Berlin was our next stop from Amsterdam. We arrived in the morning on a Eurolines bus which dropped us at the coach station. We had a palaver trying to get metro tickets because the machine only took coins and maestro… but eventually made it to our hostel in Friedrichshain.
Friedrichshain was a great area to stay in – lots of cheap veggie friendly places to eat, and some hipster coffee shops with really really good coffee. We especially enjoyed the aforementioned brunch buffet we had on the Sunday, and the microbrewery bar we went to twice. We felt it was important to test all of the beers for research purposes.
In our breaks from eating and drinking we did lots of walking around the city, and visited some museums. The subterranean museum which is part of the holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg gate was the most compelling of these. The memorial is excellent. It fills a whole square with stone blocks of various heights. The footprint of the blocks is grave shaped/sized. We didn’t see any information about the memorial at the site, but from looking at maps in the Terror museum we visited the next day I think it is on the square which was once overlooked by Hitler’s Reich chancellory and other offices. It was an eerie place to be. Although there were lots of people chasing each other through the maze of blocks and jumping out on each other from behind them. Mostly grown ups.
The museum below the memorial was very well presented and curated. Also, free. I feel slightly ashamed that we have avoided quite a few museums on World Ward Two atrocities so far. In the four cities we’ve visited so far there have been two or more museums like this listed in the guidebook as key ‘attractions’. We’ve been to a few, and visited plenty of these in other cities on other trips, and after a while it stops feeling like you’re learning something and starts to feel a bit voyeuristic. I think it’s really important that these museums exist, but there’s so much more to these places now.
Having said that, I would recommend visiting this one in Berlin. It focussed mostly on the stories of individuals and families, using photos and letters and things to give some sense of the people. I felt like I learnt from it. It’s particular details that strike home. A photo of a mass shooting site where ordinary people had come to take jewellery from corpses. Another where along with clothes and shoes piled as people stripped before they were shot, there was a prosthetic leg.
In the museum we visited in Warsaw on the city’s uprising against the Nazis in 1944, it was details like this that stood out too. In one case a happy detail – a hurried wedding in the midst of it all. I suppose it’s natural to identify more with the human details than the facts.
On a lighter note… we also visited the computer game museum (thanks for the tip Fraeya!) and spent a happy couple of hours reading about the history of them, and playing on all the vintage games.
And, of course, there was also the Berlin wall to visit. We went to a few sites — one with some info boards, one where it’s in its original condition, and then the East Side gallery. The gallery is a section of wall which was painted in sections by lots of artists in 1990, and then restored in 2009.