Berlin – Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz and The Reichstag

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.

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Checkpoint Charlie

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.

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Potsdamer Platz

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.

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Exterior Reichstag

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.

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Reichstag Interior

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.

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Berlin Bears

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.

Gary Box

Author: Gary Box. Gary decided for a complete change of lifestyle late in 2009 which resulted in him buying a Hymer motorhome to live in and starting the Motorhome Vagabond blog. A tour of Europe followed in 2010 and he still writes about his adventures. Google

10 thoughts on “Berlin – Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, Potsdamer Platz and The Reichstag

  • June 25, 2012 at 7:15 am
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    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing abour your trip to charlie checkpoint and potsdamer platz.. its VERY VERY VERY useful and helpful… Its really great to finally found full complete information (DETAILED) with pictures of the place i would like to go.

    By the way, do you know if there ARE any OLDEST GERMAN RESTAURANT around the certain locations?? and cost NOT expensive??.. cos it would be a very great idea to grab something to eat around potsdamer. Especially something classic is always AWESOME!!..

  • June 25, 2012 at 11:34 am
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    Hi Ellie,

    I cannot really give you any advice on where to eat in Berlin since I was there for such a brief time and spent my time trying to see everything I wanted and from memory grabbed food on the go.

    All the best
    Gary

  • July 8, 2013 at 11:04 pm
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    Hi there. I am hoping to take my family to Berlin this summer in our motorhome. Any tips on where to park up for a couple of days?
    We don’t mind city park ups as long as they are safe.

  • July 29, 2013 at 2:01 pm
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    Hi Don,

    I sense from your email address that you may be German or at least speak German. I don’t have much experience of Berlin, I used a Stellplatz during my short stay there which from memory charged a modest fee but I think has since closed down. I think there is a charge to take older vehicles into the city centre much like the London LEZ so your choice of where to stay may depend on age of your vehicle. Here are a couple of links that might help:

    http://www.stellplatz-berlin.de/

    http://www.reisemobilstation.com/

    If anyone has more experience of Berlin and wants to offer some suggestions feel free to comment.

    All the best
    Gary
    The Motorhome Vagabond

  • August 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm
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    Hi there, well I am not German, nor do I speak it, though some say English is my second language as I am a Geordie. We spend a few days in Berlin and found it fantastic. In the end we stayed on a site in Gatow, which cost us €110 for four nights. The bus into the city was €16 for the four of us which covered al bus travel for the day. It took about 40mins to get to the centre. There is a restriction for older vehicles in the centre and so stayed out of town. Lovely site and well worth it. We then went down to Leipsig before heading back West.

  • December 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm
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    Hello. We just bought a second hand Motorhome currently in storage in Holland. We plan to drive it to Berlin in February and we are seeking information as to preparing the Motorhome for winter use. It doesn’t have a double floor but the water tank is inside the living area under one if the sofas. We need to know about grey and black water systems – how to use them in winter. Also is LPG gas more recommended. Any help will be highly appreciated. If anyone can share information regarding winter travel /holiday with Motorhome including storage for “breaks” in between this will help a lot . Thank you.

  • December 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm
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    Hi Meira,

    Your Hymer sounds similar to the one I owned in that the freshwater tank is underneath a dinette seat but waste water is underneath the vehicle. I used my Hymer for 3 winters in the UK and experienced temperatures below zero so can pass on some experience. You don’t have any worries regarding the freshwater tank. You do need to note however that the boiler has a protection system whereby it dumps its water contents if the inside of the vehicle gets below a certain temperature (about 8 degrees Celsius from memory). If you are living inside the van using heating the temperature will not get this low. If however the boiler does dump the water you need to prime the system again and so it might be worth asking the people you bought it from how you do this.

    The grey water tank can freeze. In most Hymers that don’t have a 2 skin floor hot air from the gas blown heating does also reach the waste water tank to stop it from freezing. The problem though is if you are on electric hookup and decide you want to save your gas bottles and use an electric heater instead. I never had the waste water tank freeze but the pipe where the water drained did a couple of times. Most people either drain as soon as they employ any taps or they leave the waste pipe open and a large bucket underneath. I’ve never experienced any issues with the toilet cassette freezing but suppose it could be possible.

    In answer to your question about LPG you only need to understand a few things. Firstly gas bottles that you ‘exchange’ can be either butane or propane. You want propane since it operates all year round whereas butane is not effective at low temperatures. Unfortunately there is no universal system in Europe for these exchange bottles. Depending on your useage and time away you could fit two large bottles in Holland which might last the duration of your trip until you can return to Holland. I don’t know if Holland and Germany have the same system but you would need to check. In my experience gas usage is low when just using it for cooking and heating water for showers. If you plan to heat the motorhome using gas though you will use a lot in winter. The best option for long European tours is a refillable system like Gaslow. There are alternatives and Holland may have another similar manufacturer. This allows you to refill your own installed bottles at an LPG fuel station. Initial outlay can be expensive but depending on how long you plan to keep the vehicle and your usage patterns it might be the best option.

    If anyone else has any tips for motorhoming in the winter please do chip in with a comment.

    All the best
    Gary

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