And so on to our final day in Berlin. Remember when I talked about queueing to get tickets to climb the Reichstag’s dome? Well, this was the result! I’m so pleased we made the effort because although part of the glass panels were frosted over (it really was bloody freezing!) the views were great and the structure itself was interesting.
Checkpoint Charlie in all its ‘glory’. I hadn’t realised how fake it was until Francesca, our guide from the first day, disparaged it thoroughly. Apparently, when the actual checkpoint became defunct, the locals didn’t want to be reminded of it, so it was destroyed, but then the tourists started coming but there was nothing for them to look at. And this happened time and time again. So eventually, some enterprising sausage set up a ‘new’ checkpoint, complete with concrete filled sandbags, actors in uniform and red velvet ropes…
You can get your passport stamped to East Germany here, but, if you do, you could get it revoked as technically your passports are the property of your country and there’s no such thing as East Germany anymore. You might as well plonk a Hello Kitty sticker in there for good measure.
I thought this was great graffiti, and so different from the scrawls on the Wall yesterday; later, we were told that commissioned graffiti (which I presume this is) is sort of considered to be a sellout/damaging the genre, but I still think it’s beautiful.
And I loved this too, which was painted on the opposite wall.
So this is Curry 36. Why were we here? Because we’d read in several places that it sold the best currywurst in Berlin. Well, we couldn’t miss that so we trekked pretty far out of our way (it would’ve been easier if parts of the U-Bahn weren’t shut!), and prepared to queue. It’s so popular that people have to wait for ages, but, luckily, the best kebab in Berlin is right next door so it’s become a bit of a ‘thing’ to grab a beer, and get either your currywurst or kebab and then chomp on that and chill with your mates while you wait in the queue to get one of the other!
Well, when we got there, there wasn’t a queue for Curry 36, but there was a HUGE queue for the kebab and we hadn’t left much time, so it was just the currywurst for us. I can’t say I noticed a great difference from the one Mr T had the day before – slightly curried hotdog sausage, coated in curry powder and curry sauce. It was still tasty though.
Mr T tries to recreate the iconic Ampelmann
So, for the last part of our day, we decided (in light of the excellent tour we’d hopped on on Friday) to do another tour with the same company; this time, the alternative Berlin tour. What does this tour encompass, you ask? Well, basically we were told this was the tour you do to get under Berlin’s skin. Other tours are great for history and culture and so on, but this one, this is the one that makes you want to stay for years…
Our first stop was to show us the way East Berlin looked just after the Wall came down. This little alleyway runs along the back of Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt. What is that? Well, I don’t know exactly as we didn’t go in, but Otto Weidt (and I’m paraphrasing the guide here) did for blind people what Schindler did for Jewish people.
In essence, blind people were considered a drain on Nazis society, so they risked euthanasia, but Otto employed them in this factory, thus proving their usefulness. So, all in all, he was a pretty straight up guy, and that’s why this building is Listed, which means the alleyway behind also has to be preserved. Got that?
I found it really impressive, and a bit of a time capsule. Yes, there was the ubiquitous graffiti, somehow, here, it fit right in, and here’s why: before the Wall came down, East Germany didn’t have the money to repair all the damage from the War so for years, they remained bombed out shells.
Then the Wall came down, and suddenly there were all these vacant buildings ripe for the taking and they appealed to all the artists, hippies, musicians and so on. A huge squatting community sprung up, and an artist group lived in this alleyway. So, in a sense, the artists took ownership of the alley, hence the graffiti fitting in.
El Bocho is a famous graffiti artist, and the CCTV camera is topical in Berlin right now: in the UK, we are caught on camera hundreds of times a day, but it’s not like that in Germany, at least, not yet. Recently more cameras were put up in the capital, and people have been protesting about that. And the speech bubble? A decade ago, the mayor – Klaus Wowereit – claimed that ‘Berlin was poor, but sexy’. It went down a storm with the Berliners.
Then we headed to Raw Tempel – basically the site of loads of huge railway warehouses left vacant after the unification of Germany. So who took over? Gigantic nightclubs, and artist communes, and squats, and markets, and skate parks, and you name it!
As we left Raw Tempel, we walked over this bridge, which had been a main divide between East and West; today it marks that power struggle with a constant game of ‘rock paper scissors’ played out between two illuminated hands.
And yes, it tasted even better than it looked!
And that’s all folks. Hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into Berlin; we did!