Berlin February 2022

Sunday 13th
Stayed Hotel Marriott, with parking. Car stays in car park, take keys with you.
Comfy, actually slept fine until 03:45 alarm.

Monday 14th
Shuttle to airport, I was sole mask wearer. Airport better but still only 50% compliance despite repeated calls on intercom. Yoghurt breakfast at Pret. At Security I got told off for not taking the iPad out of the case (because it’s a mini and I had checked that I didn’t need to).
Flight fine, 100% compliance. Arrived at 09.30. I went cabin bags only with easyJet. Train to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) then walked to Hotel Mercure near Checkpoint Charlie. Quite a long walk, but sunny. Left bag. Lunch at Beets and Roots, lentils and salad, excellent. Walked to Alexander Platz TV tower.
Back to check in.
Got takeaway salad from Mix and Match kiosk next to Hotel, too salty.

The Cube at Hauptbahnhof (main train station)
Remains from 12th century St. Peter’s church
The River Spree with the Reichstag (parliament) at the end
The Red Rathaus (town hall)
Fernsehturm (TV tower) Alexander Platz

Tuesday 15th
Nice breakfast. Supermarket for bottled water and German red wine.
Walked to Checkpoint Charlie then up Friedrichstrasse to Unter den Linden. The Hotel Sofia has gone, I pretty much knew it wasn’t there anymore after looking at Google Street View but I had to be sure. We stayed in it back in 1973 or 4, it was in East Berlin and was quite a rough hotel, my researches tell me it was known for gays and prostitutes and I was a bit young at 15 or so to realise that fully but I did know it seemed a bit dodgy. Gays were not allowed in the DDR. Onto Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate then to the Reichstag.
Into the Tiergarten (literally a zoo but it’s just a park) to see the Roma, Soviet and gay memorials. Across to the Jewish memorial, very emotive. It is across road from site of Hitler’s bunker which was a car park when I was last here.
To Potsdamer Platz, salad lunch in cafe then to the Topography of Terror museum which was much better than it sounds. It’s a fully referenced exposition of atrocities on the site of Himmler’s HQs. The site contains a preserved section of the wall.
Hotel then back to Beets and Roots for more salad.

Hotel Adlon, as featured in the Bernie Gunther books by Philip Kerr!
Brandenburg Gate
Memorial to gay people murdered during Nazi rule
Memorial to Jewish people murdered under Nazi rule
Potsdamer Platz
Remaining chunk of Berlin wall on Niederkirchnerstrasse
Wasn’t expecting that to still be there, no one in residence
Brandenburg Gate from the other side
Gropius building (restored)
How prisoners were classified
Checkpoint Charlie (replica)
Ampelmann (traffic light man) shop
Memorial to Roma and Sinti people murdered under Nazi rule
The crier or caller, from 1966, calling into the void
A rather louche moose in the Tiergarten

Wednesday 16th
Walked to U Bahn Stadtmitte, 5 minutes from hotel. Up Friedrichstrasse then took the S Bahn to Oranienburg. Walked 20 minutes through the suburbs to Sachsenhausen.
Sachenhausen was the primary location for the incarceration of homosexuals. The camp also had a section for Soviets. It wasn’t built as an extermination camp however that certainly didn’t stop the regime from committing murders and atrocities. The site is big to walk round and the area that is available for visitors today is about 1/6th of the size of the complex during the Nazi era.
After my visit I had overcooked pasta and veg in a café outside camp. The café inside the memorial only sold drinks and cake.
Back to Berlin. I got off at Unter den Linden to visit the Ampelmann shop. Back to Stadtmitte U Bahn. Supermarket for more water.
Hotel, then out to Italian restaurant very nearby, Lungomare. Lentil and sausage soup and beer. I make it better!
Bereavement group online.

Guard tower, Sachsenhausen
Memorial to those murdered by the Nazis at Sachsenhausen
S Bahn overground station
Entrance to Sachsenhausen
The grey outlines mark where barracks were, Sachsenhausen
Prison cell, Sachsenhausen

FFP2 mask compliance is about 99%. Most people know how to wear them, not many noses visible. It is requirement in inside places.
Also I have to give either proof of vaccination or proof of vaccination and ID in most indoor places: shops, cafes, restaurants and museums.

