After leaving Wurzburg behind we headed for Berlin, stopping overnight at a motorway service station. On Friday 5th November we continued to head to Germany’s capital city and finally arrived at the centrally located Stellplatz. We were surprised to find that there was an unsecured internet connection but it turned out to be a FON hotspot. Being much better value that the T-mobile hotspots we had so far found in Germany, Joy decided to buy a 5 day pass.
On Saturday it took us some time to leave the vehicle and go exploring, mostly because we were making as much use of the internet connection whilst we had it. When we finally did venture outside we headed for Checkpoint Charlie which was a crossing point in the Berlin Wall where East Germans would sometimes try to escape to the West. The Berlin Wall was erected by the Soviets in 1961 to stop East Germans from fleeing and the wall and Checkpoint Charlie became symbols of the cold war. The wall was finally opened in 1989 and a year later Checkpoint Charlie was removed when German reunification took place. The area is now a tourist attraction complete with 2 men dressed in authentic costumes with flags charging €2.00 to have your photo taken with them. The fact that they actually had a sign with the fee was very refreshing and honest, unlike the shoddily dressed gladiators at the Colosseum who tried to fleece you of €5.00. We then visited some other well known Berlin tourist sites and looked for some geocaches before arriving at the Brandenburg Gate as the light began to fade and so we decided to walk back to our motorhome.
Sunday we decided to get up early and again we passed Checkpoint Charlie, this time arriving early enough to get a photo without the men in uniform with the flags.
Our next destination was Potsdamer Platz, another famous location where the Berlin Wall divided East and West. A few sections of the wall remain and a line where the wall existed can be seen on the ground in many places throughout the city.
We were making good progress and it seemed much of the city was still sleeping so we headed for the Reichstag in the hope of avoiding long queues. Entry to the Reichstag is free and it is certainly worth visiting. The original building was opened in 1894 to house the German parliament and the words ‘Dem Deutschen Volke’ (To the German People) were carved in 1916.
The building was severely damaged by fire in 1933 at a time when Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers Party (commonly known as the Nazi Party) was the single biggest party in the parliament. It is believed that the Nazis encouraged the arsonist, blaming the fire on the Communists and effectively removing all opposition to allow them to become a dictatorship. After World War II ended the building, which was in West Berlin was a ruin. The West German parliament was moved to Bonn and it was not until the 1960’s that some work was carried out to repair the building. German reunification took place in 1990 and a year later it was decided to move the Parliament from Bonn back to Berlin. In 1992 the British architect Norman Foster won a contest to redesign the building. The final result was a very modern glass and steel interior but contained within the original front of the building.
For what remained of our day we walked around the city, looking at the souvenir shops, one of which contained the East German’s ‘people’s car’, the Trabant. We also had time to take photographs of bears, a symbol of Berlin.
We returned to the Stellplatz and were greeted by the owner of Rick’s Cafe who gave us some free bread rolls. On Monday it was time to leave Berlin after stopping at a car shop to buy oil, an oil filter, air filter and fuel filter for the motorhome. We were heading for Hamburg, finally pulling over at a truck stop about 2 hours outside the city.