In May 2013 me and my friend Matt traveled to Berlin for a week. As a big history geek, this was somewhere very high up on my places to visit, and it did not disappoint. It also happened to be my birthday whilst we were there, so we explored some of the alternative nightlife as well as the museums and historical sites.
First thing though, we arrived on Monday and after checking in at hostel marched across the city as one of my favorite bands, TesseracT, were by coincidence supporting the band Periphery in the Magnet Club venue. The bands were great and the venue itself felt like a proper rock venue, very good atmosphere and no attempt at the forced ‘modern’ feel you feel in so many other venues. It’s situated in East Berlin which meant we got to walk along the wall to get there, though i’ll cover that fully later as we went back and took photos.
So Tuesday was our day to really start exploring. First thing we headed straight for Brandenburg gate. This really felt like an epic moment for me being here, it’s the scene of so much history, notably both Napoleon and Hitler’s forces marching through it at those respective points of history and it’s status in the Cold War as a separation between West Berlin and East Berlin, I though the gate was very imposing, everything I expected it to be!
After that we went to look at the outside of the Reichstag. A very impressive building. Didn’t go in, but it was pretty cool from the outside. Strange to think that the fire there in 1933 was a big part of Hitler’s rise to power. Nearby is the Holocaust memorial. It’s very haunting, a serious of pillars all at different levels. I think it’s very appropriate. After wandering around it we go inside the museum there. I don’t want to elaborate on this because I feel it is for each person to have their own thoughts and feelings in such a place.
Next up was the Topography of Terror. An interesting insight into life under the Nazi’s and the horror they inflicted. I find all the propaganda posters in particular every interesting, seeing how they subverted peoples views and wrote narrative to fit their design. As it’s built on the site of the HQ’s of the Gestapo and SS I think it’s a very good way to use the site now, to show the world what happened. We also went to see pieces of the Berlin Wall that are situated nearby and then Checkpoint Charlie, the well-known crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War which saw US and Soviet tanks face off during the crisis in 1961. Reminder how Berlin was not just split into East and West, but also the 4 ‘sectors’ as well.
All in all it was a very productive day in terms of historical sightseeing, very moving for me to see all these scenes of history I have read so much about. Berlin is certainly a city with an interesting history, and often a violent and divided one.
In the evening we went to the famous White Trash club/bar/restaurant for dinner. A weird mix of American and Chinese decor where all the waiter and waitress’s were punk or pin-up. If anywhere ever defined ‘cool’, it would be this place. Following that we visited Halford’s bar, which unsurprisingly given the name is a Judas Priest themed bar, playing lots of old school metal. We got chatting to a Kiwi guy who was a massive power metal fan too, which was great. I always enjoy chatting to other travelers.
The next day we went for something a bit different and went around Berlin Zoo, to mix up the week. It was pretty much like every other half decent zoo in Europe. Have mixed feelings on Zoo’s, understand that animal rights are sometimes a big issue with them but on the other hand I think ones like Berlin Zoo can do a lot for animals through breeding programs etc. It was a good change of scenery from all the history and bars anyhow. The wolfpack was my fave bit!
In the evening, as the sun set, we went out to the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park, East Berlin. It is huge! It is obviously full of Soviet iconography which was very cool to see as I have heard and read so much about the Soviet era. There’s several aspects to the memorial, which I understand also is the final resting place of 5000 Soviet soldiers. it the picture below is a view of the main part, in the distance is a Soviet solider standing with a sword in one arm and holding a child with the other, standing over a crushed swastika. It is lined with sarcophagi with military carvings and Stalin quotes,,To get to this part you walk through a sort of gate entrance, along a path and past a weeping statue representing Mother Russia and through 2 giant pillar type things with kneeling Soviet soldiers on each side and soviet hammer and sickles on them like the USSR flag.
That evening we searched out the ‘Rock und Viking’ bar for a few beers. The theme to that bar is pretty obvious!
The Thursday was my birthday, I turned 28. We spent the day visiting Museum Island (Museumsinse). As the name suggests, it’s an island with several museums on!
Highlights from our wanders around the museums included the bust of Queen Nefertit, the reconstructions of the Ishtar Gate and the Pergamon Altar and lots of cool Egyptian iconography.
The evening turned into a somewhat drunken tour of Berlin’s metal bar’s with the Kiwi from a couple of days ago and a couple we met in Halfords that night. Paules Metal Ek was one of the bars we hit up, I know it’s well-known among metalheads in Europe. I ended up in some club (I don’t know what it was called) that was in a metro station and made it back about 7am to the hostel. It was a great night!
The day after my birthday we were extremely hungover, so short of eating a pizza for lunch and then going back to lunch we didn’t really achieve anything before early evening. Then we finally dragged ourselves out into the world and went along to view the remains of the Berlin Wall, specifically the East Side Gallery in much greater detail than previous. Though there is a lot of random pointless graffiti, overall the images are very impressive and some of them were very moving.
In the evening we went back to the Rock Und Viking bar and then to the club K7 which is pretty well-known among the ‘alternative’ community, it had a metal floor and a goth floor so I was very happy (as well as a pop floor, but I didn’t go onto that one). The outside area was cool too, they have a fire and a BBQ gong. Did have to do it sober though, body had given up after the previous night! But that meant I got to appreciate the music more, so that was good.
The last full day we sent a great deal of time in the German National History Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum). As well the obvious Nazi and Cold War related things, I was very interested in the old maps from before unification, and all the old posters, flags and so forth associated with the German Socialist movement. There was also cool armor, weaponry and so forth from Germanic knights. In the evening we went back to Paules Metal Ek for a couple of beers.
All in all a very awesome trip, much history and many beers!