A Day in Berlin

Paul-Linke-Ufer a.k.a. path to (former) East Berlin

Paul-Lincke-Ufer a.k.a. path to (former) East Berlin

Have you been to Berlin? It’s one of my favourite places on earth – second favourite city, actually. (Do guess what the first city is. It’s not that hard. You won’t get anything for guessing correctly though.)

So, this day in Berlin I want to tell you about. It’s the best day I’ve ever had. I’ve so far failed to get my friends to feel excited about it, so here I am. Do pretend you’re excited.

Imagine an autumnal day – early September, cool breeze, falling leaves. I was visiting a friend in Berlin. This was my second time there and I felt like exploring. My friend was kind enough to suggest a route, and off I went. This is when you might like to pull up your mental map of Berlin, or look up a digital one.

From Kottbusser Tor in fashionable Kreuzberg, I set off on foot – leather jacket casually slung over one shoulder (my friend insisted that I bring it, and he was right – the wind did get a bit chilly). Direction of travel? East Berlin. I’ve always had a fascination with East Berlin, and of 20th century Germany in general, but more about that later. Armed with my jacket and my music, I followed the canal that would lead me to the Spree and East Berlin on a small tree-lined road called Paul-Lincke-Ufer (I don’t know how they come up with these names). I passed by a café and duly stopped for a coffee. And I had one of those transcendental moments when you feel at one with yourself and your surroundings. One of those moments of absolute stillness. I felt at peace with myself. Have you felt it? I hope you do at some point – it’s an exhilarating feeling.

'the' moment I was on about.

The ‘moment’ I was on about.

Benches overlooking (former) East Berlin. I find this deeply fascinating. I sat down for a while to absorb the moment. The passerbys seemed puzzled. They looked at me sympathetically - they must have thought I was too tired to walk. Or something.

Benches overlooking (former) East Berlin. I find this deeply fascinating. I sat down for a while to absorb the moment. The passerbys seemed puzzled. They looked at me sympathetically – they must have thought I was too tired to walk. Or something.

Eastward and upward I trodded, expertly dodging incoming runners and cyclists (one of those survival skills you learn early as a pedestrian). I crossed into East Berlin. I’m not sure when exactly. I don’t think there was a sign. I don’t think anyone would want there to be one. Sometime later, though, I turned onto Puschkinallee – and there you can’t possibly feel more ‘East Berlin’. Sufficiently awed by the impressive tree-lined boulevard, I continued onward to Treptower Park.

You’ve probably heard of Berlin’s famous Tiergarten – and my oh my, that park is an absolute beauty. Treptower Park, though, is of a different breed and stunning in a different way. If you like history and have heard of World War II, I recommend a visit. The park is home to the Soviet War Memorial – a “vast war memorial and military cemetery” according to Wikipedia. It opened in 1949 (or so Wikipedia tells me). And it is a breathtaking piece of Soviet architecture. I must have spent at least two hours there, reading. Reading Joseph Heller’s ‘Catch-22’ while sitting cross-legged, back against the wall, on the granite steps of the Soviet war memorial in Berlin – there’s nothing quite like it.

I was literally gaping while taking this picture. #originalcolours #seriously

I was literally gaping while taking this picture. #originalcolours #seriously

Me and my Catch-22.

Me and my Catch-22.

TA-DA.

TA-DA.

Having had my fill of World War II and starting to get cramps, I left the park and crossed the Elsenbrücke (‘brücke’ is bridge in German) to my last destination of the day. An absolute must-see for a history enthusiast like myself: the East Side Gallery – the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin wall featuring some of its most famous paintings, notably Vrubel’s re-painted ‘Fraternal Kiss’ (or its longer and much more comical name: ‘Mein Gott, hilf mir, diese tödliche Liebe zu überleben’). In a moment of sparkling brilliance earlier that morning, I decided to incorporate a leisurely stroll along the length of the East Side Gallery in my walking route. And what a brilliant idea it was. There’s nothing quite like walking the last remaining stretch of the Berlin wall. If you’re thinking of doing the same, though, don’t. It’s long. Hire a bicycle, borrow one, take one from the streets if you will. By the 1km mark, the jacket I was wearing felt more leaden than leathery, and the decision to bring an umbrella (in case it rained – one of the acquired habits of a Londoner) and a book didn’t seem so smart anymore.

The famous painting. Yes, the one with the really long German name.

The famous painting. Yes, the one with the really long German name.

So, 1.3km later, I made it to a bridge that would take me back to Kreuzberg. The first thing I did when I got back to my friend’s? Demand a beer, to which he readily obliged. My friend is, after all, German.

7 thoughts on “A Day in Berlin

    • Oooh… how long for? I’ve only ever been there for a few days at a time. I imagine it’d be a great place to spend a more extended holiday where you absorb yourself in the Berlin life and not only do ‘touristy things’, for lack of a better word!

      • Christmas in Poland! Now that’s something I haven’t tried. Warsaw? I’ve only ever been to Auschwitz to visit the camps. Which gives me an idea… I’d better write about that! Ahaha. Enjoy your travels! I look forward to visiting new places through your page.

      • 🙂 Poznan, have family there ! thank you! Here I want to write mostly about my region Tuscany:) But it doesn’t change a fact that I love traveling 🙂 Greetings from Siena !!

      • I figured from the blog name. 😉 I’ve never been to Tuscany! I’d really like to visit one day. But in the meantime, your blog will be my eyes. 🙂

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