Thursday, August 6, 2009

Berlin- last day

Day 30 Thurs. 6 Aug.
The day started out cooler and overcast like yesterday but by 9:30 it still hadn't cleared. This meant cooler weather for my bike tour of the wall that I joined. Even though I felt like I had already covered a lot of this I learned so much from it, how the wall was developed (there were about 5 phases) and how life was conducted during the existence of the wall. And then looking at the changes that have slowly taken place after 1989 was fascinating.

Our guide was a Dutch guy who had been in Berlin for a couple of years and really liked all the neighborhoods and the atmosphere of the city. He showed us this street where most of the buildings have been renovated but the outside of this one has been left as a reminder of the fighting that went on here. In these pictures we can see what it looked like with the wall and now how it looks.

When you see buildings that look like they have been "cut off" or you see an end of a building that has no windows then you know that indeed, the building was chopped up and walled off so that no one could get through. At first they used buildings as part of the wall but people were escaping by jumping out of the windows to get to the other side.

Then they bricked up the windows so no one could get through and chopped off the parts of the buildings that stuck into the "death strip" area.

This is a watchtower that was left. The river Spree was part of East Berlin so there were many watchtowers along that with the death strip in front of it. Now there are lots of cafes and drinks places along the Spree and it is a nice place to hang out in the summer. What a difference!

The more famous site, Checkpoint Charlie is close to Brandenburg Gate and the tourist area and is always crowded. That was a place where you could get through into east or west Berlin if you had the proper papers.
There were lots of stories that made the whole day entertaining as well as informative.
After we went back to return the bikes, which happened to be quite close to my hostel, I realized there was a whole neighborhood of interesting shops and restaurants just behind my hostel that I had not explored at all. I guess I'll just have to come back to Berlin some day. The 3 1/2 days there just gave me a taste of all that is in Berlin, enough to ensure a return visit.

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