This is Berlin by phone camera. I left my dSLR(s) at home for this one and snapped on my HTC Desire HD.
Berlin is certainly an interesting city with a long and splintered history. It was pivotal in the outcome of World War II – being both the city where pre-war Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power, and also the last place to fall to the allied forced at the end of the war. Berlin was only re-united in 1989 and so some parts are very modern, and some are very old. And some parts are very attractive, and some are grey, square, communist design.
This ugly square bloc building style is very common in some parts of the city
This design is straight out of the 70’s!
The Fernehturm Berlin radio tower in Alexanderplatz is the tallest structure in Germany. It was designed and built by the East German GDR government as a display of East German socialist power and dominance. With its great height, it was easily visible from districts in West Berlin on the other side of the wall and it even blocked their view of the Reichstag building.
Some building are quite attractive. Although not too many old building still remain because Berlin took extensive bombing in WW2.
A little shopping center with restaurants and coffee shops, and this odd statue.
The view from the top of the radio tower. You can turn up and get a ticket without pre-booking. Just be prepared to wait a while. Each lift only holds 8-10 people, and takes about 2 minutes to get to the top and back down. We waited around 1hr to get to the top. Although Berlin is not the most beautiful city, the view is interesting because you can see many historic monuments and landmarks from the top. Below is Alexanderplatz Square with the World Clock.
Apparently the UK is so desperate that we have launched a new advertising campaign to convince people to come here!
The Reichstag building, seat of the past and present German Parliament. (The low-light performance of my phone is terrible!)
If you want to visit the Reichstag, it helps to book online first. As this is an active Parliament building you will need to pre-book and to bring a passport with you. When we arrived, the security guards checked our details against the pre-booked details, so make sure you get them right! You also need to go through metal detection and have your bags X-rayed etc, but it was faster and more pleasant than any airport I have been to.
The tour was very interesting, and the guide was extremely knowledgeable and spoke perfect English. Well worth going.
The debating chamber inside the Reicstag building. The whole construction of the building is themed around transparency and openness. Because of Germany’s history, the designers wanted to promote the idea that the government is open, honest and transparent. Therefore the whole debating chamber is surrounded by glass, and there are more public viewing gallery seats than seats for politicians. Even the ceiling is glass, and there is a viewing gallery for reporters and the general public up above! This is to remind the politicians that they serve *under* the public and are watched over constantly.
Russian graffiti, and left-over bullet holes. The Russians were the first of the Allies to reach Berlin at the end of the war, and the Reichstag was the last major building to fall to the allies. It took around 6 weeks for the British, French and other allied countries to reach Berlin, during which time the Russians occupied the Reichstag by themselves. Many of the soldiers inscribed their names or wrote about their families on the walls. Some sections of wall have been preserved like this, as a reminder of history to those who attend the German parliament today. These inscriptions are in the corridor which leads to the Prime Minister’s office, so she would be reminded of the history of Germany, every day when she goes to work.
The view from the viewing gallery up above. Again, the whole theme of transparency is very obvious. Also note that the layout of the chamber is in a circular design, designed to be “non-confrontational”. For instance, In the UK parliament there are two distinctive sides, and the opposing parties site directly opposite one another, separated by a no mans land in the middle. But in the Reichstag, the design is circular, with no clear delineation of party lines. This is designed to create a more productive system of politics which encourages cooperation and compromise rather than party loyalty and fighting.
View from the top of the glass dome on the Reichstag. You can see all the way from the roof of the building to the floor of the debating chamber. The black slats at the top of the picture are mirrors to reflect natural light down into the chamber – both symbolic AND energy efficient. Very clever!
The Brandenburg Gate, probably the most well-known landmarks in Berlin. The gate was one of the old entrances to Berlin, and is one of the oldest structures (completed in 1791) left standing after World War II. It was damaged extensively during the war and has been through multiple phases of repair and restoration since then. The Berlin wall ran right behind the gate, and so the gate was used a symbol for many different political positions over the years. For instance, Ronald Reagan delivered the famous “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech from here. The Gate has now become a symbol representing the unity of Berlin.
Repaired parts of the gate. Patched bullet holes and larger damage from bombing, grenades and shrapnel are obvious.
The modern American Embassy building is right next to the Brandenburg Gate.
Pieces of the Berlin wall are left over as monuments, and the public are allowed to graffiti the remaining pieces.
Checkpoint Charlie. The famous “you are leaving the American sector” sign still remains to this day, right next to a McDonalds
As far as we could tell, this is a store for larger than average people!
The Germans are of course famous for their beer, and “tasting selection” is a common choice on restaurant menus. This selection was one light beer, one dark beer, a wheat beer and a weissbeer. Plus a little bowl of grains to cleanse the palate between tasting!