A Travellerspoint blog

Potsdam Palaces

Long walks in the park between palaces

overcast 5 °C

Today we went to Potsdam and spent most of the day walking around the outside of the palaces. This site is a UNESCO site and the outside of the palaces are amazing. It took us most of the day just to walk around the various buildings in the park (most were closed for winter). If we were going to tour inside the palaces, we'd have to allow probably 3 days. The buildings are massive.
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To give you an idea of how big, here's a picture of some scaffolding that's in place over [part of the palace for restoration work.
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As you can see this is not minor scaffolding, but major construction just to put the scaffolding on.

A lot of other things like statues were boxed up to protect them for winter, but it was still worth the time to go around the park.

We headed into the old part of town about 3.30 and were very tired, so we found a German pub and had a very late lunch or early dinner.
From there we visited the Christmas market and had our last Gluhwein for the trip.

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We're just busy packing everything up because we fly out of Berlin tomorrow morning to Edinburgh.
We need to catch our bus at just a bot after 8.00 am, which means getting up around 6.30 am.

Posted by Markfr 13:08 Archived in Germany Tagged potsdam Comments (0)

Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Cold and bleak

rain 3 °C

Today we visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which is on the outskirts of Berlin.
As a museum it has an interesting history of neglect, top Communist propaganda to a re-building as a more modern museum.
It was one of the closest concentration camps tp Berlin, and after WWII, the Soviets used it for holding prisoners as well.
It seems that whenever we visit a concentration camp (the last one was Auschwitz) the weather is especially cold, wet, windy and bleak. I think that that's rather appropriate weather for touring a concentration camp. It helps keep the right perspective.
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Sachsenhausen has seen quite a buit of decay and damage over the years, and like many things, particularly in what was the former East Germany, are starting to be looked after / preserved / conserved with a lot more care.

I don't think we saw much that we hadn't seen or heard before in Auschwitz, but places like Sachsenhausen should be visited so that we're all reminded of what happened here. It wasn't just what teh Nazi's did, but what the Soviets and allies also did that should be remembered.

Remember that misquote from the Spanish philosopher George Santayana - "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it".

Posted by Markfr 13:24 Archived in Germany Tagged camp concentration sachsenhausen Comments (0)

Berlin History Museum

The story of Berlin

overcast 8 °C

Today we spent the afternoon going around the Berlin History Museum or the Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin. On the way I had to buy a sausage (well it is Berlin) from the mobile sausage seller.
I thought I'd seen it all, but I haven't seen a portable grill carried around by a man with an umbrella selling sausages. Think what you could do with this set up on an Australian beach!!
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The German History Museum is definitely a museum worth visiting. The first floor takes you from the Roman / Celtic period to the first world war. The ground floor takes you from the first world war through to re-unification and the current period. It's amazing how much of the more recent history (say 100 years) is captured on film, in diaries etc.
I was watching some news footage from when the Berlin Wall fell of people crossing into West Berlin, the bands, the partying etc and I remembered seeing some of it on the news at the time. Walking around Berlin, seeing the changes from our last visit and then seeing these images again is quite amazing.

After the museum we went across the road to another Christmas market. Basically every square, or Platz, has a Christmas Market. They all sell much the same things, but the food and drink offerings can be somewhat different. We had dinner in a very nice tent, with tables and chairs, with food from a hotel in the country marketing itself. The Christmas market was fairly quiet, compared to the weekend, but we assumed that everyone is out more towards the end of the week.
After that we headed over to Alexander Platz. When we got to the train station we recognised the station from our last visit, but the shopping centres and apartments weren't there last time. It was another reminder of how much rebuilding is still going on in Berlin.

Tomorrow we're planning on visiting the Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Posted by Markfr 13:38 Archived in Germany Tagged history museum berlin Comments (0)

The Reichstag dome

Fascinating architecture

overcast 5 °C

Today we visited the Reichstag dome. To do this you have to book on line, a day or two in advance and bring ID with you. Nevertheless, the additional time to do this was well worth it. The dome is fantastic. It was designed by an English Architect to sit above the Reichstag. After the re-unification of Germany, the decision was made to re-build the Reichstag to represent a new, unified Germany.
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It's quite amazing looking at the construction and the rest of Berlin.
In fact, we've been thinking about our last trip to Berlin in 1994. There have been so many changes in the city since then. For instance, when we last visited, the Brandenburger Tor was largely on it's own, with ex GRD soldiers selling whatever they could lay their hands on. Now the area's been re-built, mostly with embassies (we did notice that the Swiss embassy was in a completely different part of town to the others).
A lot of Berlin is like that, as is Dresden.

