Berlin In June
Berlin in June is the best weather, warm but not too hot so we can walk around without getting all sticky. We are making the most of the weather to visit parks and gardens. Today we went to Charlottenburg Schloss. We did not go into the castle as we have done that in the past. We took the opportunity to walk around the gardens. The garden is bounded on one side by the river and it has a formal garden but lots of forest areas and of course a lovely lake. The grounds have minor palaces built for King Fredrick and Queen Charlotte to entertain guests if they did not want to use the main palace. These are lovely small palaces dotting the grounds.
The sad thing about today is there is a lot of work going on so half the palace is covered in scaffolding and the fountain is under repair. The formal gardens are being weeded and they really needed it. We will have to go back in a month and see the progress.
Berlin Wall Memorial
We found a part of the wall we have not seen before. It is on our tram line and not far. It shows the wall as it actually was on the east side and the gap that was no mans land. It is a more graphic display than we have seen before. A church was demolished to build the wall which actually shut off a main highway. Another church was cut off from its graveyard, which was on the other side of the road to the church. A train station became one of the ghost stations, the trains passed through but did not stop..
This was a very interesting area and we spent a bit of time walking around as it covers a large area. The actual museum was, as seems to be our luck, undergoing renovations and the top floor will not be open until mid July.
Berlin - Local Park
Where better to go on a sunny day than to the park. We decided to go to Treptower park a couple of stations away from us and on the river. When we got to the station, there were announcements about treptower station on the board and on the tannoy. A very nice German, Spanish teacher who was in Berlin with his Spanish students told us there was a cable burning at Treptower and we might have to take the bus. I asked at the rail kiosk and they said no the trains are fine. So what were all the signs and announcements about? Who knows! We got on the next train with our teacher friend and got off at Treptower station no sign of anything weird.
Treptower park is where the Soviet WW11 war memorial is It has a very large statue 40 meters high of a soldier breaking a swastika while holding a child in his arms. A famous statue according to the sign. We found the statue and it is amazing. Then sat in the sun for a while having a read, until the ants the sweat and our old backs told us to go home.
We visited the Stasi Prison or Museum, it was very depressing but very interesting. The Stasi museum is located in House 1 on the former grounds of the headquarters of the GDR Ministry for State Security (MfS). The building was erected in 1960-61 as the offices of Erich Mielke, who served as Minister for State Security from 1957 until the end of the GDR.
On 15 January 1990 demonstrators took over the Stasi headquarters. A week later, the Central Round Table, a committee made up of representatives of the SED dictatorship and civil rights groups, decided that a “memorial and research centre on GDR Stalinism” should be established in House 1. On 7 November 1990, it opened as the Research Centre and Memorial at Normannenstrasse with an exhibition titled “Against the Sleep of Reason”. House 1, later named the Stasi Museum, has been open to the public ever since.
The offices of Erich Mielke are preserved in their original condition and form the centrepiece of the historic site. They were closed the day we were there but we did see the interrogators rooms
Our guide was extremely well informed and did the tour with a little explanation and then answering our questions. The MfS or KGB started the prison and less is known about that time than later. As the MfS turned the prison over to the GDR and took all their documents etc back to Russia. It is known that they used physical torture on the prisoners and many died. We saw the “U-Boot” or underground prisons that they used. One room was used to throw freezing water on the prisoners and then making them stand in freezing water for hours or days. The “U-Boot” was underground so the prisoners never saw daylight. It was awful.
When the KGB took over they did not want to be compared to the fascist so “improved” the prison by building a new cell block, improving the food and, having medical facilities. They used Psychological torture. None of the prisoners during this time knew where they were. They never saw another prisoner and never spoke to anyone except the interrogators, who would interrogate them for hours on end. Our guide knew a few people who were held in the prison and she said they all have some form of PTS. One of her friends was held here twice when he was caught trying to escape to the west. He tried to commit suicide so he would be taken to hospital where he would be able to talk to a nurse. Unfortunately, the medical staff were not allowed to talk to the prisoners. One of her friends is the daughter of one of the interrogators, he was nice according to the daughter.
The people who ran and worked in this prison could not be prosecuted as they were breaking no laws at the time. It seems wrong but when you think about it. We cannot imprison people for following the laws of the land even if we believe them to be wrong.
A hot day so a trip to the lake at Wannsee. What was a good idea turned out to be a little bit of a chore. We caught the train for the 1 hour trip in the heat. Still it was lovely when we got to the lake. A nice ferry trip to Kladow. Cool and smooth sailing with lovely scenery. We got to Kladow and decided to walk up the hill into town. This took Ross about 10 mins and me about 20 mins it was so hot. At the top of the hill was a second hand shop an excuse for a rest. Ross went to explore the town. I caught up with him across the road outside a Mediterranean restaurant, time for a beer!!! We decide a few light snacks would also be appropriate. We sat outside sipping beer eating mezzo and enjoying the view of the town (not the Lake!!!). We had finished eating and noticed that the sky looked very dark, back to the ferry before the storm. We just got on board and the heavens opened. Patrick, the lovely man who manages our apartment text to say that Berlin had a severe storm warning and to be careful if we were outside. Does on a ferry count?
The storm abated while we walked back to the train station for our 1 hour trip home! It was now still hot and very humid. No air-conditioning on Berlin trains. We got home slightly damp, we had a good day but not a lot of sightseeing just a bit of eating and drinking in a different place.