"Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a jelly donut) - JFK
Trip Start Aug 29, 2010
48Trip End Oct 04, 2010
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Anyway, we took the S-Bahn (without adventure this time) over to the Brandenberg Gate to participate in our third New Europe tour. The subway walks out directly into the gate, which is quite majestic. Sadly, it was very, very gloomy outside. Quite chilly too, and kinda misting, so we were hoping it wouldn't rain. We got there pretty early, like 40 minutes, so we wandered around for a bit. Walked by the Russian Embassy, which is gigantic! We passed several other embassies too, the Hungarian, American, and French, but the Russian just dwarfed them all easily.
So the tour itself covered quite a lot of ground. We saw the gate, the Reichstag, part of the Berlin Wall and tracks where it used to be, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler's Bunker, a very interesting Holocaust Memorial (the picture included doesn't do it justice, all three of us loved it), the Finance Ministry (used to be Gohring's Air Force Building and the largest building in Europe), the Berliner Dom, several other churches and museums, the opera house, Humboldt University, and other places I can't recall. We learned a great deal of history, which mostly dealt with post-WWI Germany, really mainly since about early 1945. The city itself (and really the country as a whole) hasn't even existed 20 years yet, which makes everything very different. I never knew that the Berlin Wall was actually two concentric walls, with a "death strip" in the middle. The story of how the Wall came down was probably the single most interesting tale of tour and bears repeating.
In 1989, there was a series of political demonstrations and protests in the towns surrounding Berlin that criticized the government for the continued division of the city and the country. Those demonstrations quickly reached massive proportions like 300,000 people at once (in Leipzig out of a population of 550,000) and so the government had to do something about these unhappy masses. The East German government called for an international press conference, one of the very few since the raising of the Berlin Wall, in order to show the people that the gov't was still worth something. The gov't decided to say that the division was to be dissolved but over time and would have numerous limitations. However, the press secretary at the time missed the informational meeting where this was announced to the politicians. While he was on international television giving updates on the state of the country, a reporter asked him about the demonstrations. He didn't actually know what was going on so he searched through his pile of papers and landed one he had not read. He decided to just read directly off of that paper, which said "all traffic between East and West Berlin is now open." And when another reporter asked for when this would start, he searched through his papers for any date but could only find that date, so "effective immediately." That night, thousands of East Berliners rushed the wall at every point and overwhelmed the security which had no choice but to let them through. Shortly thereafter, the wall was officially down on November 9, 1989, and within a year on October 20, 1990, Germany was reunited. Great story. We wonder what happened to the press secretary who single handedly bumbled into opening the wall and changed the course of German history...
After the tour, we went up to the top of the TV tower for an amazing view of Berlin. Since there really aren't any large buildings, we could see clearly for miles and miles. Got some great pictures. Upon leaving, we were a little hungry, and happened to see a much talked about currywurst store. Basically currywurst is a sausage doused (and I mean severely doused) in ketchup and then covered in curry powder. Pretty tasty and perfectly priced for a predinner snack. This post is already really long tho, and we still have more to cover, so we'll stop here and break the day up in two.