After feeling like time was standing still during the 13-hour train ride from Paris, arriving at Berlin Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) quickly flung us back to reality, LOL. The station was enormous, confusing and crowded. One thing we learned very early on in Berlin was that many of the train and transit stations also serve as fairly large shopping centers. Here at Hauptbahnhof, there were so many different levels and places where our friends could be waiting for us, so we wondered around, suitcases in hand, through the entire station. Although there were signs everywhere declaring free Wifi, I couldn’t get a connection until I found Starbucks, always a welcome sight for confused travelers because of their no-hassle free Wifi. So I connected and found the message that our friends would be late – just as they arrived, LOL.
The second thing we learned very early on in Berlin is to always use the clean (and usually free) bathrooms whenever possible. Usually the ones in these train stations/shopping centers were clean and payment seemed optional. And when payment was solicited, it was cheaper than other places in Europe, which usually charge a whole Euro, but here in Berlin, 40-50 cents was quite acceptable. Good to know.
And the third thing we learned early on in Berlin was that we had to drive a lot to get anywhere. Berlin is a huge, bustling city, and we realized very quickly how fortunate we were to have Kerstin and Janine there to help us get around and understand what we were seeing. Many of the signs were only written in German. We would have been very lost and probably would not have seen even a quarter of what we saw, thanks to Kerstin and Janine.
Our first stop from the train station was the Berlin Wall. Here’s a quick description taken from Wikipedia:
The Berlin Wall…was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off (by land) West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The barrier included guard towers placed along large concrete walls,which circumscribed a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, “fakir beds” [beds of nails] and other defenses.
After seeing pictures of this Wall and hearing the stories for most of my life, it was surreal to be standing here looking at what was left of the wall now. Since the fall of the Wall, which began with the widely televised coverage of ordinary citizens chipping at and demolishing sections of it on the evening of November 9, 1989, most of the Wall has since been destroyed. But a “longer section of the second (easternmost) wall along the Spree River near the Oberbaumbrücke [Bridge], nicknamed East Side Gallery” (Wikipedia) still stands, now covered in covered in “graffiti that did not exist while the Wall was guarded by the armed soldiers of East Germany”(Wikipedia). This stretch of Wall was very colourful, and the “graffiti” were beautiful masterpieces to us, heartfelt expressions of the celebration of freedom and commemoration to the lives lost while trying to flee to the West. We were moved by many of these paintings and impressed by the vibrant artistry of so many of these painted sections of the Wall (actually, Berlin was full of vibrant art everywhere we looked!) Many of the artists clearly left a part of their hearts on that Wall.
Today’s photos are primarily from the Wall, and most won’t be captioned so you can enjoy them through your own eyes rather than through my interpretation of them.
Click “Here” for more info on the Kissing photo.
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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2014. All rights reserved.
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