Monday, November 26, 2007

Berlin, Germany (Part 1)

I just returned from a great trip to Berlin, Germany. This is another trip sponsored by the American Women's Club. I love going on those trips because all I have to do is pay my money and show up...everything else is taken care of so it is very stress-free travel!

I really liked Berlin, but really did not have a clue as to what to see and do besides, of course, the Berlin Wall. A couple of friends went along with me so it was fun getting to know Beth and Beth (yes, they are both named Beth) better! The best part was having 2 ladies who are fun to be with and who also like to see cities like I do....experiencing the local culture and skipping out on a lot of the museums.

Case in point....

We flew to Berlin on Friday afternoon. When we arrived we went to the Schloss Charlottenburg Palace which is the largest palace in Berlin. We had a wonderful dinner in the The Orangery Wing of the Palace. After dinner we attended a traditional and classical musical concert. Here, in the soft candlelight, you can hear classical and baroque music performed by the Berlin Palace Orchestra. The members of the orchestra dressed in original period costumes.

Ok, enough about that...the funny part was that after the first half, we ditched the BORING concert and headed out to have some drinks. It was nice to get cultured, but enough is enough and I am really not into classical music!! Everyone in our group was jealous that we left and they didn't!!!

On Saturday, we headed to Checkpoint Charlie and to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. I actually really liked this museum. Checkpoint Charlie was the name given by the Western Allies to a crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. Many other sector crossing points existed in Berlin. Some of these were designated for residents of West Berlin and West German citizens. Checkpoint Charlie was designated as the single crossing point (by foot or by car) for foreigners and members of the Allied forces. Checkpoint Charlie became a symbol of the Cold War, representing the separation of east and west, and — for some East Germans — a gateway to freedom. It was given the name of "Charlie" based on the alphabet...Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.

What I found very interesting about this museum was how people tried to sneak past the guards at the checkpoint. They would hide in the trunks of cars (sometimes curled up for hours in a tiny area) or take out the gas tank and hide there with only a small replacement tank to get them over the border. You have to remember that part of the wall was built in 24 hours which meant some families could have been separated which made for people to get very creative to get over the border and reunited with loved ones. I cannot imagine the feeling of being trapped.

One very interesting story I saw was a lady who shopped and went by the guards regularly. They were used to her having her shopping bag with one day she hid her son in the cart and got him over the border. Check out the pictures below.

This picture is another creative way of getting over the border. Someone put 2 suitcases together and hide in there for hours while crossing the border on a train. Very creative thinking!!

There were so many ways people would cross the border and too many to really post so be sure to check out my pictures on Shutterfly (link is on the side of this post under "My Favorite Links".

We then walked over the the remaining part of the Wall which still stands. The Wall divided East and West Berlin for 28 years, from the day construction began on August 13, 1961 until it was dismantled in 1989. During this period 125 people were killed trying to cross the Wall into West Berlin. However, a prominent victims' group claims that more than 200 people had been killed trying to flee the East to West Berlin.

When the East German government announced on November 9, 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest, that entering West Berlin would be permitted, crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, parts of the Wall were chipped away by a euphoric public and by souvenir hunters; industrial equipment was later used to remove almost all of the rest of it.

The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which was formally concluded on October 3, 1990. Can you believe that was only 17 years ago! I vividly remember 1990!!! It is amazing to me that something like this happened during my lifetime.

They built a cobblestone pathway to show where the Wall existed before it was taken down. I thought it was interesting to be able to cross from east to west Berlin so freely and what it must have been like just 20 years ago!!

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