Berlin’s lost weekend is a 72 hour party. It begins on a Friday and ends on a Sunday.

Posted by Jennie (that’s me btw in front of the gate)

Where else can you enter a club at midnight and not emerge until days later? This is just one of the many fascinating things about Berlin that our guide Kristan told us. I booked Kristan thru Withlocals.com, our third with this tour group and the best so far.

Check him out in the link below.

https://www.withlocals.com/experience/wwii-past-present-tour-d66dabc5/#backUrl=%2Fen%2Fexperiences%2Fgermany%2Fberlin%2F

Kristan, a Canadian who’s lived in Berlin for 15 years walked us through the many surprising, horrific, astounding, gripping, exhilarating and unbelievable events that happened to and in Berlin. It is said that nothing can scar a Berliner after everything the city has been through.

ABullet
The bullet ridden pillars of Neue Museum from the Battle of Berlin in the close of WW2

Initially I thought a 4 hour walking tour would be too long, it turns out 4 hours was not enough, we extended to 5 hours and I think we barely scratched the surface.

Here are some of the fact is stranger than fiction things that I can’t shake off and it’s why I still have a Berlin hangover.

The most powerful and feared man in all of Europe doesn’t even have a gravestone.

Hitler’s Bunker is now a nondescript parking lot in the middle of unremarkable buildings.

Bunker
Below the parking lot was Hitler’s Bunker. It’s where he shot himself as Soviet troops closed in during the end of WW2

Hitler, arguably the world’s most evil man committed suicide towards the end of WW2. On April 30, 1945, he takes a cyanide pill and then shoots himself in the head. But before this he tests the cyanide pill on his German Shepherd, Blondie who dies as a result. He in inconsolable, it was said that he had pure affection for Blondie, probably the only living thing he ever loved.

Atonement in 10cm x 10cm

Look carefully when you walk the streets of Berlin. You will surely “stumble” upon Stolpersteins or “stumbling stones”. These are concrete cubes bearing brass plates inscribed with names, birth and death dates of Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. These brass markers can be found in homes where Jews once lived, schools where they taught and buildings where they worked. Sometimes there are just one or two, sometimes there’s a street full of them.

Stones
Gunter Demnig’s Stolpersteine

Gunter Demnig cites the Talmud saying that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten”. There are currently 7,000 Stolpersteins in Berlin and 60,000 across Europe, it is the biggest decentralized monument in the world. Yet it is also the most personal.

In Memory of Murder

Monuments are usually built in memory of heroes and great events – but in Berlin it’s the exact opposite. The Holocaust Memorial is there in memory of a crime, perhaps the most heinous crime ever, the systematic murder of 6 million Jews, Romani and handicapped people – with the consent of the majority of the German population during WW2.

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Peter Eisenman’s haunting Holocaust Memorial

The Holocaust Memorial and many other memorials around the city is Berlin’s way of confronting these atrocities, encouraging discussion, taking accountability and showing the world that nothing is being swept under the rug. It is also probably the best way to heal.

David Bowie & The Berlin Wall

 In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. I was 18 then and largely clueless about world events. After this trip to Berlin almost 30 years after the wall came down, all I can think about is The Wall. How crazy is that, a city divided by a wall 155 km long separating families and friends for 28 years (from 1961 to 1989).

Wall marker
28 years of separation

The Berlin Wall was the defining symbol of the Cold War, dividing Berlin both physically and ideologically. Having barely recovered from WW2, the city had to confront yet another war.

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Notice the line of double cobblestones. It’s where the wall once stood.

Today there are markers that show you where the wall once stood, including Checkpoint Charlie which is more of a gimmick now than an actual historical landmark.

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Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Heroes

In 1987, David Bowie, a Berlin resident in the late 1970’s returned to the city for Concert for Berlin. The concert venue was close enough that the people on the other side of the wall could hear and enjoy it. Rock music then was still considered as something that could destabilize the status quo.

David Bowie’s Berlin Triptych or Berlin Trilogy Low (1977) Heroes (1977) and Lodger (1979)

On the 2nd night of the concert he sang “Heroes” inspired by Cold War themes of fear and isolation, a song he had written when he lived in Berlin. He began by telling the crowd, in German, “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the wall.”

The story goes that authorities violently arrested some 200 East Berliners who just wanted to listen to music, and this changed the mood of the people towards the state which had a snowball effect…and the rest is history.

A week later, US President Ronald Reagan visited West Berlin and, standing in front of the city’s famous Brandenburg Gate, called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” Two years later, amid much jubilation, astonishment and tears, the wall came down.

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“Tear down this wall.”
East Gallery
The famous kiss between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East Germany President Erich Honecker in the East Side Gallery

And this is just a piece of Berlin history. But imagine with me the feeling of walking the same Unter den Linden, the same boulevard that the Third Reich marched through, right arms raised in salute to the Fuhrer, standing above Hitler’s Bunker, stumbling upon Stolpersteins, seeing markers indicating where the wall once stood.

Brandenburg. The gate that’s seen it all.

 

Don’t get me wrong though, Berlin is not a sad city, in fact it is the opposite. Berlin is a sprawling, artistic, multi-racial city full of youthful energy, eagerly moving forward while confronting and owning up to its past.

Parks
Summer in Berlin

Scoot, SQ’s budget airline will soon offer Manila-Berlin flights via Singapore.