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Berlin

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 5, 2018

November 12th – 18th, 2017

Munich was light and fun-loving. We spent our time stuffing ourselves with hot dogs and hanging out in beer gardens and beer houses. Berlin was the complete opposite of that.

When I was a little kid, my grandmother, my father’s mother, lived in New York. I thought of New York as a cold gritty place filled with fast-moving people who didn’t have time for nonsense. There was lots to do, so the city seemed very exciting, but there was a cold uninviting feel to New York. Berlin felt like the New York of my childhood, but in German.

In Munich we were having fun eating and drinking like locals. In Berlin, we wasted no time and dived right into the history lessons. First World War I, then World War II, then the communist era. We visited many, many memorial sites; ones dedicated to murdered Jews, murdered Romany, gays, Russians, and communists. It seemed that everywhere we turned there was a statue or plaque. Even the ground had the occasional bronze bricks for remembrance.

We found the spot where the books of Jewish writers were burned. We walked past the now ordinary parking lot where Hitler’s bunker lays filled with dirt and cement. We took a tour of a bunker where working class citizens took shelter during World War II. We walked in and out of what was once East Berlin looking at what is now left of the wall. We stopped by a statue of Marx and Engels. Every street in Berlin has a monument pleading with you not to forget something or some lesson from the past in hopes that mistakes would not be repeated.

We visited the DDR Museum. It’s a museum that basically shows what life was like for an average citizen in East Germany under the communists. (In the photo above I am test driving a Trabant, one of those horrible little cars, in a simulated program.) Visitors get to see what the inside of a typical East German home looked like, what the people ate, read, saw at the movies, did at work, and how much they were spied on by the Stassi.

Being questioned in a dark room by a shadow man.

The East Germany of the museum had a very 60’s vibe with a hint of something off. That something was lack. They talked about how the people, while trying to seem  loyal to the communists yearned for the life of West Germans. The big wigs drove Swedish cars, while ordinary people where placed on 16-year waiting lists for a stupid Trabant.

There were some non-memorial related things to see and do in Berlin. The Pergamon Museum was nice, a bit on the small side, but nice. There was a slight British museum feel to it. But the Pergamon hasn’t stolen nearly enough artifacts to emit more than a few slight reminders of the museum in London.

Then we went to the Spy Museum and the Stassi Museum. Both were let downs. Both had a lot of information that I wanted to take in, but they felt more like a walk through my high school text books rather than museums. The Spy Museum had the facade of coolness and at least I could take interesting photos. They also had the Laser Maze which was nice, but not nice enough to justify the ticket price.

The Stassi Museum is in the actual office of the Stassi. The furniture you see was the actual furniture used by the people you learn about. The Stassi Museum is more informative and more focused on the spying done in East Germany. It is also a lot more boring. You are presented with facts and figures in the driest way possible. Some parts aren’t actually translated into English. If you go to this museum, you should read a book or two about the Stassi and East German communists. That way you will at least care somewhat about the information given. (Though, that should really be the museum’s job.)


Germany

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 112 – emergency, ambulance, and fire
  • 110 – police

Downloads:

Website:

Data:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • Be careful when riding the train outside the city.
    • Sometimes the train splits, meaning you are on the right train, but the wrong car.
    • At some point in time the train will split up and each car will go to a different destination.
  • Don’t walk in the bike lane.
    • There is usually a bike lane and it will be where you end up walking if you’re not constantly vigilant.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Entry is free
  • Audio Guide:
    • 4 euro per person
    • 2 euro with Berlin Welcome Card

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:00
  • Closed Mondays
  • Part of the memorial are always available

Video

Books:


Topography of Terror

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • Entrance is free
  • Free Guided Tours:
    • Sundays at 2 p.m.: tours in German
    • Sundays at 3.30 p.m.: tours in English

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 20:00

Video

Notes:

  • If you see a guided public tour in progress, you can just join it.

DDR Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

Hours:

  • Su – Fr 10:00 – 20:00
  • Sa 10:00 – 22:00

Video

Books:

Notes:

  • At the end, when you have scanned your ticket to leave, there is a photo machine. It will both email it to you and print it for you, for free.
  • This is a really fun and hands-on museum.
    • It might give you the impression that East Germany was fun with a bit of bother. (Oh, that Stassi…)

Pergamon Museum

Basic Information

Website

Cost:

  • 12€ (It used to be 15€, but there is a 3€ discount because the Pergamon Alter is not available.)
  • Free audio Guide

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 18:00

Videos:

Notes:


Berliner Unterwelten

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Tour 1, 2, 3: Adult € 11
  • Tour M: Adult € 14

Hours:

  • 10:00 – 16:00

Video

Notes:

  • You cannot book a tour online or in advance, you have to just show up before a tour and buy your tickets.
  • You can only pay in cash.
  • You cannot take photos.

Spandau Citadel

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Adults 4.50 €
  • 2.50 € with Berlin Welcome Card
  • 2.00 € for the audio guide

Hours:

  • 10 a.m. till 5. p.m. (last entrance 4.30 p.m.)

Notes:

  • This is not to be confused with the Spandau Prison.
  • This place is huge. Give yourself an hour or two to see everything.
  • There is cafe and a restaurant one the premises.
    • At the restaurant you can eat historic dishes from the middle ages.

Don’t Miss:

Hungry?

You Could Get:

  • Berlin Welcome Card
    • Comes in many varieties based on area and length of time.
    • Includes transportation
    • gives discounts to many attractions.

Not So Great:

  • Stasi Museum
    • Basic Information
    • It’s even more boring than the German Spy Museum.
    • It might be better if you do a tour or if they had a good audio guide. (There is no audio guide.)
  • German Spy Museum Berlin
    • Basic Information
    • It’s boring and you have to read 95% of the museum.
      • Very little hands on stuff.
      • All the media is in German with English subtitles.
    • The only fun thing is the Laser Maze, but everyone is waiting to go in.
    • The Spy Museum in DC is way better.

Map:

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