Berlin greys

According to my Fitbit, I had walked 8 miles on my very first day in Berlin so the following morning I allowed myself a lie-in in our lovely hotel called i31, so called because it is number 31 on Invalidenstrasse, one of the main arterial routes into the city running from east to west ( the hotel merits a blog post all by itself !). Then, fuelled on by coffee and croissants, off we set on day 2 of our Berlin adventure.  Again, we made use of the hop on hop off bus – this time to explore east Berlin (the sector of Berlin that was under the control of the Soviet Union after the Second World War and until 1990.)

It was a grey day, the drizzling rain adding to the sense of atmosphere as the bus made its way through the streets. I found it fascinating, learning about the history of this part of Berlin during the Soviet era – the whole area was dominated by high rise apartment blocks like this one,


while others were built on a much grander scale earlier in the Soviet period.  We were informed through the headphones that some of these earlier apartment blocks built to house key sectors of the labour force had parquet flooring, central heating etc – designed to show the West that the East was doing well. I actually felt at this point that I could have been in Russia.


The bus continued on until it reached the East Side Gallery, where we got off to take a closer look at a 1316m long section of the Berlin Wall which was covered by paintings by artists from all over the world in 1990 following the wall’s demise. To be honest,we were probably not all that impressed with the quality of art, but to see the wall, to see a physical reminder of a formerly divided city, was quite sombre in itself. Undoubtedly, out of all the paintings, it is the image below that is the most well known – that of Brezhnev (leader of the Soviet Union on the left) and Honecker (leader of East Germany on the right) locked in an embrace, ‘The Fraternal Kiss’, and many tourists were gathered at that section of the wall to take pictures. The painting depicts an actual event in 1979 when the two leaders met to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the founding of East Germany as a communist nation. Underneath are written the chilling words – Mein Gott, hilf mir diese todliche Liebe zu erleben (translated as My God, help me to survive this deadly love).

east side gallery

Thirty minutes later we were back on the bus again finally stopping at Brandenburg Gate, an impressive structure erected in the late 1780’s and a focal point since for much of Berlin’s history. I was fascinated to discover that it lay in no man’s land between east and west Berlin during the Cold War.


By this stage we were feeling cold and hungry so we stopped off at one of the many mobile catering vans to drink gluhwein and eat currywurst – pork sausage, cut into slices and served with curry ketchup. It’s a very popular fast food in Berlin, it’s served everywhere and although perhaps not my first choice of food, it certainly warmed us up as we stood in the open air under a grey sky.

Finding ourselves ahead of our loosely planned schedule, we made our way to Berlin’s Museum of Film and Television. We had planned to go there on our third day but realising it was close by, it made sense to visit there and then – my husband is a bit of a movie buff and he had his heart set on going there. I was happy to tag along, of course, and a little grateful to be finally indoors to warm up. As it turned out, it was probably one of the highlights of our holiday. I really enjoyed it – a visual feast for the eyes, celebrating the history of German film and television through the decades, from the silent era through to Marlene Dietrich, the Nazi years, the post war period to the present day. These are just a few of the images from our afternoon there…

Making a grand entrance movie style…this is the starting point for a tour of the museum


A room dedicated to Marlene Dietrich, full of costumes that she wore on different films…

A pair of Marlene’s shoes…


An image from the film Metropolis – the 1927 science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The image is reflected here through a series of mirrors, creating quite a breath taking effect.


By the time we left the museum it was early evening and our final destination for that day was Gendarmenmarkt, a large square in Berlin comprising the concert hall, a French church at one end and a German church at the other. It didn’t surprise me to learn that this is the location most loved by Berliners – it’s a beautiful open space to walk around, enjoy the architecture and then enjoy a drink or a bite to eat in the cafes and restaurants nearby.

The view across the square to the German church..


A section of the French church…

The entrance to the French church…


Looking up to the dome of the German church…


Feeling satisfied that we had packed in as much as we could and having walked another six miles, we rounded off our second day in Berlin at the Maredo Steakhouse nearby.  It was a lovely way to end the day, enjoying good food and wine, reflecting on what we had seen and learned. Although we had only scratched the surface of Berlin’s long history,  I felt I had got to know the city a little better. Amazing how travel can broaden the mind, inspire the senses and bring history you’ve only read about in text books back to life.

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