The third postcard from Berlin comes from the historical period of the Cold War where we visited the Berlin Wall memorial, Checkpoint Charlie and Topography of Terror, after all – a trip to Berlin is useless if you don’t go back to this important time.
The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 by the Communists to keep the Democratic West separate from the Communist-dominated East during the Cold War between the United States and Russia. The wall was twelve feet high and extended over a hundred miles, shielded by electric fences, guard posts, dogs – anything to keep the two sides from unifying. In 1990, the wall came down… a moment which changed the world forever.
Although today you are unable to see the actual wall itself, except for a few remnants and memorials, it intrigued me how much Berlin has developed and merged over the short time frame. Throughout my entire visit I struggled to see a clear difference between East and West however the main highlight would be the difference in architecture – then again, I am planning another visit to explore the East side a bit deeper, which Jasmin says is now a hip part of town.
We visited a few places which hold monuments of the wall, starting with Bernauerstrasse, which has a unique position separating the East and West seamlessly. From the top of the museum, it is a clearly defined line and you can even notice from the architecture the distinct difference.
The next stop was Checkpoint Charlie – the only crossing point where allied soldiers registered members of the American, British and French armed forces before their trip and where foreigners could cross the border. This was also the point where the East/West division began and ended and a focal point of attempted escapes from the East. So why the name? Well – this was simply the third checkpoint and charlie refers to the third letter of the phonetic alphabet (as in alpha, bravo, charlie). Funnily enough we visited this point during 4th July and there were hourds of tourists taking photos with the actors dressed up as soldiers who resembled the American side.
A short walk away, we arrived to the Topography of Terror memorial site which housed the headquarters of the Gestapo and SS between 1933 and 1945. Grotesque images are displayed at this memorial which document the terror and Nazi crimes originating here. This site also hosts one of the few original remainders of the Berlin Wall – definitely a place to visit, however be emotionally prepared.
Well after this flashback, we desperately needed a refreshment and a colourful Gelato truck couldn’t have come at a better time.
Berlin has definitely experienced a big historical and cultural impact and I highly recommend these sights as part of anyone’s visit – the reality of historical occurrences in the past truly will give you goosebumps.