Berlin On Foot - A Walking Tour Experience

20 January 2015 Berlin, Germany

Berlin. A city that has been through SO MUCH. Conquered, Divided, Reunified, a city with so much history and culture. There is just too much to learn and absorb in the city of Berlin, and what better way to learn than to visit the city, walk around it, see the lives of people living there, admire the architecture, and just take everything in.

Jerald and I are huge fans of going on walking tours, and with Berlin as the first stop on our Winter Trip, that's exactly what we did. The walking tour that I went on was one with Sandermans, and started off at the famous Brandenburg Gate.

Did you know - The Berlin Wall used to seal off the Brandenburg Gate, and so for years and years nobody passed through those gates. 
I told you - Going on walking tours is probably one of the best ways to get information about the city, about its culture and history!
Sandermans does the BEST walking tours (not being paid to say this!) their tours are always interactive, and interlaced with wonderfully well told stories.

The entire walking tour lasted a little over 3 hours and we went on a route pass the landmark places like the Holocaust Memorial for the Murdered Jews, to less known areas and one he termed the "Most Feared Building in Berlin" - a building that used to be the Nazi Headquarters, followed by that of the Soviets, and in present day, houses the city's Tax Department.

"The Most Feared Building in Berlin"

As we walked around (East) Berlin, we realised that the architecture seemed to have some resemblance of that of the soviet union. Short brown buildings, all roughly about the same height and the same style. Some people say East Berlin is ugly because of the type of architecture, but i think its beautiful. Beautiful because it has soul. It's not filled with tall majestic skyscrapers, or rustic old town charm, instead it's a place with a story to tell, history that will impact its visitors.

Upon reaching Check Point Charlie, you will realise the difference between both east and west berlin.
It's obvious how the parts of Berlin that were under capitalistic rule seemed so much more... "globalised" with HUGE Starbucks and international brands. Somehow there is just less of that capitalistic flair in East Berlin.

Even though a large part of Berlin was destroyed in the war, and there were so many reconstructions, there essence of the city is still preserved.
Other parts of the city were design with some symbolic meaning. Which I found extremely interesting. The place where Hitler's body was buried before it was found by the Soviets is now a play ground. The idea (maybe?) is that things can always turn around. Even a place that was once a death bed, can be a place where children enjoy, laugh and play.

When ever I visit cities like Berlin, I wish i studied history in Secondary school/Junior college. It was never really my interest, but when you're in cities like these, you begin to understand the importance of history. I wish I had learned more about the 2nd World War, and how it impacted the countries in Europe. Cities like Berlin are so scarred by the war, its really hard to look away and say, "Oh i'm just going to look at architecture and enjoy food." No doubt german food is awesome. However, every time I'm eating in a restaurant or a bar and I see an old german group of people, I can't help but know that they went through the war, and they saw a time when there was a wall dividing families, friends and loved ones. I can't help but wonder "How did they live through it?" and what they could say about it now. Do the memories still haunt them? At times like these my heart just swell with immense respect for them.

Even though the events of the war seem to characterise the city, Berlin isn't just culturally and historically rich because of it. The effects of the war has overshadowed other things that Berlin has to offer, and other parts of its culture.
Some things I never knew before going to Berlin was that it is one of the most liberal places, and one of the most accepting in terms of sexuality and differences.
Berlin is one of the cities that first promoted the idea of equality, and that people should be treated the same regardless of their colour and background. The city has architectural prove of championing the equality.
The French Cathedral and German Cathedral were build EXACTLY the same and were opposite each other. This was a symbol telling the inhabitants of Berlin no matter their nationality, they would have the SAME place of worship, the same rights.

The French and German Cathedrals in the same shot!

The walk concluded infornt of the Humboldt University in Berlin in Bebelplatz. The square where the burning of books took place. There was a phrase that said 
"Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen"
It goes along the lines of, "That is only the prelude, where they burn books, they will burn people in the end."
This was a statement made based on an event that happened before the World War, and that just shows how important it is that people learn from history. When the Nazis started burning books in Germany, they weren't stopped, and in that lead to a world catastrophe. There was a panel on floor in the middle of the square that symbolises the effects of the book burnings: empty shelves that would potentially store 20 000 books although i'm pretty sure there were tons more than burned in the fire.

Reflections of Empty Shelves
There is so much to learn about Berlin isn't there. The 3 hour walking tour just didnt seem enough. It felt like it was just the tip of the iceberg, an introduction to a book series. Honestly, I think there is no better way to find out about Berlin than to go on a walking tour. 
I use to think walking tours were for people who knew nothing about the city, however, when I was on the walking tour with Sandermans, there were so many europeans that were well aware of the history, and yet they went on the tour to find out more, or to hear a different side of the story, or just different person's perspective.
If you have the opportunity to go to Berlin, or any city for the matter of fact, go ahead and take a walking tour. You might just be surprised at how much you enjoy it!
I will say this though, as I LOVE taking photographs, the down side of going on a walking tour is that you don't get to stop to compose your shot. Then again, taking photographs shouldn't be your focus when you're on a walking tour. It is always possible to retrace your steps after the tour and stop to take photographs of your favourite locations, or places with stories that have impacted you.

After the tour, we headed to the food market in front of the cathedrals, roamed around berlin to take photographs, and then ended up having dinner at one of the most interesting places ever. The Hofbrauhaus (HB)! Beer, life music, servers dressed in traditional costumes, it felt like the Octoberfest that I never got to go to! Not to mention, the food was awesome. Jerald's dish tasted a lot better than my sausages though... Looking back with these pictures, I want some german food NOW!

I hope you've enjoyed the little snippets of Berlin through my experience with a walking tour. 
Also, how often do you go on walking tours when you visit a new city? Do you recommend it? Share in the comments section!

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