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Berlin Ballast

Can you spot the German humour?

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There it is!

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Oh, the mirth! Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 10/12/2015 in Travel

 

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A Trip Around a Gate, Church and a Big Thing on a Roundabout

We needed something a little lighter after the sombre nature of the Topography of Terror so after a welcome Jagertee (rum, black tea, red wine, plum brandy, orange juice and various spices) beloved of skiers everywhere, we ended up taking in some other sites, which were easier on the palette over the next 24 hours.

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A quick walk up the straße from Potzdamer platz is the Brandenburg gate which we timed getting to perfectly as the sky was turning into the perfect backdrop of colour to give this edifice a brooding look.  Erected between 1788-91, the Quadriga atop the monument was added later and later taken back to Paris by Napoleon before being returned after his defeat.  Later on used as a Nazi party symbol, the gate survived albeit in a severely damaged state and was gradually restored throughout the years.

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As I sat on the steps of the tourist information centre desperately trying to drink in and memorise all of the features for writing this up,  it was pleasant to be an observer and see the natives oblivious to the gawping tourists taking photographs and to the gate itself as they went upon their way not paying heed to the familiar landmark.  Just the opposite side of the gate was the busy and competitive rush hour traffic, the gate seemed to be a barrier against this madness to the orderly and polite sightseers appreciating the history and ambience of the place whilst avoiding the obligatory cyclists. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 06/12/2015 in History, Travel

 

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Ste J Reviews – Street Art!

Always up for some mutual blog content, here’s some photos I sent to Resa from my trip last month for her wonderful graffiti site.

Graffiti Lux and Murals

Ste J from Book to the Future sent us this fab Graf with commentaries –  from Berlin!

Stej_2192 Photo © Steve Johnson

Right from the off Berlin is a city of art, taking the train from Schönefeld airport the talent is in evidence on all the railway bridges which I sadly didn’t get any photos of.  At the Alcatraz Hostel though I was surprised to across some wonderfully vibrant creations.”

Stej_2195 Photo © Steve Johnson

Even down the side street, shops are covered in wonderful scenes of countryside and even the transport is not immune to taking up the trend.”

Stej_2200 Photo © Steve Johnson

I find the best way to describe some of these photos is ironically off the wall, having said that the eye catching design is testament to a group of people with imagination that help brighten our cities and for that we should be thankful.

Stej_2207 Photo ©…

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Posted by on 02/12/2015 in Art

 

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The Topography of Terror

Just behind (or in front of depending on your orientation) these particular remnants of the Berlin Wall the museum building  stands. it’s a modern cube that sits (it changed position between sentences) surrounded by wide open spaces and to the right of it are two art galleries and the home of the Berlin’s State Parliament, not too long ago the situation was very different, as this location once – as a handy plaque informed us:

housed the most important institutions of Nazi terror:  the national central headquarters of the Secret state Police (Gestapo), The Reich SS leadership, The Security Service (SD) and the Reich Security Main Office

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The open and airy lay out of the gallery is a good thing as the reading material is at best challenging.  It shouldn’t be, I’ve read plenty of history books and I’m familiar with the appalling numbers of casualties, of the terrible fates suffered by innocent people, of the mass slaughter and cruelty and senselessness of it all and yet when on such a site as this I just couldn’t read about these events.

It is considerably harder to reconcile these events than usual when, where you happen to be makes it tangible, visceral, much more real.  With propaganda films and footage of executions, photos aplenty and sickening headlines in papers it was all a bit too much for me. it was plenty shocking, sickening and gruelling to the point where I had to sit down on the many handy benches to write some notes. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 24/11/2015 in History, Travel

 

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Checkpoints of View and Walling One’s Self Off

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.

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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). Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 21/11/2015 in History, Travel

 

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To Begin in Berlin

After booking a short break to Berlin and then leaving for said destination not more than 32 hours later, there was little time to do much except pack and leave a short note to you estimable readers.  As a consequence my vast knowledge of the German language (zwei – which it turns out is pronounced with a ‘T’ at the beginning – and danke shöen) came in very handy.  In a sense that freedom is both delightfully intimidating and extremely liberating, as who wants to have an identikit holiday to all the other tourists?

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Why I love Germany! I really hope Richard Dean Anderson (of Stargate and MacGyver fame) went to that club to deliver a lecture on the subject.

Before hitting the city Tom and I found ourselves at the unmanned airport railway station that expects everybody to not only know where they are going but to handle the unfamiliar ticket machine interface at speed as the queues are massive and the commuters impatient.  Our station wasn’t anywhere to be found of course but eventually after fruitless wanderings we happened across a machine that had a relevant sticker on it telling us what to get for our area of the city.

All this wouldn’t have been so bad had the directions to the hostel not been so shockingly vague but it was worth it, I find that it’s the adversity which makes conquering obstacles that much sweeter.  Interestingly despite buying tickets nobody ever asked to see them, making me wonder if the entire rail network is paid for by gullible tourists, the trains were really good though and ridiculously frequent so we still won.

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Morning view from a decent coffee house

The part of the city we called home was away for the touristy areas and had nice wide quiet streets with plenty of street art from the local talent, this was also in evidence as we left the station along with two huge wire mesh men fighting on a river like something out of Jason and the Argonauts.  The main streets on the other hand were something to get used to (and quickly) for the newcomer, there are cycle lanes on the pavements but they aren’t really signposted expect at major junctions when they also run into the road near traffic lights, so you need to stand further back from the road than usual. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 16/11/2015 in Architecture, Travel

 

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