Echoes of the Reich

Berlin Travel Blog

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We take a local train from Potsdam to Berlin. Having been brought up on WW2 stories in fictional form and storis from Granfathers who both fought against Nazi Germany this visit to a city that was at the heart of the Nazi Empire is approached with mixed feelings.

I've met many Germans on my travels and have generally enjoyed their company enormously. Looking at the Reichstag building for instance though and then the Jewish memorial around the corner you cannot but help to have images of those dark days of the 1930's and 40's brought to mind.

The city has no definite centre and pockets of attractions are dotted all over. The densest array of sights lies to the east of the Brandenburg Gate, on either side of Unter den Linden.

We have plenty of time to wander spending two days in the city.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most important monuments – a landmark and symbol all in one with over two hundred years of history. A former symbol of the divided city, it drew visitors who used to climb an observation platform in order to get a glimpse of the world behind the Iron Curtain.

When Germany was reunified following the fall of the Berlin in November 1989 the Brandenburg Gate quickly reinvented itself into the New Berlin’s symbol of unity. It was officially opened to traffic on December 22, 1989 and 100,000 people came to celebrate the occasion. Erected between 1788 and 1791.designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans whose vision was inspired by the Acropolis in Athens.

Prussian sovereign Friedrich Wilhelm II was looking for a suitable architectural statement to enhance the approach into the Boulevard Unter den Linden. The classical sandstone work is one of the masterpieces of this era and is the only surviving one of 18 previous city gates.

The Quadriga, the  sculpture on top of the gate represents the Goddess of Victory. A Johan Gottfried Schadow work which was erected on the Gate in 1793. From 1806 to 1814 the statue was held captive in France as a Napoleonic trophy during the years of France and Prussia’s military rivalry for imperial domination.

Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial, located in Mitte on a stretch of the former “death strip”, where the Wall once stood near the Brandenburg Gate, is Berlin’s stunning monument to the Holocaust, dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide of World War II.

 It took 17 years for the Memorial to be completed in Berlin. Its foundation stone was a Bundestag resolution passed on June 25, 1999 to erect a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This was followed by years of discussion and deliberation, until the Monument was completed on May 8, 2005. US architect Peter Eisenmann conceived the winning design consisting of 2711 rectangular blocks of concrete laid out in grid formation, recalling tombstones.

We also visit the Reichstag.Following German reunification on October 3, 1990 the Bundestag (German Federal Parliament) decided, one year later, to make the Reichstag the seat of Parliament in Berlin, the restored capital of reunited Germany. After a complete restoration of Paul Wallot’s original 1894, the Bundestag reconvened here in Sir Norman Foster’s spectacularly restored Reichstag building on April 19, 1999. There is a queue to get in but it doesn't take long to get in and it's well worth the effort to see the views from the top of the dome.

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photo by: CFD