Over New Year’s, I was in my favourite city in the world: Berlin. Pat and I spent six days seeing the city and visiting with our good friends Alicia and André, who came to see us for Christmas. As per last time, we ate good food, walked all over the place, got a running tour of sites and took in some World War II history. This is our week, in photos.
You know you’re in Berlin when graffiti is everywhere…
Our first day in the city was spent preparing costumes for the NYE ABC party: Anything But Clothes. Not a nudist party, but instead one where your outfit consists of wearing an outfit fashioned out of anything but clothes.
Did you know I had to fly to Germany to see snow????
That night, we headed to Gendarmenmarkt, a square in Berlin that houses the French and German Cathedrals, as well as the Konzerthaus (Concert House). It is here that the best Christmas market I’ve ever seen is held every December.
NYE day was spent finishing our costumes for the party, preparing paleo food for the night and going for a 4 mile run at my 5km race pace with the guys. Then it was party time!
My costume was crepe paper, tape, party decorations and a plastic motorbike cover. Pat’s was cardboard, tape, crepe paper and a broom head. André’s costume consisted of cardboard, while Alicia’s was made with wrapping paper and a pillow case.
When midnight struck, we set off an explosion of fireworks from the balcony. We then took the street to set off more.
The first day of 2015 was a late start…. as to be expected. After a lovely brunch prepared by the guys, we went to Tiergarten, a very large park in the middle of Berlin. How large is it? Tiergarten is 520 acres; Central Park in NYC is 843. This forested park, with many monuments throughout, has existed for centuries, but was completely destroyed and made barren during and after WWII. As if Berlin hadn’t been already ravaged by war’s destruction, its first winter post-war was incredibly harsh. Trees in Tiergarten were cut down for firewood due to coal shortages.
We strolled through the park and passed the many restored monuments, and also the Reichstag Building along the way.
This was the home of the German government until a mysterious fire in 1933. It’s been completely refurbished, with the addition of a central glass dome inside, but still retains features of historical significance inside, like the graffiti written on its walls by Russian soldiers. I’m definitely going to visit this place when I’m back in May for Alicia’s bachelorette party.
A mile-ish away from the Reichstag sits the Victory Column, a very ornate monument that still carries scars of bullet holes and missing pieces of facade, but is nonetheless a site to behold.
Including the most spectacular mosaic I’ve ever seen:
A note on the bullet holes: Berlin was in ruins after WWII, and underwent complete reconstruction. Much of the buildings you see today are more modern and Bauhaus style. Those that survived the war still carry evidence of conflict, like the bullet holes and chunks of walls missing due to blasts. Rather than completely covering up these scars, Berlin proudly shows them off not because the city can’t afford to repair them, but rather as a constant reminder of what happened.
Our last two days in Berlin were jam-packed! I went for a quick tour of the Topography of Terror, an outdoor and indoor museum on the former site that held the SS and Gestapo buildings during the Nazi regime. It was in these former buildings that the ideas for repression were conceived. This is a free museum in Berlin; everyone is gently encouraged to educate themselves on what happened during WWII.
The Topography of Terror sits in West Berlin, with the Luftwaffe – the former aerial warfare branch for Germany during WWII – sitting on the other side of the Berlin Wall in East Berlin. Ummmm, can you tell I’m really into this history?
There are also remnants of the Berlin Wall at the Topography of Terror.
The museum itself holds a vast collection of photos and documentation about the unfolding of the Nazi regime and oppression in Germany from 1933-1945. It depicts how the persecution of Jews, and anyone against the Nazi regime, began through public humiliation – walking through streets holding signs that say “I have shamed my government” – then turned into pure evil. I read how Nazi Germany started innocently, through the creation of new jobs, and government incentives for married couples and those with children; I also read how everyone had to conform or else.
I spent two hours in the museum and only covered half of it. I will return in May.
The reason I had to leave the Topography of Terror was because Pat,André and I were heading to Potsdam, a city just outside Berlin that is historic and has many palaces. We were going there to do a 10 mile run!
The fairy tale-like Palaces and Parks of Potsdam are actually UNESCO World Heritage sites, and we ran past and through most of them.
Like Sanssouci for example, where I tried to get a jumping-in-mid-air photo, but it didn’t work. #keepingitreal?
Although the run consisted of many starts and stops, we held a very good pace over 10 miles. So good, I set a new 10 mile PR of 1:33:56! Beating my Templeton 10 time by over a minute! Very pleased.
Our final day in Berlin was actually spent in Poland ironically enough. The day started bright and early with a two-hour train ride north east and across the border to Szczecin, the 7th largest city in Poland, close to the Baltic Sea. We went with passports in hand, but didn’t get stamped L It was a day trip to see a new place and for the sake of saying we’d been to Poland.
We found a walking tour and spent the day walking around the city, seeing both beautiful historic buildings:
And buildings that show poorer times:
With our trip over, we took to the skies and headed back to Scotland.
What is your favourite city in the world?
What did you do for NYE?