here can you admire the Brandenburg Gate, the Titanic and the Berlin Reichstag as giant works of chocolate art…

Titanic in Chocolate

We certainly covered some ground but, in reality, the furthest direct distance was no more than 30 minutes from our hotel. There were a number of historic buildings and sites that we would have liked to have seen but at present Berlin is undergoing one massive refurbishment and building programme. Often access was un available or good photography precluded due to boarding and scaffolding.
Our respective appetites have been wetted. Berlin is a great city and has a vibrant night life and one that we expect to visit again for a longer and more in depth experience.
I trust this article is of use to your future visit and I will be happy to answer any questions on our experience.
PS. Possibly the only downside in Berlin, and on the continent for that matter, is the lack of free WC facilities. Plenty of them but prices per visit range between  € .50 and  € .70.
Keep your change handy, you never know when you may need it.

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