Thursday 17th
After a good night of sleep I managed to get out a bit earlier. Took the U Bahn to Unter den Linden then the U5 heading east. Got out at Magdalenenstrasse station on Frankfurter Allee straight into the massive complex that was the HQ for DDR Security. One very small part of the complex holds the museum. It’s not entirely logical in layout and some things could be better explained. I felt quite depressed at the lengths the regime went to to suppress freedom of thought.
I worried that when my mum and dad and I visited mum’s friend Ilse and gave her stocking and razor blades for her dad, that Ilse might have been subsequently investigated by the huge network of informers.
At the time we joked that the hotel rooms we stayed in were bugged but from what I’ve learnt today it would have been extremely likely.
The weather today was vile and the wind really howled when I stood in Erich Mielke’s office. The whole building is a fascinating study in 1960s/70s brown. I particularly liked the chairs covered in fake fur (I was allowed to sit on one!)
Afterwards I did think of looking at a Wall exhibition but the weather was a bit challenging, hard to stay upright, the U Bahn station had a lot of daytime drunks and undesirables in it so I cancelled that plan and got a train back to Unter den Linden. Short stop for a salad lunch. Walked back to the hotel to get a break from the wind.
After a reprieve from the wind, out again to take in the massiveness of the former Nazi Air Ministry, Goering’s empire, a huge building that is now the Finance Ministry. It had dull yellow lights on in some of the ground floor rooms which revealed ancient looking dusty box files which were a bit untidy! There I was thinking this would be an entirely computerised department! I only saw this as I walked past on the outside.
Then there was an intense but thankfully short cold windy downpour. Back to my warm room.
Out to Fontana di Trevi on Leipziger Strasse for beer, chicken in gorgonzola sauce with veg and then an amazing tartufo, my first proper dessert since October last year. Well worth waiting for.

Stasi HQ
Entrance to Stasi HQ, built on so you couldn’t see who was getting in and out of cars
The current Ministry of Finance, previously the Ministry of Aviation during the Nazi regime
Museum of Communication, previously the Ministry of the Post Office
Brass tablets outside buildings to show who lived there
Stasi boss Mielke’s sitting/bed room in Stasi HQ with bathroom at the back
East German concrete remnant, nothing to do with the wall
Art Nouveau building from 1905, built for the Württembergischen Metallwaren-Fabrik (Württemberg Metalware Factory). They originally made tableware but moved to armaments during both world wars using labour from Sachsenhausen and also set up their own concentration camp. Still in business doing tableware and coffee machines.
A small part of the Stasi HQ complex
Mielke’s office, his desk at the far end
Mielke’s “private” room

Friday 18th
Walked to the Jewish Museum. Stunning building by Daniel Libeskind. From the outside it’s even difficult to photograph, inside it’s difficult to walk round. The intention is to make you work and to put your mind a bit out of kilter. Clever use of technology to tell the stories of lives. I spent hours there.
Had some delicious inexpensive beetroot soup in the café.
Back outside I walked round the exterior of the Topography of Terror and the timeline exhibit. Despite the over the top name, the site is very well managed, a thoughtful way of dealing with hard facts. Yes the site was where atrocities were systematised but the museum has carefully worked out how to acknowledge that whilst also explaining the history.
It was by then very cold and wet so I went home to my room. Out briefly for wine and water.
Out later to go to an Art Deco brasserie which turned out to be shut for the duration. It was next to Gendarmenmarkt which has 3 huge buildings, concert hall, French church and German church.
Instead I went to Maximilian’s just off Friedrichstrasse for goats cheese and beetroot salad with sauerkraut and a glass of beer. Very good.

The Jewish Museum
Memorial in the museum garden
Art Nouveau building on the same street as my hotel, 1904. Restored
Opposite the Jewish Museum
The Jewish Museum
Each disc represents one life, there were 10,000 discs in this hall
After some children had finished jumping about on them
Trying to show the scale of this work
The huge Ministry of Finance
Gendarmenmarkt, concert hall on left, French cathedral on right
Art Deco restaurant, sadly closed for what looked like a long time

Saturday 19th
It was very cold today, we had terrible winds overnight, I couldn’t sleep and all the bikes and scooters were blown over again as well as some fencing panels and a big potted tree nearby. I decided to be indoors as much as possible.
This was the day I did too much on top of all the other museums.
I went to The House on the Wall, a large rambling exposition which desperately needs a curator to make it make sense. It’s well meaning but could be so much better.
Then I went to The Bunker near Anhalter station, this was a bit better.
I tried a different restaurant tonight but it was shut so I ended up at the Italian Lungomare across the road again.

