On our first proper day of exploring we ended up seeking out two of the most famous and popular landmarks of Berlin, Checkpoint Charlie and a stretch of the Berlin Wall which were to give us contrasting views on tastefulness.
First off was Checkpoint Charlie, which despite us hearing that it was a tourist trap ended up being fairly close to our random wanderings and so became the first proper notable bit of the city we saw. It was a tasteless little thing that didn’t deserve a photo, so here’s the sign instead.
For those of you interested, you can see the checkpoint in front of the McDonald’s, two German guys are dressed up in army uniforms waving flags and charging money for photos. I don’t know what I expected but I was taken aback by the tasteless commercialisation of it, there was a museum just beyond that looked really interesting but the experience would have been sullied by coming back out and being greeted once again by the tacky nature of the scene.
From reading the museums website it is definitely worth a look and something I will seek out next time I am that way on, at the time though it was so at odds with the crudeness we had seen that we had to move on and it was a good thing we did for five minutes walk around the way, we found a 200m piece of the Berlin Wall and that was really something. This is the outdoor portion of the Topography of Terror museum (more of which in the next post).
I remember as an eight year old watching people on the news celebrate by climbing on a wall and I didn’t understand it’s significance for many years but that memory has always stayed with me and so seeing the wall in real life, I expected something more imposing, something that would loom over me and invoke a physical response. Even visualising the barbed wire that would have been on top and accounting for the TV adding ten pounds, it seemed so commonplace, which is not understate the actual impressiveness of being there and touching it.
It seems incomprehensible that something like this could have erected, especially when in today’s global society when a quick Skype call would at least render communications possible between friends and family but that it happened less than sixty years ago is still disconcerting. Naturally later in the day we saw some bits of the wall in other places and men touting for photo business which really does bring down the gravitas of what is a major attraction for serious-minded people.
The day was about to get more emotionally charged as we made our way towards the indoor exhibits of the museum but I’ll save that for another day…