Of course I’m not advocating rushing around a city in 35 minutes and certainly not somewhere as deep and meaningful as Berlin. However while plotting a route on our 2nd full day in Berlin this blue-spotted route appeared in front of us on Google Maps, one which you could easily turn into a full half day with various add-ons.
So what is this 35 minute walk? Well simply put it goes from The Reichstag > Brandenburg Gate > Hotel Aldlon > The Jewish Memorial > Potsdamer Platz > Checkpoint Charlie.
We were in Berlin for the marathon the next day on the Sunday so we wanted to see some sights but without having to walk too far. We had the day after the marathon on the Monday for that. So my little route encompasses 2 historical structures, a “comedy” moment spot, a newer memorial installation for some contemplation, a famous square and finally a fairly ordinary location which suddenly became suddenly became infamous in 1961.
A resplendent government building with its new glasshouse dome stuck on the top of it. Take some picture outside of the main facade with the German flag fluttering in the foreground. Go inside of course to experience the new glasshouse building, booking the tickets in advance if you wish to do so.
Der Brandenburger Tor
100m around the corner is the Brandenburg Gate. Significant for it being the backdrop to proceedings in 1989 when the Berlin Wall can down, the location of “The Hoff” singing ‘Looking for Freedom’ on New Year’s Eve 1989 (but not actually bringing the wall down), and for the marathon runners the thing they run through with just 200m to go! A beautiful structure.
The Hotel Aldon
100m further on from the Brandenburg Gate is the Hotel Aldon. Remember that day back on 19th November 2002 when the late Michael Jackson decided to dangle his baby over the hotel balcony? Well it was here at the Hotel Aldon on the 3rd floor up, 2nd window from the right.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
200m down the road is the Jewish Memorial. A controversial new installation completed in 2005 taking up some prime real estate in central Berlin. With no real centerpiece itself you can walk up down, backwards and forwards amongst its 2,711 concrete slabs, all with varying heights but the same 0.95m width and 2.38m length. The abstract and somewhat vague installation leaves much time to ponder and seek interpretation of the message it’s trying to convey. I found it to be strangely tranquil and certainly a place to reflect on past atrocities.
Once busy pre-wall Potsdamer Platz found itself divided in two when it went up on 13 August 1961 but over the years it became a popular spot for curious tourists, especially when an observation platform went up allowing members of the public to look over the wall at the wilderness beyond. It was also one of the earliest locations where the Wall was “breached” to create a new border crossing between East and West Berlin.
We literally stumbled across a line in the ground depicting where the wall once stood. We weren’t quite standing one second in the West and one second in the East but we appreciated the significance of this historical marker. The day we visited Potsdamer Platz felt fittingly open and bleak which added to the overall effect of where we were.
The last of the 5 legs takes you from the memorial to Checkpoint Charlie, the gateway between East Berlin and the American sector of West Berlin. Now containing a slightly (read “really”) tacky spot for tourists to have their photo taken with “real” border guards, but also a place with a handful of exhibits and small museum and what I liked best, the original signage. A spot I remember visiting back in 1992 on a school A-level trip but even then already 3 years after the wall has fallen.
You could easily spend a half day exploring these 5 spots, sandwiching in the Tiergarten and its Siegessäule tower between points 3 and 4 plus the Topographie des Terrors before you get to Checkpoint Charlie. Either way Berlin with its recent political past, various remaining examples of its infamous wall, plus of late its emerging tech areas to complement its punk and techno music scenes make Berlin a wonderful european city to visit, and that’s before I even mention its cuisine and beer houses. I’ll be back again, hopefully. Prost! 🙂
Check out two recent experiences of Berlin by travel bloggers Wanderlust Chloe and Heels in my Backpack with more infomation on getting around and spots to eat and drink. The House of Small Wonder being a key spot for some “Instagram action” and the best coffee I had all week!