The Reichstag Building Dome, The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Checkpoint Charlie

Day 19,  Friday, September 13, 2019

Our day starts back at the Brandenburg gate. The gate is a popular gathering point for tourists. This fellow was dressed interestingly, turns out he is Austria’s Mr. Fetish 2019! We walk to the Reichstag Building which houses the German Parliament. We are required to show passports and go through security screening before we are allowed into the building.  After riding an elevator with 30 other people we arrive at the dome. Can you find us in the reflections?Admission to the dome is free, but we needed to register for tickets three days in advance. 6,000 people visit here every day. We walk up a 230 meter ramp and our audioguide provides a lot of interesting information about the dome, the German parliament and what we see outside the dome.
A view of the 368 meter high TV tower we walked by yesterday. It is the tallest tower in the European Union.The greenish domes beside it belong to the Berlin Cathedral, which is Berlin’s largest church. Looking down from the ramp.  The 360 mirrors on this column reflect light down into the parliamentary chambers below the dome. A view of the Sony Building where the giant giraffe was located. The yellow building is the Berlin Philharmonic which is said to have one of the best orchestras in the world. At the top of the dome is a 10 meter diameter opening which provides fresh air.  Rain falls through it into the cone and is recycled. The warmth of the stale air rising in the dome is recovered by this cone and used to heat the building, along with 300 square metres of solar panels. The dome is 40 metres wide and opening at the top is 54 metres off the ground. It is very impressive. The sky is getting very dark outside and the wind has picked up.  I think we might get wet! If you look at the square in front of the lady in black pants in this picture you might be able to make out the members of Parliament sitting below the dome. They look like little whitish spots.

Here is a close up.

This photo of a photo shows what the Parliamentary chamber looks like lit by mirrors in the dome above. You can also see the emblem of the German government on the wall. Interestingly it is an eagle, which is the same as the national emblem of the United States.A view towards the Brandenburg gate and the Jewish Memorial which is the grey area beside the white building. Walking down from the top of the dome, we are on a ramp which is in-between the up ramp.  You can see people walking in different directions, some going up, some going down.
It is cold and wet when we get outside. The inscription reads “The German People” We pass this building under construction. The inside is completely gutted.  A new modern interior will be built but the exterior will be preserved. We see other buildings undergoing this process. We walk to one of the nearby train stations to find a place to eat a late lunch and we are pleasantly surprised to find the sun is shining when we come back outside. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a 19,000 square metre site covered with 2,711 grey concrete slabs, or stelae ranging in height from 8″ to 15′. It is situated on part of  the former Berlin Wall Death Strip. There are 54 x 87 rows of these 7′ x 3′ long stelae, and the ground between rows is uneven and undulating.  There is an information centre with displays and a list of names of 3,000,000 of the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust but we did not go inside.  This is a sombre place, but something seems missing. The walls of names of the Holocaust victims that we saw at Auschwitz had a stronger impact on me than this memorial site. Walking towards Checkpoint Charlie we pass some of the many electric scooters that are scattered around the city. People ride these in on sidewalks and in traffic, sometimes two people on a single scooter!  Seems kind of dangerous to me and the busses honk their horns at them all the time! A photo on a street display showing the Berlin Wall and the Death Strip near the Reichstag Building . We stop for a rest at Checkpoint Charlie Beach!  Where Bob tries a very strange hotdog, filled with mashed potato and lettuce. He said it wasn’t very good.
A photo on the street of Checkpoint Charlie during a military standoff with the Soviets in 1961. This checkpoint grew in stature over the years. This photo is from 1989.We come across pieces of the Berlin Wall in several locations along our route today. Checkpoint Charlie from the Soviet side, looking to the American side… and from the American side looking toward the Soviet side. After all the heavy stuff we saw today we have to laugh as this vehicle full of very loud beer drinking young men goes down the street!  It is powered by the peddling of the drinkers onboard. A interesting building on our way to the metro station. This interesting link shows 14 Cold War images and how these locations have changed today. Near home we come across this demonstration against far right extremists. We have seen several of these protests and they are always accompanied by a heavy police presence, no matter how small the rally.  Actually, we found that there is a heavy police presence everywhere is Berlin. This is one of the tiniest cars I have ever seen. it only holds one passenger.

