I’ve got about half a day to check out some more of Berlin so I get up nice and early to start the day. I arrive back in the area of Checkpoint Charlie and even though it’s fairly early in the morning, there’s still a crowd assembled.
There are a lot of things to see and read in this area, remaining blocks of the wall stand boldly, amidst boards outlining the history of the wall.
Mauermuseum Museum “For over 50 years the Wall Museum, founded in 1962 as a bastion of peace in freedom, has stood at the legendary Checkpoint Charlie border crossing, the geographical focal point of the Cold War, where the West-East divide began and ended. The Wall – history and incidents. Original objects from successful escapes under ground, over land and in the air. World-wide non-violent struggle for human rights.”
The first exhibition opened in October 1962. The large number of visitors encouraged them to procure larger premises and this current location was opened in 1963. From here, through a small window, escape helpers could observe all movements at the border crossing; escapees were always welcome and supported, escape plans were worked out, and injustice in the GDR was always fought against. Due to the museum’s friendly relations with escape helpers that were given hot-air balloons, escape cars, chairlifts and a small submarine. They claim to be the first museum of international non-violent protest.
This beetle bug was used to hide people whilst making runs across the border – you can see from the photo just behind the tyre where people were hidden. Other ingenious ways of escape included the use of gliders, ziplines, tightropes and hot air balloons. Sad to think about the depths to which desperate people went to escape to a better life.
The above installation uses some of the original stones from the Budapest Ghetto. The briefcase is a bronze cast of the one belonging to Raoul Wallenburg, a Swedish architect and businessman who was credited with saving the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews.
This museum holds so much information, too much information for the short amount of time I have left today. On my way out, I grab a copy of a book about escape attempts from Berlin (the eternal book buyer, no wonder my bags are always so heavy!) to read later.
Across the road from the museum and Checkpoint Charlie is a special exhibition called the Wall Panorama, and it doesn’t look busy, so that’s where I head next. The Wall panorama is two rooms, the first of pictures by eyewitnesses and video screens.
The second is the panorama room where you can experience the landscape of Berlin. You can walk u to the top of a podium to take an all-surveying look at Berlin back in the days of the walls. It’s a gloomy sight, as you could well imagine.
While I’m in the neighbourhood, I reckon the Currywurst Museum is begging for a visit. What’s that? You don’t know what currywurst is? Well, let me tell you!
Herta Heuwer is considered the Grand Dame of Currywurst. Wanting to create something new out of limited post-war resources (we’re talking 1949), she was mucking around with some curry powder and sausages, and voila – the currywurst was born. A pork sausage is boiled and then fried, cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup (made from spiced tomatoes) and then topped with curry powder. There is another contender for the title of Grand Dame though, with Hamburg claiming Lena Brucker was actually the first to discover currywurst. Whatever the truth of the matter, Currywurst is quintessentially Berlin.
This incredible little museum (voted one of the top 10 museums in Berlin, and there are a LOT) pays homage to the humble currywurst, taking you on an interactive sensory experience where you can literally view, listen, smell, taste (and even pretend to sell) the miracle that is currywurst. With your ticket, you even get a currywurst sample. If that’s not enough, kick back at the snack bar and order all the currywurst your heart desires. Yum.
And my actual sample at the end, yummo!
I have two places left on my list of things to do before time runs out – the first is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Again I have my cousins Chris and Sharon to thank for bringing this one to my attention. There’s a small information board on the footpath which gives a small amount of history about the site’s previous use and how the memorial came about, but there’s no big sign announcing your arrival – you just know you are at the right place. Completed in 2005, this public park (of sorts) designed by architect Peter Eisenman is a memorial to those Jews who were murdered throughout Europe during the Holocaust. And it’s a striking memorial at that. Pillars of differing heights float over a gradiated brick seabed. Walking through these stagnated pillars, a range of emotions and images come to mind – one in particular (probably due to the books I’ve recently been reading on the deportation of Poles during the war) is the flashing glimpses of passing scenery viewed through the wooden planks of cattle trains. Looking from the edge, it’s hard not to see the memorial as a kind of block cemetery filled with unmarked gravestones. I have to snap myself out of the visions in order to come back to reality. Sometimes the most powerful monuments say everything without saying anything.
Not far down the road is my last stop is one of the most well known landmarks in Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate. A massive columned gate which for many decades symbolised the separation of East and West Berlin, it now symbolises unity. Built on the model of the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis, it’s over 200 years old and usually the first sight on the list of most tourists to Berlin. It’s a magnificent structure at 28 metres in height and 65.5 metres wide. Originally only the royal family was permitted to walk through the main arch – everyone else was relegated to the outside gates.The area surrounding the gate is closed to traffic, so you can take your time browsing around and snapping selfies.
The airport bus arrives and on I hop, with my bag. Despite having sent a box of stuff back home yesterday, it seems to have become heavier overnight. After a couple of stops, an elderly lady gets on. She looks at me, and though she speaks minimal English, she asks me if I’m Polish. I’m taken aback by this conversation. We have a sputtering conversation in which I manage to find out that she was Polish born and that she had come to Berlin during the war, married and stayed. I tell her it’s my Father that is Polish. Her stop arrives and she alights. I’m left happily shocked by this encounter, language is not always the barrier we think it to be. And it’s nice for someone else to identify with me as being Polish when I am currently on my own journey to identify and re-establish my heritage.
Berlin Airport is nothing special, especially the big shed where my Air Berlin flight is departing from, which is a shame cause I have arrived much earlier than necessary and now I’m left with nothing to do except read for the next couple of hours.
It’s getting late when I arrive in Budapest, the sun well and truly going down, dusk taking hold quickly. The streets start to light up, and being a Friday night, the revellers are starting to appear. I wish my driver a good night and check into my hotel before heading out for a quick wander around the streets, which are buzzing. A quick stop at the local supermarket for bottled water and that’s me done for the day. I’m really excited to be here again and looking forward to seeing what Budapest has to offer and whether I like it as much as I thought I would.
I wonder what’s behind these doors?….
Lots to explore tomorrow! Can’t wait.