Germany Berlin 2000.09.30 - 10.07

Berlin 10 Years After Reunification

Walking between former West Berlin and East Berlin, the most distinctive difference is the building architecture. While the Communist East Berlin restored historic monuments, museums, churches, and palaces after heavy bombing from WWII, the Capitalist West Berlin was busy constructing ugly high rise boxes. Today, 11 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 10 years after the reunification of East and West Germany, the economy, infrastructure, and politics is blended into one. The young children we saw in Berlin probably can't conceptualize the former militarily enforced division of their city.

Our introduction to Berlin was through The Original Berlin Walks walking tour. Lonely Planet claims this to be "among the best walking tours we've ever been on," and we'd have to agree. The walk was 3½ hours through East Berlin because, as our tour guide put it, "that's where all the interesting stuff is." We learned 800 years of history, the significance of a dozen buildings, where the wall once stood, where to buy the best cakes in town, and about some escapes from East Berlin before the wall came down.

We were in Berlin during the 10th anniversary of German Reunification expecting to witness a huge party. All we found were mobs of people meandering aimlessly around Brandenburger Tor (possibly also looking for "the activities"?) and a few stands selling sausages and beer.

One of only 3 or 4 pieces of wall still standing in Berlin. Most standing pieces are chipped and defaced. Only this piece, protected behind a fence, is in excellent condition.

The Berliner Dom is one of the structures repaired by the East Germans. Upon a close look (at the actual building, not this photo), the difference in rock shades reveals which sections were restored.

The Brandenburger Tor used to be in the no-mans land between the parallel walls that divided East and West Berlin. Even East German soldiers needed special permission to enter the no-mans land to, for instance, remove the body of a failed escapee.

The Palaces of Potsdam

Potsdam is an easy 45 minute train ride from Berlin. In recent history, it's most famous as the site where the Americans, British, and Russians agreed how to subdivide Germany and Berlin at the close of WWII. 200 years prior, Potsdam was Friedrich II's retreat. Palaces he built to host dignitaries and for personal use were spared from WWII bombing. All are open to tourists today. The gardens are spacious and the air is fresh. Potsdam is an excellent retreat from the bustling Berlin, just at Friedrich II must have felt.

There's quite a bit of distance between each palace. The purchase of a day pass for all Potsdam city transport is a wise investment if you don't have a car.

Sansouci Palace was Friedrich II's place of creativity. He composed music, played the flute, and painted in these rooms. Compared to the ostentatious palaces built to receive and impress guests, Sansouci has a relaxed, comfortable feel.

Neues Palace was the summer residence of the royal family. Entry is normally permitted everyday except Tuesday, but when we visited on Friday, it was closed without explanation.

Orangerie Palace is prettiest when viewed from the road (as pictured). The inside has little to offer. Nonetheless, this photo embodies the feeling that we had while visiting Potsdam.

Cecilienhof Palace was the site of the 1945 Potsdam Conference. We arrived after closing and weren't able to tour the inside, but the surrounding woods and fields were excellent for a refreshing walk.

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