I had that incredibly breathtaking moment. I had tears coming to my eyes when we were driving past Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral). It was stunningly beautiful! I was thrilled to get off the bus and take a closer look at this phenomenal piece of architecture.
For a moment after I saw double-decker buses, I thought I was in London. Berlin is certainly one of the major tourist spots in Europe but it didn’t feel like it was too crowded, which made my stay there so enjoyable and liberating. First we went on a short tour of Hackesche Hofe which is a fancy courtyard complex with a lovely tranquil atmosphere. It looked so classy and European. I was picturing people coming here for a cup of coffee to take in the atmosphere of the place. There were lots and lots of shops but we were pressed for time as always.
Our next quick stop was Deutsches Historisches Museum (The German Historical Museum). It was a shame we didn’t get a chance to visit any of the exhibitions but the hall of the museum was large and beautiful. We got our first souvenirs there as we were waiting on the rest of the group. To my surprise, I felt comfortable speaking a bit of German with a sales assistant. I was happy to embrace this truly European country.
I loved the way people passing by looked like. They had a nice fashion sense. We were having a walk along the bank of Spree when we approached the Berlin cathedral which survived the destruction of WWII. It was truly phenomenal! It bore resemblance to Isakiev’s cathedral in St. Petersburg which is one of the cities in Russia that are definitely worth a visit. But I haven’t been there yet. The cathedral looked spectacular and it was another moment when I wished the time had stopped. There were amazing picture opportunities as well.
Berlin is home to a great number of museums. Berlin’s Museuminsel (Museum Island) is a one-off collection of amazing museums. Visiting them is a huge treat to art enthusiasts. Actually, there is something for everyone in this city. This is where we were at the moment. We took some pictures of Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), Altes Museum (Old Museum), the Bode Museum, the Pergamon Museum. Being in this completely different part of the city made my heart glow. Before we headed off to Potsdam, we had these two iconic landmarks of Berlin to visit.
We also took a short walk along Unter den Linden and stopped at Humboldt University where we saw lots of books on sale at 3 Euro each. I was tempted to buy one but there was no time to decide so I ended up buying none. But it was an honor to be there as Humboldt made a great contribution to linguistics as we know it now.
The first defining sight of Berlin is the Reichstag building. This is where Soviet soldiers flew our flag in May 1945. That was a massive imposing building with lots of history. The view made me more keen and enthusiastic about improving my German, I was on a high as if I had just seen Big Ben in London. It was funny that I got to see the Reichstag (German was minor) but I’ve never got to see Big Ben yet. That was another moment to capture and remember. There was no other way for me rather than to capture the view with my mind as my camera had died by the time we got there. The next time I’m in Berlin I know the first thing I will do is to my book a visit to the dome to see the German parliament at work.
We were short of time and had about ten minutes to go take a quick look at Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) which was just across the park. We were scared we might get lost as there was no time to lose and decided to ask someone for directions. My friend was brave enough to speak up but ironically, this man we addressed turned out to be American and didn’t understand any German. He started talking in English and for an instant it felt as if neither me nor my friend had a degree in English as our minds went totally blank as we didn’t know what the English for Brandenburger Tor was. But he was faster to understand us and we finally made our way to what to many people was actually Berlin. The place was touristy but it didn’t feel too crowded. The gate was pretty small and not quite what I pictured but I had to struggle taking a picture of it. Unfortunately, taking a couple of pictures is all we had time for as we were to meet our group to head off to Potsdam. Later last year as I saw my favourite band perform at the Brandenbur Gate on New’s Year I was proud I have been there and was sure to say that a visit there was the highlight of my year.
As we were leaving for Potsdam, we caught a glimpse of the imposing building of the Russian embassy, Tiergarten (they say it is the equivalent of Hyde Park in London), Sigesaule (Victory Column)…
After we came back from Potsdam (which is going to be a different story), we had a couple more hours to spend in Berlin. We had a typical German meal at Kurfurstendamm which is one of the most famous shopping venues in the city. As we were through, we finally had some time to ourselves. It would be a crime not to go on a bit of a shopping spree and enjoy the ultimate shopping experience Berlin style. We also did some souvenir shopping but I already had my cuddly bear which I got in Potsdam as I feared I would have no time for that when we get back. I was loving the vibe, the people and didn’t want to say goodbye. We had some more time to take some more pictures as we approached the Zoo. As I was posing, I had some man shouting out something to me out of his car… I wish my German was better because I will never know what it was… I hope it wasn’t something inappropriate after all… We also had a quick chat with some of the Zoo staff as my friend was eager to have a picture taken with. She said she couldn’t leave without taking a piсture of a German but this man was obviously Turkish but never mind…
Berlin is such a complex and controversial city which lives a life of its own. I think this king named Friedrich der Grosse (Frederick the Great) whose resting place we visited in Potsdam really described Berlin as we know it now. He had a huge love for art and romance but later in life emerged as a great warrior. I believe that these two opposites describe Berlin and all people no matter where we are in the world. As I was leaving, I wanted to say what U.S. President John F. Kennedy famously said as he came here on a visit in 1963 (even though it was meant as a protest against the Soviet Union policy). He said “All — All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.” (I am a Berliner). I felt free and happy and wanted to scream out loud (in Berlin you are free to do whatever you please) “Ich bin ein Berliner”. The next stop was Dresden.