Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A-Z Blogging Challenge - Berlin

Berlin is one of my favourite cities, mainly because it evokes so many different periods of its history. The first time I went there was not long after the infamous wall came down, and there was a marked contrast between the East and West sectors of the city. The western sector, especially around the Kurfurstendam, was vibrant and modern, with fashion shops, restaurants, and hotels. Even here, however, was a reminder of Berlin’s past, with the spire of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church, damaged by Allied bombing during World War 2, which had been retained as a memorial hall.

In what had been the communist east, the buildings were drab, especially the grey-brown blocks of apartments which had been built for the working class. Even the famous ‘Unter den Linden’ avenue was almost deserted, and Potsdamer Platz, once the social and shopping hub of pre-war Berlin, was said to be the biggest building site in Europe.
The pre-war buildings had been reduced to rubble by bombing raids in World War 2, and the huge open square was left derelict, as it contained the border between the east and west sectors of the city. After 1961, the Berlin Wall was built right across the square. Only after the fall of the Wall in 1989 did any new building start, and now Potsdamer Platz contains many new office buildings, shops, restaurants, and entertainment complexes.

One of the most well known places of the ‘Cold War’ was Checkpoint Charlie, the only place in the city where foreigners and member of the Allied Forces could cross into the eastern sector. One member of our tour group had served in the RAF and was based near Berlin. He told us how they used to go through the checkpoint to various restaurants in the eastern sector. It was the first time he had been back to Berlin since the wall came down, and he stood wide-eyed watching the traffic now flowing freely along Friedrichstrasse, and said, “I can hardly believe what I’m seeing.” The line of the wall is marked by a double row of cobblestones.
The site of Checkpoint Charlie in the 1990s with the original sign
and East German watchtower (on the right)
On my first visit to the checkpoint, the original East German watchtower was still there, but that has now been demolished, and the ‘guardhouse’ in the centre of the street is a copy of the original. The nearby museum, ‘Haus am Checkpoint Charlie’ contains a mass of fascinating information about the Wall, including details of escapees hidden in cars and being smuggled through the checkpoint.


  1. A lovely city indeed! Nice choice

    1. Thanks, Claudia. I've only been able to cover a very small part of it here.

  2. I never got to see Berlin when my family lived in Germany. I wish I could have, but it was too dangerous in the late '50's and '60's.

    1. Yes, that was an uneasy time, especially after the Wall was built in 1961 and the Russian/USA standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. I didn't visit until a few years after the Wall came down (i.e. in the 1990s)