30+ years on there is very little to see of the wall, other than where it has been deliberately preserved. Sometimes there are markers like these.
The DDR symbol
Keith Haring’s work on the wall, sadly not preserved
This facade is all that remains of Anhalter Station
Bunker used during WW2 air raids, prone to flooding so not great
Gropius building
More markers to show where people lived

Sunday 20th
Set off on the U Bahn to Zoologischer Garten station. Had a quick look at the Gedachtniskirche but it was not open. Also cast my eyes down the Kufurstendamm. Got back on the tube for a few more stations to Olympiastadion. I was the only person at the station, by then it was raining heavily. Walked up to the Stadium entrance but it was shut to visitors because of an event. Back to the train. Got off at Bülowstrasse. I do worry that I’ll accidentally get off into a bad area but this was fine. It seemed quite trendy, I passed 3 nice looking cafés all shouting vegan! I didn’t go in because I can’t see with specs, mask, hat on a wet day and it makes me quite cross.
I crossed over the Landwehrkanal to reach the Memorial to German Resistance. It’s located in the Bendlerblock building on Stauffenberg Strasse where Stauffenberg was executed.
This is an excellent museum and is free. The best ones I’ve been to have all been free: Sachsenhausen, Topography of Terror, Jewish Museum and this one. This one even gave me a book of pretty much everything in the exhibits. It felt strange to be in the offices of Stauffenberg and Fromm, they are all full of exhibits. It’s good to know that there was so much resistance.
I walked back via Café Dallmayr which is in the ex Ministry of the Post Office now a museum of communication, this is one museum I did not visit, and had a great apple cake.
Wish I knew how the abandoned scooters work as I would have got round a lot quicker! It’s an app and a cheap rental system. Not much helmet wearing though so potentially lethal.
I’d wanted to see the Funkturm and the victory column but it’s been a bad week wind wise for going up anything. Also the Bauhaus museum but that was shut today.
I’ll need a holiday now to recover from museum overload.
Nowhere open other than Vapiano to eat so I took the plunge. I’ve been avoiding it all week.
I’m now totally au fait with providing my vax proof and my ID at all restaurants.
Did that, I was then given a card, this notched up all my spends. Next I went to the order point and ordered my salad, presenting the card. I was then given an electronic gadget and had to ask what it’s for.
I got a beer on the card, sat down and waited for the gadget to do something. Quite quickly, it was only salad, it buzzed insistently. I exchanged it for my meal.
The food was fine but the fiddling about is just an excuse not to pay some people to wait tables.

On Kurfürstendamm
Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, bombed in 1943
Olympia Stadion, built for the 1936 Olympic Games and the site of Jesse Owens’ 4 gold medal wins
Bendlerblock courtyard, site of the murder of Stauffenberg and many other conspirators who tried to overthrow Hitler
Bendlerblock, now a museum to those who resisted the Nazi regime

Monday 21st
Got up and came home. The hotel gave me a packed lunch because I was too early for breakfast. I walked to Stadtmitte U Bahn and left the lunch there. I had forgotten to say to them no bread, etc. A man picked up the bag of lunch and then he too left it on a bench. It was all wrapped up so I hope someone hungry got it.
I couldn’t even find the platform let alone the airport express train at Friedrichstrasse so I just got on the only train I could see going to the airport. That worked fine, got there in good time even if it did stop at every single station.
Because I only had cabin bags, (I’d paid for a large cabin bag which allowed me to have 2 bags in the cabin) I was eligible to do Speedy Boarding. It took me nearly half an hour to get through Speedy Boarding because the couple in front had not done something or other so it ended up being Very Very Slow Boarding.
Then security, this time I thought I’d get it right and got the iPad out of the case but no I got told off for not having Berlin airport plastic bags for my toiletries, I had to have to full works scan and open up my case.
Once I’d done all this, I was thinking I’d get some breakfast however it was time to get to the gate and there were panic messages saying it was 20 minutes walk away. It turned out to be about 7 minutes. No breakfast! Then the bloody flight was delayed by half an hour so I ate what easyJet call a snack box which was crackers, hummus, red pepper dip, olives and a baklava. It was ok.
The flight back was fine, a bit of a bumpy landing. It took forever to get through border controls. I felt sorry for all the German people arriving in maskless Manchester. What a rude shock for them.
Free taxi back to my car at the Marriott, the driver ignored all the speed limits. I got home to find my house still standing, but no internet. It came back of its own accord much later.

I still don’t really know how to do holidays. I spent a week without any conversation with anyone apart from my bereavement group but that’s a fairly normal week anyway. I just did it in a different location. I managed not to stuff myself and put on loads of cake. Hey ho, guess I’ll work it out eventually. At least I don’t mind my own company and it doesn’t stop me doing stuff. I didn’t bother with any gay bars because by the time I’d been out sightseeing and then found somewhere to eat, I was knackered each night. Most nights I sorted my photos, read my book and drank some wine.