Museums and World War II History
Yesterday, I went to the top of the TV tower and the Pergamon museum. The TV tower was built by East Berlin to showcase their superiority to the West, but due to people leaving to West Berlin by the thousands per day, there wasn’t enough engineers left behind to properly design it. Instead, the DDR leaders had to import Swedish engineering to finish it. The tower was meant to show the atheistic attitude, at a time when the DDR leaders were having crosses removed from the church domes and spires. Instead, when the sun shined on their tower – a huge cross is reflected in the mirror ball.
After the museum, I went to an indoor shopping mall near Alexanderplatz. While I didn’t buy anything, I did find a Starbucks that had fast and free Wi-Fi. The login page says there is a two-hour time limit, but you can just log back in and get another two hours. After realizing this, I went back to my hostel, grabbed my computer, and headed back. I spent most of the afternoon catching up on email and uploading pictures to http://picasaweb.google.com/mszelis. I’m still not caught up on pictures, but I got a majority of them uploaded at original size.
That evening, I rode around on my bike and took some more pictures at night. Despite being a pain to carry around, the tripod has been well worth the money and lets me take pictures that would otherwise be impossible.
Near the TV tower, I found a married couple with the wife carrying a higher-end Canon DSLR around her neck. She was a semi-professional photographer and got some good pictures of me next to the tower. I then left and took pictures near the Berliner Dom (cathedral). I asked two different people to take my picture (neither of which turned out how I wanted) before I just pulled out my tripod and set it on a self timer. After a couple tries, I got a few that looked good.
I then went to the Reichstag and instead of getting in line right away, I got dinner and came back around 9:00 pm (last entry at 10:00pm, close at midnight). Turns out to be a mistake since a school group came right before me, making the line too long to get in before 10:00pm. I thought about going back tomorrow morning when they open at 8:00 am, but it would cost me nearly 4 hours of travel time – looks like I’ll be doing that on my next trip to Berlin.
Last thing I did was go to the German Resistance Memorial. While the museum was closed when I got there around 10:00pm, the courtyard was still open. It was in this courtyard that Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators were shot (as popularized by the 2009 Tom Cruise film Valkyrie).
I finally went back to the hostel and briefly started planning for Prague tomorrow. I ended up changing my hostel booking from Prague Square Hostel to Czech Inn after reading some negative reviews. I lost the ~$10 booking fee but I think the new one will be much better. I’ll be spending four nights in Prague, (6/12 to 6/15) and then going to Krakow, Poland.
Overall, I really enjoyed Berlin. It is very different from the other European cities I’ve been to – most of its most famous history has occurred in the 20th century. Due to the devastation of World War II, most of the buildings are less than 80 years old and the city is still recovering from being divided just over 20 years ago. The city also has a large debt and is constantly doing construction but hopefully in another 20 years Berlin will be prosperous again.