Things I Have Learned In Berlin

Many small people, who in many small places, can alter the face of the world.”    A quote from the  Berlin Wall

Things I Have Learned In Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie is the Cold War Security point between East and West Berlin. This is not the original one  in Berlin. The original one is fourty kilometers away. This is the one they set up for the tourists because it is closer to the wall.  There doesn’t seem to be anyone who knows who  the American soldier is, in the very large photograph in front of Checkpoint Charlie.


In 1996 Berlin became  the center of Germany’s commercial and underground art movement. The galleries quickly moved from West to East Berlin forming the East Berlin Art Mile on Auguststrasse in Mitte.

If you are a fan of “form follows function” (as I am)  visit the Neue Nationalgalerie designed by Mies Van Der Rohe (twentieth century paintings)  and the Bauhaus museum designed by Water Gropius ( they used his building plans) The Bauhaus school  was closed in 1933 because the new National Socialist government was afraid of their “subversive ideas and degenerative art.”

Kandinsky had a problem with the color green when teaching at the Bauhaus.

The German born artist Joseph Beuys had a big exhibit at the Hamburger Bahnhof –(old train station) Museum of Contemporary Art.  I love contemporary art but I have never gotten him or his fascination with fat and felt.

Fredrik the Great of Prussia ordered that potatoes and cucumbers  be the staple of the German diet because it was cheap.The portions are usually large and filling. Berlin has the largest immigrant population of any German city so there are may types of food –most common are Russian, Turkish, Vietnamese and Dutch.

“Berlin has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to the treatment of its Jews but anti-Semitism was around long before Germany” (from the Scottish tour guide)

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin occupies a large outdoor space near Hitler’s bunker and the Brandenburger Gate. It is made up of 2,711 gray stone slabs of different heights and shapes. They have no markings such as names or dates.


The Adlon Kempinski Hotel in Berlin has had Presidents, royalty and most recently Obama staying there, but it is most famous for being the place where Michael Jackson put his baby out the window.

Bebelplatz (where they burned the books in 1933) in East Berlin, is now the location of one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in (Hotel de Rome  was originally the Dresdner bank building. They kept a lot of the building intact.  ).

There is a parking lot over Hitler’s bunker because they don’t want it to become a neo Nazi shrine.

The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament, is one of Berlin’s most historic landmarks. It is close to  the Brandenburger gate and was located right next  to the Berlin wall. You have seen it in many movies.


I should explain the Brandenburger Gate since I keep mentioning it. It is the only remaining gate to the city, rebuilt in the eighteenth century and again after World War 2.  It is one of the landmarks of  Germany. It is the entry to Unter den Linden –the boulevard of Linden Trees . King Frederick of Prussia had the trees planted as a sign of peace leading up to his palace. It was on the East Berlin side of the wall and inaccessible to the west until the wall fell.


World War Two has had more books and papers written about it than any other period in history.

Kaiser Wilhelm the Second said, “More enemies, more honor”.

There is as much security at the Jewish Museum in Berlin as there is at the airport (except for the pictures of Terrorists of the week at Passport control)  The new section designed by David Leibskind is based on an exploding Star Of David. The spaces disappear into angles. It  is more about space  than what is in it.

The Resistance museum is housed in the building where the attempt was made on Hitler’s life by his generals.

It is illegal to have a swastika out in the open in Germany (except for historical purposes)

The Berlin Wall was built after WW2 to keep the East Germans from escaping to the west. It was a symbol of the “cold war.”  Most of the wall has been taken down in 1989 but some places still  stand. The East Side gallery which has 106 graffiti paintings painted in 1990 as a memorial to freedom is the most interesting.


East Berlin is now the trendy part of Berlin – first the artists, then the galleries,then the gays, followed by trendy restaurants, bars, boutiques and hotels, and then the yuppies.

In 1870, Rosa Strauss left Germany with her young son Levi.  He teamed up with a tailor to make a kind of  material that would be good for the men going to the gold rush.

Berlin has no famous industry except culture.(and now its history – sorry, I loved Berlin but  between the Nazis and the Communists it was hard to make jokes. )


Also see Things I’ve Learned In Munich

Going To Neuschwenstein

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