Celebrating the Fall of the Wall
Trip Start Feb 12, 2008
58Trip End Ongoing
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While this trip was about revisiting the city that had quickly become one of my favourite in the world, it had more to do with my first trip to Berlin a couple of years before the end of the Cold War, going through Checkpoint Charlie and visiting East Berlin, seeing the drastic difference between East & West..
Upon our arrival in Berlin we found our way to the Michelberger Hotel in the former East. The hotel is a brand new budget boutique in the former factory/now hipster neighbourhood of Friedrichshain. The hotel was conveniently located across the street from the U-bahn and S-bahn but also backed onto a recycling centre with the eyesore O2 World arena in the distance. The hotel was still comfortable and had a quality breakfast. More importantly it was well suited for us to get out and see the city. We arrived, changed and headed straight to dinner.
This was not just any dinner either. We had secured a reservation at the pop-up restaurant The Shy Chef. The Shy Chef is one of many gorilla restaurants in Berlin – secret location – in this case changing locations frequently and only revealed to us two days before, in a magnificent apartment in Kreuzberg
As usual, the food experiences were an important part of the stay. In addition to the Shy Chef, I introduced Tamara to the Doner Kebab – a Turkish specialty invented by immigrants in Berlin many years ago. And still nowhere are the kebabs as good as Berlin. After our first – for lunch on a break during the walking tour of the city, Tamara was hooked. I did not have the same luck in my search for the best currywurst, another Berlin specialty. I was quite disappointed on both stops and will need to refine my search for the next visit. The other quite memorable dinner was Saturday night when visited the Russian restaurant I discovered three years prior
We had set our sights on several museums before departure but in the end only made it to one – the Jüdisches Museum Berlin. The Jewish Museum is an impressive building both in the scope of its coverage of Jewish history and the architecture of the building itself. The ground plan of Daniel Libeskind's remarkable building is in part based on an exploded Star of David, in part on lines drawn between the site and former addresses of figures in Berlin's Jewish history. We had intended to stay two hours and ended up staying four. Fascinating and insightful, this is a museum that can’t be missed. Though on our next trip, we definitely want to make sure to visit a few more places. As for the celebration itself, the city was buzzing with events everywhere. The East Side Gallery invited back all of the original artists to recreate their famous works from 20 years previous, the Canadian Embassy hosted an exhibit on Wall photography... there was even an exhibit dedicated to JFK and his famous claim of being a donut. Of course the biggest feature was around the Brandenburg Gate and the dominos that would tumble along the same line as the Berlin Wall during a celebration ceremony that hosted dignitaries including Mikhail Gorbachev, Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi – who continued to Italians everywhere proud by falling asleep during the ceremony. We arrived late in the afternoon on the scene, walking through several layers of security before entering the courtyard area in front of the Brandenburg Gate. But the cold, torrential downpour drove us indoors to the Austrian beer garden in Potzdamer Platz. While the reprieve from the weather was quite welcomed, we were almost shut out of the event when we tried to return. Crowd size had grown to a point where police were shutting gates and putting up barriers, not allowing people to enter. It was quite ironic – a celebration of the fall of the Wall and armed guards keeping people out of the West yet again. We managed to find a weak link in the wall and ran through with a number of other people, just in time for the kick off of the speeches and music – highlighted by Bon Jovi. After a few hours standing in the cold and rain, the dominoes finally fell and the fireworks began. There were plenty of tourists – Australians, Japanese, Americans, French and Brits. But the best part of the crowd and the scene in general had to be the large number of older Germans – many of which had been caged in by the Wall for so many years – out to celebrate the anniversary of a new beginning in their lives.