Posted on January 16, 2017 by Janet Steinberg
Berlin, Germany: A City Shaped by History

Emotionally, architecturally, and literally, my Seabourn Pride’s Baltic Cruise Shore Excursion to Berlin was quite a ride!  

 

 

SEABOURN PRIDE ON HER BALTIC CRUISE

Our day in Berlin gave us a taste of its 20th century history with all its phases and radical changes.  We saw how the city confronted its past and is forging ahead to the future.  Architecturally, Berlin is a smorgasbord of architectural masterpieces, scanning centuries.  From the original Jewish Museum…to Libeskind’s 21st century addition…from the original Reichstag to Sir Norman Foster’s glass-domed roof…to Frank Gehry’s space age DZ Bank lobby. 

Emotionally, Jew and Gentile alike were volleyed between the delights of the day in Berlin and the poignant reminders of the terrible years under the Third Reich.  Our first stop was the Jewish Museum of Berlin, where Daniel Libeskind’s eerie museum addition culminates with the horrors of Hitler’s persecution and extermination plans.  Sole access into the new addition, created by Architect Daniel Libeskind, is through the historical 1735 Collegienhaus.  The Libeskind addition has three main corridors: the Axis of Continuity, the Axis of Emigration, and the Axis of the Holocaust.

The Axis of Continuity connects the old building with the new addition. The architect described that axis as the continuation of Berlin’s history from which the other axes branch off.  The Axis of Emigration leads outside to the Garden of Exile that Libeskind said attempts “to completely disorientate the visitor.  It represents a shipwreck of history.”  In the Axis of the Holocaust, Libeskind stated that the bare concrete Holocaust Tower, with a narrow slit at the top, “is the space which somehow ends the old history of Berlin.”

 

 

DANIEL LIBESKIND’S ADDITION TO THE JEWISH MUSEUM

Next stop was a delightful lunch at the top of The Reichstag, where Hitler once reigned supreme.  The Reichstag, the seat of Germany’s Parliament, originally opened in 1894.   After the reunification of Germany, the building was fully restored by internationally renowned architect Sir Norman Foster.  Completed in 1999, the restoration features an iconic large glass dome that has a 360-degree view of the surrounding cityscape.  Lunch at the top of the Reichstag is overpriced, but worth it just for the view.  Outside of the Reichstag is a memorial to the 96 Reichstag members of opposition parties killed by the Nazis.

 

 

GLASS DOMED ROOF OF THE REICHSTAG

Following lunch, we walked a short distance to Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, passing the Hotel Adlon, Hitler’s favorite hotel where he had planned to hold his victory party. 

 

 

THE RENOWNED HOTEL ADLON 

Only minutes away, is Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  The 2,700 concrete pillars of differing heights are set in a grid pattern and is the country's central place for remembrance.

 

 

PETER EISENMAN’S MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE

Nearby is the Brandenburg Gate (1788-1791), the city’s most famous landmark.  The centerpiece of the Pariser Platz, the Brandenburg Gate is the symbol of Berlin’s reunification.  It is crowned with the 1794 Quadriga statue.

 

 

THE BRANDENBURG GATE

On the south side of Pariser Platz, between the Brandenburg gate and the Hotel Adlon, take a peek inside the DZ Bank headquarters.  Here, architect Frank Gehry constructed a 4-story-high, steel and wood, sculptural shell that seems as if it is floating in space. 

 

INTERIOR LOBBY OF DZ BANK HEADQUARTERS

The East Side Gallery, a long section of the Berlin Wall near the center of Berlin, is the largest open-air gallery in the world.  Approximately 118 paintings, by artists from 21 countries, cover this memorial for freedom. The Eastside Gallery is a place where the old Berlin and the new Berlin meet.

 

 

LEONID BREZHNEV & ERICH HONECKER ON SECTION OF BERLIN WALL KNOWN AS THE EAST SIDE GALLERY

It’s tacky and touristy, but one cannot go to Berlin without taking in the sight known as Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.  It was the crossing point for foreigners, diplomats, and members of the Allied forces. The ersatz guardhouse, with its ersatz soldiers standing guard, is a favorite photo op for tourists. The Checkpoint Charlie Museum is a private commercial venture, but it does have some interesting exhibits such as escape cars, a small submarine, and amazing stories about how some people attempted to escape. 

 

 

 

TACKY AND TOURISTY, YET CHECKPOINT CHARLIE AND MUSEUM IS A MUST-SEE

If, by now, you are in desperate need of a shopping fix, there are plenty of schlock souvenirs at the Checkpoint.  Nearby you will also find a Galeries Lafayette and an H&M store. 

Enroute back to the port at Warnemuende, on the outskirts of Berlin, is Charlottenburg Palace. One of the oldest palaces in Berlin, it was built for Prussian Empress Sophie Charlotte.

 

 

 

CHARLOTTENBURG PALACE

Returning back to Seabourn Pride, after a 12-hour day of touring, was like returning home after a long vacation. Seabourn’s affable staff was lined up awaiting us with a Welcome Home sign.  The dining staff was serving us hors-d’oeuvres and drinks before we even reached the steps of the gangway.  

 

 

SEABOURN PRIDE’S WELCOME BACK FROM BERLIN

 

Way to go!!!!!

 

JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer/Editor and International Travel Consultant with THE TRAVEL AUTHORITY in Mariemont, Ohio. 

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