Our Own Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Berlin

Day 18, Thursday, September 12, 2019

First stop today is Potsdamer Platz which is an area that used to be the Dead Zone when the Berlin Wall was in place. After the wall came down these three skyscrapers were built and became the focal point for this new area.
There are some pieces of the Berlin Wall here and for some strange reason they are plastered with wads of chewing gum left by visitors. Notice behind the wall is the Canadian Embassy.
The display was very informative. Bob knows a lot more about the history of Berlin than I do so I found these panels quite interesting. This one shows the Dead Zone, which was the unoccupied area around the Berlin Wall, and the developed area now.
The cobbled line Bob is standing on is where the Berlin Wall used to be located. We walk to the Sony centre and find this interesting building that has part of an old hotel interior enclosed in glass as part of its exterior wall. Wow! This LEGO giraffe is the biggest giraffe I have ever seen… and Bob found a pretty huge Angry Bird! We make our own Hop-On Hop-Off tour by catching the #100 bus. First stop is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was destroyed by the bombing in WWII and is now an anti-war memorial to peace and reconciliation. This is what the church used to look like.The little bit of the interior that remains is covered in beautiful mosaics… even the floor is completely decorated with mosaic tiles.  It must have been an incredibly beautiful church.Outside we see this memorial for the victims of a terrorist attack on December 19, 2016 on the steps of the Memorial Church,  A stolen truck was driven into the crowd at the Christmas Market and twelve people were killed and seventy were seriously injured. The names of the deceased are engraved on the steps and the bronze crack represents the fracture the attack inflicted on society.  It is like a scar and shows that healing and everyday life are possible, but we should not ignore or forget the scars we bear and what caused them.  We walk inside the Memorial Church and I am quite overcome.  Something about this space moved me to tears. It is unlike anything I have seen before. This Christ figure was beautiful. There is a concert here tonight and we sit for a while listening to the two organists practicing for tonight’s performance. You can see them in this photo.  To listen to the organ music click this link. The walls are made of 22,200 panes of stained glass and each pane is made of many individual glass pieces. The floor is covered in circles of many colours and sizes. It made me think that all those little pieces of glass and all the circles on the floor could represent people who have died and are memorialized in this church.The outside walls show how each piece of glass is embedded in mortar within each individual pane. The outside of this church gives no hint of the vibrant colours inside. We walk down the broad boulevard between the lanes of traffic. Here is a view looking back towards the bombed church.

We were looking for the KaDeWa department store. With over 60,000 square metres of selling space, it is the second largest department store in Europe after Harrods in London. We make our way up to the sixth floor and find a whole floor of yummy things to eat. Too bad there are no gluten, dairy and egg free options for me.

We have noticed that European men like colourful socks. Here is what fashionable girls are wearing in Berlin.  We continue our tour on a double decker bus.  This is the first time we have sat up front on the top of one of these busses. !t does give a different viewpoint. Bob notices something strange about this stop sign. We drive through the centre of a huge park and around this monument. The Victory Column with Victoria, the Goddess of Victory in the centre of the Tiergarten park is one of Berlin’s most famous landmarks.We drive past the spot where the old book market was yesterday. Bob did a bit of research and discovered that this is the University where Eisnstein and the Brothers Grimm taught and where Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles studied . It was also the site of the burning of thousands of books by the Nazis in 1933. Next stop is Alexanderplatz, a large public square and popular gathering place in Berlin. We find a bench for a tea break and witness a little drama unfolding behind us. It took eleven police officers over half an hour to move this fellow in handcuffs from beside the fence to the police wagon. There was lots of interviewing of bystanders and note taking but we don’t have a clue what it is all about. This is the view in front of us.I wanted to go to the top of the Berlin TV Tower but it cost €16 which is almost $24 each. That seemed a bit too much. The Neptune Fountain is is very ornate.

We manage to get on a bus going in the wrong direction on our way home, so we hop off and decide to take the subway instead. It is faster and easier to figure out than the bus system.