We've felt that about a lot of the things we've seen in Berlin. Many of the museums and monuments (particularly relating to WWII and the GDR years) are brand new. Most have only opened in the last few years.
These things are all very important, but as our guide Rob said, those 60 years, while quite horrible, are just a very small part of German history. Pretty much every field of knowledge (such as Physics and Einstein, Music and Bach, and so forth) has a German playing a key role in it, such as Frederick the Great.

Posted by Markfr 12:25 Archived in Germany Tagged dome reichstag Comments (4)

Walking Tours of Berlin

Wearing out the Berlin pavement

5 °C

The last three days ahve been very busy - We've been doing walking tours of Berlin. Thursday's tour was the free walking tour. Our touyr leader, Rob from Manchester, was quite wry and very knowledgeable. The tour started at the Brandenburg Tor PC080927

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, and proceeded through the general area to other points of interest, including where Hitler's Bunker was (it's buried and above it is a car park for some apartments). We also went to the Jewish Memorial PC080914

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, The Liuftwaffe headquarters (now the Tax Office!!) and eventually ended up near the museums. We also saw some of the older history relating to Frederick the great and some of the great buildings that were put up then. He was very knowledgeable and made the whole tour interesting and fun. The tour went for almost 4 hours, so we covered quite a bit.
After the tour we went tot he Pergamon Museum. This museum is amazing. It has most of the Alter of Zeus from Pergammon (in Turkey) as well as the Ishtar gate from Babylon. Reconstructed and re-built in the museum. We first went to the museum about 16 years ago, but after having visited Turkey a few years ago and going to Pergamon, this gave a lot more meaning to the Alter and the gate.

Friday's Tour was a Third Reich tour, taken by - yes Rob. Again, it was another good tour and it went for four hours, so that was pretty good for 12 Euros. Although some of the places were the same, the information was different. This is how Rob kept the tour interesting. One of the places we visited was the location where the SS and Gestapo headquarters were. It is now the site for the Berlin Museum - the Topography of Terror.
This museum houses a record of the terror tactics used by the Nazi's.

The tour was very interesting, but I don't want to spend forever dealing with the Nazi's. Berlin has plenty of other great things. That evening we visited Berlin's KaDaWe, it's biggest department store. PC101157

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It was very big, especially the delicatessen - which is all of level 5. You could get everything there to buy (eg salads, fish, sausage, cured meats etc) , or there was a cafe so you could eat it there.

Everywhere you go there are Christmas markets. Given that it's nice and cold and dark by 4.30, they're a great way to spend an hour or two before doing something else.PC091048

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Posted by Markfr 15:06 Archived in Germany Tagged walking berlin tour third reich Comments (0)

Berlin

Christmas and winter, land of the sausage and gluhwein

rain 1 °C

Well, it's quite a change from Bangkok. We've arrived in Berlin to experience a nice cool day of 1 deg C, which is a bit of a change from Bangkok. After we had checked in to the Berlin YHA, we headed up to Potsdamer Platz, to have a look around. It's quite famous as part of the newer development of Berlin since the fall of the wall. The Christmas decorations in the centre are quite amazing.
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We had a look around the development, went into the shopping centre, and then went around the Motion Picture Museum, which was all about the German film industry. There were some great displays, and a very large area devoted to Marlene Deitrich. A lot of the information needed background and context, however some films like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, are very well known.
Anyway, that kept us out of the rain for a couple of hours. Back to the YHA for dinner (Spaghetti, goulash, salad and dessert for 6 Euros).
As well as getting used to the colder weather we also have to get used to the prices. A can of coke isn't 20 Baht (60 cents AU) - now it's more like 1.5 Euro or $AU2.25), so things will be a lot more expensive from now on.

Posted by Markfr 10:59 Archived in Germany Tagged berlin pl potsdamer Comments (0)

Bangkok water taxi and skytrain

Water express taxi, skytrain, super crowds

sunny

Today we spent the day by going out to Siam centre - which is here the Erawan shrine is, as well as some very large shopping centres. We took the express water taxi up the canal to the last stop. Then transferred to the skytrain, which took us to Erawan. From there we had a wander around a couple of these enormous shopping centres. From there we went t o the Jim Thompson house / museum - which was very interesting. The story of how he just vanished in Malaysia, adds an air of mystery to it all. From there we caught the water taxi back to the palace. t was the King's birthday, so there was a very big celebration, with fireworks and an enormous number of people.
We waited a while and when we left we spent 2 hours doing a 15 minute walk, pressed up against a maddening crown, being pressed in on all sides and forced along. We finally made our way back to the street where our hotel was. It was amazing to see so many people, motorcycles, cars and uses all trying to move. It was an enormous people and traffic jam that will take many hours to clear. It was also amazing how quiet and patient everyone was. No one seemed to get angry, or impatient; it was just press on through, and some people were very good at moving through the crowd.

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Posted by Markfr 08:04 Archived in Thailand Tagged bangkok crowds Comments (0)

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