Marilyn and I took off toward the Brandenburg Gate for the first top on a three and one half tour of historical Berlin. Historical in a misnomer, as every inch of Berlin plays a part in the remarkable history, the wars and the revovery that created the personality it beams out today.
Our guide, a historian and great teacher, began leading the tour when we all lined up near the gate during a cloudy and often wet day.
We saw sites that explained the events that led to wars, and the aftereffects of war, beginning with the view of the Reichstag – the German parliament which had been ruined during WWII but made safe in the 60s, and finally completed the restoration in 1999.
There were many sites along the way, some just took my breath away when I learned of the significance. One was the Holocaust Memorial, the name of which is really more appropriately called, “The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”. It was designed by an artist who never felt a reason to explain his motivation, but to leave it to each person’s interpretation.
Our guide told us that you could walk through the memorial, see someone turn a corner and never see them again. The concrete boxes vary in height and the pathways are narrow for one person. The path rises and falls.
I felt a quiet respectful silence as I wound around the path within the walls of the structures.
After experiencing the memorial, the guide told us to compare the memorial structure with what she was about to show us. We walked about a block away where we stood on what was just a simple parking lot surrounded by apartment buildings.
That insignificant space was made such by design, for under it was the final bunker where Hitler and his girl friend – turned wife – Eva Braun took their lives when they knew he had lost the war.
The German government didn’t want to create anything that would be construed as a ‘shrine’ to Hitler so left it as is, with no access to whatever is left of the underground bunker, if anything.
The tour took us throughout the scene of early wars up to the wall that had been created to separate East Berlin from Western Germany, and we saw a portion of the original wall. Many people braved the almost impossible escape to West Germany and some were successful, but many people perished trying. It stands as a reminder of the times.