John and I were both on the fence about going to Berlin. I really don’t remember why, but the city was not at the top of my list of places to go. We added it after changes to the itinerary, and as luck would have it, things completely fell into place. We decided to save some money and use Hilton points, but being a big travel destination, the cheapest Hilton hotel was a Hampton Inn a good half hour walk from the main sights. In the end, the hotel was perfect. The transit system made it easy to get around, and the hotel is located in a neighborhood with lots of local places to eat and small parks, and was in walking distance from a major transit hub.
The guidebooks recommend 1-2 days in Berlin- we had 2 1/2 days and I feel it wasn’t enough. Berlin has a “museum island” with 5 museums on it- realistically, I can only handle one museum a day. We did one art museum, that had Rembrandt and Rubens, and we ran out of steam. The information overload is too much, and, although we have been in fascinating museums, taking a boat tour with something to drink is a great antidote for museum-itis. We will have to come back someday.
We both felt compelled to visit Checkpoint Charlie, although all our information claimed it was a huge tourist trap. We didn’t go into the paid exhibit, which had negative reviews, but the history timeline erected across the street was well worth it. Three blocks away, built on old WW2 Gestapo headquarters land, is the Topography of Terror. Part of the Berlin Wall is displayed as part of the exhibit, and after two hours, we had to pull ourselves away from the fascinating timeline of pictures and documents. I felt it helped me put the pieces together regarding John’s parents and both their families, and what they endured during the war. I do have to admit I had nightmares about the Nazis chasing me that night.
From the dome of the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Tor is visible- the Berlin Wall ran between these two landmarks. Hard to believe that in my lifetime, the wall was built (1961), the Cold War happened, numerous people died trying to get out of East Berlin, and then the wall came down(1989). Standing at Brandenburg, it’s hard to believe the city, which seems to have healed, was divided. Now, the French embassy has been rebuilt and the American Embassy is present on what was the East Berlin side- and, of course, there is a Starbucks and a Dunkin Donuts.