06 December 2023

Germany Part 1 - Berlin

I've just come back from the most amazing foreign holiday - one that I have wanted to do for a long while. It's to a place I went to over 46 years ago in one case and over 51 years ago in another. It was a return to my old haunts in Germany. As a young girl, I had studied German and German literature at university. My father was German, although he never spoke it at home, as he and his family had been forced to flee Germany for their lives in early 1939 and it was a part of his painful past that he wanted to forget, so it made me more curious to get to know the language and converse with my German grandmother whose English was not very good. As part of the university course, I was sent to Hamburg in September 1971 for a year to teach English at a grammar school there. As part of my travels, I also visited Berlin, still very much divided by a

Germany from 1945 to 1990

wall and part of it under Soviet rule. I later revisited Berlin in 1977 with my husband, but, again, Berlin was still divided by a wall and West Berlin was very much an island in the middle of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), which made sightseeing in the eastern sector of the city very hard to do indeed. For example it was impossible to walk through the Brandenburg Gate as it was very much surrounded by Soviet guards and watchtowers and there was a minefield in front of it, making access impossible.

As she knows, I don't fancy foreign travel on my own, so Kay had offered to accompany me to Germany one day to retrace some of my steps and to finally see Berlin without a wall and to be able to walk through the Brandenburg Gate. Her fiance, who has never learned German or been to Germany, fancied coming along too and so the three of us set off for Berlin on 23 November.

As soon as I touched down at the airport, I found the German came back to me like my mother tongue and I acted as interpreter/translator for the whole holiday. As we occasionally got lost, I approached strangers with questions and conversed at ease with them in German. It felt like being home again. My second home.

But Berlin had indeed changed. The absence of a wall preventing you from accessing certain areas was of course the most major change. The hotel we chose was in fact in what was the Russian sector during the Cold War. Although it had had 34 years of freedom, since the fall of the wall in 1989, you could still tell what areas were previously Russian as opposed to American/English/French. The street scene was somewhat plainer, as if the city was still trying to morph from an ugly duckling into into a swan. In fact when you think about it, that area of Berlin had not really changed much since the First World War, when it was on its knees from reparations, then the Nazi era, the second World War and then Soviet occupation. It has only therefore had 34 years to take on a new identity.

Berlin is certainly a city with baggage.  It has resumed its role as capital of Germany (Bonn took over the role from 1949 to 1990) but still has many reminders of its grim past and these were reflected by the many sights on the tourist map. We visited as many as we could. Here are some of the photos taken whilst there.

Brandenburg Gate by night

Finally able to stand on the Eastern side of the gate but sadly tarpaulin and scaffolding ruined the experience somewhat

Memorial to Russians killed in the 1939-45 war

German parliament (Reichstag)

Inside the Reichstag where you can climb to the dome at the top for fabulous views of the city.

View from The Reichstag of the now modern Charite hospital where my father was born.

A view of the Parliament chamber

The television tower in Alexanderplatz, formerly in the East

Ironically, built as a symbol of soviet strength and communism, they didn't realise that when the sun shone on the tower's orb, it made the sign of  a cross! Zoom in to see it.

Berlin Cathedral
Kay's fiance decided to order the pork knuckle for supper

More of our trip in the next few days......


Yorkshire Pudding said...

I am so glad you got to go back to Berlin and to see it without the wall. It was thoughtful of Kay and Darcy (i.e. Chardonnay and Humphrey) to accompany you but I bet they enjoyed the experience too. After all, some of Kay's roots are also there.

Lynne said...

That was such an interesting post. So pleased you got to go and enjoyed.