Berlin is not an easy city to visit on a Baltic cruise. Viking chartered a train to carry 850 people on the 2.5 hour trip from the port to Berlin. The train was met by buses that gave us a brief tour of the city and then dropped us off to explore on our own. The process was reversed in the afternoon, and it all went very smoothly. It was almost a twelve hour trip beginning at 6 AM, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.
Interestingly, almost all of our time was spent in East Berlin. Rick Steves also says that is where the best sights are located. The city reminded us of being in China with construction cranes everywhere. They are also expanding the subway system, so many of the streets were torn up. The Communists were not big on maintenance, so it is common to see a lot of construction and refurbishment in former Communist countries.
The Brandenburg gate was built in 1790 as one of the gates to the walled city of Berlin. When Berlin was divided after WW II, it became part of the Berlin Wall. It was here that Ronald Reagan implored Mr. Gorbachev to “Tear down that wall!”. It is now a symbol of unity in Germany. The first picture is with our friends and frequent travel companions, Jean and Ron from Minnesota.The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, is located one block from Brandenburg Gate on the western side of the wall. It was abandoned during the Cold War when the capital of West Germany was moved to Bonn. It has been restored and a modern glass dome has been added to the roof.The US Embassy is located immediately adjacent to Brandenburg gate on the eastern side. It is the least protected US Embassy I have seen. Germany wanted the area near the Gate to be open, so additional protections were built into the building.There are memorials scattered all over Berlin. This one located at the entrance to the Reichstag has a piece of slate for each member of Parliament killed in the Cold War. This is the Holocaust memorial officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The use of the word “murdered” in the name was a big deal as it officially acknowledged the nature of the crime. The site contains 2711 gravestone like pillars of various heights. There is no significance to the number. The pillars are located in a rolling, sunken area so that the exits always appear to be at a higher elevation. Interpretation of the memorial is left to the visitor.One of many beautiful plazas. You can see that the day changed from grey and gloomy to a beautiful blue sky day.You see these blue pipes above ground all over the city. The water table lies only ten feet below the surface, so you have to pump water out of all the construction sites.And finally the subject of the post, currywurst. This is a German fast food dish that originated in Berlin. None of us had heard of it before this trip and we had all been in Germany previously, so I have to think it is most popular in Berlin. There were currywurst stands everywhere. By tradition, each mayorial candidate has their picture taken next to a currywurst stand. It is a bratwurst with curry added, covered with a curry cartsup, and then sprinkled with curry. I must note here that I was the only one brave enough to try it. I definitely pronounce it delicious, but I do like curry. I accompanied mine with sauerkraut, but french fries are more traditional. No, I did not suffer from indigestion that night.