Monday, 1 June 2009

Berlin break

I've just returned from a really enjoyable trip to Berlin. It was my first trip to Berlin and my wife's first ever visit to Germany.

Berlin is quite different to any of the other cities I have visited in the south and west of of Germany. I am sure that its unique history plays a big part in that but it's Prussian history also plays a significant role too.

Berlin has a population of about 4 million while the city has been designed, in true German fashion, for a population of 5 million. The city is not densely populated and has large open spaces within the city.

Our trip also provided background for the Open University course "Total war and social change: Europe 1914-1955" that Lynn is studying during 2009.

On our first full day we took a walking tour "Discover Berlin Tour" with Original Berlin Walks. The weather forecast was for a thunderstorm and we were the only ones who turned up for the tour, we are English so used to rain. Our guide, Lisa, did a great job and were were almost at the end of the tour when the heavens opened and even we decided enough was enough.

We spent best part of a day visiting Potsdam, cannot say that it did much for me. Seems like Frederick the Great created an early version of Disneyland.

We also spent a day visiting Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (once again with Original Berlin Walks since we enjoyed the first tour). Lynn is the only member of our family not to have visited a concentration camp and felt that it was something that she should do. One daughter visited this camp and the other visited Auschwitz with me. Not surprisingly she found it disturbing.

We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Berlin which is conveniently located on Lützowplatz a short walk south of Tiergarten. It is a stylish yet quirky modern hotel.

I was pleasantly surprised with Berlin and enjoyed it more than I had anticipated. The bier gardens are not as large as those in Bavaria but nonetheless pleasant and there is a more cosmopolitan feel than other German cities that I have visited. The last 100 years of its history have created a complex place that, for me at least, is more interesting than it earlier Prussian history. The 60 years anniversary of the post war constitution took place a few days before our arrival, celebration of the 20 years anniversary of the Fall of the Wall is also taking place this year.

Some photos of our trip are posted on Picasa and when I get a little time I will write up a complete account of the trip.