Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 2 in Berlin, Secret Berlin Walking Tour 4/13/2013

I think I have finally overcome my jet lag, I did not wake up early for the first time since I arrived in Europe.  Today, I woke up around 8 am, then went back to sleep, I had plans to meet someone from my hostel at 10:30 am for Pho lunch before going on a walking tour of Berlin. 

We got lost on our way to Pho, Berlin has 3 rail systems, a subway, light rail and train, Berlin also has an extensive bus line.  The maps were not clear about whether a specific line was subway, light rail or train and we could not find any Germans who spoke English well enough to give us directions.  We aborted our trip to get Pho and bought a sausage from a vendor near the metro station.  

German Sausage Sandwich Bought at Metro Station 
We returned to the hostel, I needed to get another layer of clothes, the day started off cool but not cold, but the temperature dropped while we were outside.  We wanted to get our umbrellas, there were rain clouds and it had started to sprinkle.  After we got our things from the hostel, we set out for East Berlin. I decided to go on the 12 Euro Red Berlin: Secrets of the Communist Capital Tour, the tour began at 1 pm, we hoped we would not get lost on our way to the meeting point for the tour.

The route to East Berlin was straightforward and we did not have any problems finding the Starbucks near the Brandenburg gate, the meeting point for the walking tours.  Before the tour began, we walked around saw the American Embassy, the Brandenburg gate, the back of the Reichstag, and many street artists posing for pictures with tourists for a fee.

Lynnae at the US Embassy in Berlin
Lynnae in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin
The walking tour began a little after 1pm, it was cold but luckily no rain during the tour. We started the tour in the death spot near where the Berlin Wall once stood, our guide explained if we had stood here when the wall was up, there is a good chance we would have been shot. During the 28 years the Berlin Wall stood, 136 people were officially killed trying to cross from East to West Berlin.  From the death spot we moved onto the Russian Embassy, the tour guide went into the history of the Russians in Berlin, liberating the city from the Nazis and Russia believing they should be administrators of the city after WWII.  Our tour guide discussed the tension in Berlin that resulted from the city being split into sectors and Russia's attempts to gain control of the city.

Me at the Russian Embassy in Berlin 
The walking tour was three hours and took us across Berlin.  We visited different points along where the Berlin Wall once stood, we visited the ghost stations.  Ghost stations were subway stations that were not used, but trains passed through during the separation of West and East Berlin. Trains would slow at these stops and passengers could see the East German security patrolling the platforms.  Ghost stations were equipped with booby traps to prevent East Germans from using the station to escape to West Germany.  We visited a train station that was known as the Palace or Tears during the Cold War years, families were allowed to cross into the Station twice a year, on Christmas and New Years Eve to see their families and parting was emotional. 

We went to an area with a street named after Karl Marx, the tour guide explained the street was named for Joseph Stalin, during destalinization the street was renamed for Karl Marx.  We ended the tour at the East Berlin Gallery, more portions of the Berlin Wall Stand there with street art, someone said the gallery stretches for 2 km.  

Lynnae at East Berlin Gallery 
My sightseeing day in Berlin ended at the East Berlin Gallery. I met interesting people during the tour, from Israel, Argentina, England, Australia and I was interviewed by a Lithuanian reporter for a show about the Red Berlin Tour.  The reporter asked me why I had chosen to go on the tour, I told her I am former CIA and was interested in learning about the Stasi and Berlin during the Cold War.  The Lithuanian reporter and I discussed my CIA employment, I explained I was interested in learning about the history of Berlin and what happens when governments overreach and abuse their power.

I found my way back to my hostel after the tour, went to dinner with a fellow hosteller, we finally found a restaurant that served Pho, not far from the hostel.  I have had a quiet night inside, I planned to do laundry but have not gotten to that yet, maybe I will stay up late and do laundry or wait until tomorrow after sightseeing in Berlin.  

I will post today's photo album later this week, the internet is slow at my hostel.  I have many more pictures from around Berlin than I have posted to my blog.

Berlin Day 2 Photo Album

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