|Walking along where the Berlin Wall once stood to the Reichstag|
While walking over, we looked down and could see where the Berlin Wall once stood. Perhaps you’ve heard of it, but don’t really know what it is. On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) began to build a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” or “antifascist bulwark,” between East and West Berlin. The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West. People were leaving, mostly those under age 25, and they felt this had to stop as about 2 1/2 million people had left by 1961, and so the wall was constructed.
|Close up view of one section where the Wall once stood separating the East from the West|
It is estimated that around 5,000 people were able to make it across the wall by escaping. The wall stood until November 9, 1989 and East and West Germany reunified into a single German state on October 3, 1990. With history right here in front of me, the significance of the Wall did not escape me as I easily walked from one side to the other, something so many people were unable to do not that long ago.
Walking over from the Brandenburg Gate, we saw where the Wall once stood and yes, this food stand. Love the emoticon in the signage. Hungry yet? You can see the Reichstag just to the right in this picture.
|One of the 136 documented fatalities of the Berlin Wall|
As we walked, I noticed something on the fence, but didn’t know what it was. There were several things hanging from the fence and I assumed they were simply posters. My eyes zeroed in on this one and this one alone. Eerie to say the least! I definitely wanted to learn more about who Ingo was as we both share the same name, but it has not proven to be an easy task. At only 21 year of age, Ingo wanted to reunite with his fiancée who lived in West Berlin. In an attempt to cross the Spree River, Ingo died. It is estimated that between 100-200 East Germans died while attempting to cross the Berlin Wall.
After our visit to the Reichstag, we went off in search of a vegetarian restaurant that had we had seen an advertisement for, but we couldn’t find it. Walking around in this area you will find an abundance of souvenir shops so if you’re looking to buy something, this might be a good time to do it although you’ll definitely pay more in this touristy area. The Berlin Museum has quite a large souvenir shop that includes this car, the Trabant, “breaking” through a replica of the Berlin Wall. A symbol of an unsophisticated and archaic East Berlin, the Trabant is no longer in production, but can still be found on the streets shuffling tourists around on tours. You can even rent a “Trabi” and take it out on the town all on your own.
|One of the many Buddy Bears on the streets of Berlin|
It was here that we noticed the Buddy Bear. Yes, we had seen guys dressed as bears at the Brandenburg Gate, but we didn’t make the connection until this point. From the Buddy Bear Berlin web site:
Everything started in Berlin in June 2001. In front of the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens – department store) the “Buddy Bear Berlin Show“ – so the title of our first Buddy Bear activity in Berlin – was launched. We wanted the people of Berlin and the visiting tourists to enjoy the painted bear sculptures. The raised arms of the upright Buddy Bears communicated a friendly attitude and optimism. Thus the bears created a positive atmosphere from day one, which was captured on camera by tourists from all over the world on a daily basis. The Buddy Bears were such a great success that the authorities not only suggested an extension of the street exhibition until the end of 2002, but also authorised it. At the same time, many companies and private individuals approached us and bought Buddy Bears for their home country or hometown, which increasingly turned the Buddy Bears into global ambassadors of Berlin.
Our only goal now was to find food. It’s funny that when you’re hungry, it almost seems impossible to find anything to eat. Of course, we would run across a Dunkin’ Donuts in Germany considering there’s one on every corner in Boston.
How about a Blue Sky or a Diamant Deluxe donut? The Boston Creme donuts were all out, but don’t worry — they were still making the donuts.
We opted to run into the Starbuck’s across the street, which looked identical to any Starbuck’s anywhere. I had a Lebkuchen Latte, which was definitely different. It wasn’t sweet at all and they did look at me funny when I took a picture of the menu, but the coffee warmed me up immediately.
|A view from the Spree|
Back over the Spree, we had a clearer view of the television tower, but our stomachs were still growling. I love how that one building in the skyline looks so much like a shorter version of the Prudential building in the Boston skyline.
Sometimes simple is best and we found this tiny little restaurant on Torstraße called the Orient Grill where we were able to find some non-meat options for dinner.
Nothing fancy with a few seats inside and a few outside, but if you’re looking for a delicious dinner of falafel or maybe a gyro, this is the place to go. We each ordered falafel and that in itself was interesting as we didn’t know any German and the man didn’t speak any English, but somehow we were able to communicate with gesturing and pointing to the food.
Dessert anyone? I believe this baklava-like dessert is called Saray Sarmasi and was super sweet and chock full of pistachios, but no one was complaining. Well, my waistline was, but that’s a whole other story.
Next up is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Berlin Holocaust Museum.