East Side Gallery

May 26, 2008 in Berlin 2008

East Side Gallery

Historic murals of the East Side Gallery in 2002 (left) and 2008 (right)

Treptow war memorial

May 26, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Treptow war memorial

Hauptbahnhof

May 25, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Hauptbahnhof

Hamburger Bahnhof

May 25, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Hamburger Bahnhof

Holocaust memorial

May 24, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Holocaust memorial

Back in Berlin

May 24, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Back in Berlin

Potsdam

May 19, 2008 in Berlin 2008

Potsdam

Gedächtniskirche

Dec 20, 2004 in Berlin 2004

Gedächtniskirche

Hamburger Bahnhof

Dec 19, 2004 in Berlin 2004

Hamburger Bahnhof

Dom

Dec 18, 2004 in Berlin 2004

Dom

East Side Gallery

Dec 16, 2004 in Berlin 2004

East Side Gallery

Berlin winter sunset

Dec 15, 2004 in Berlin 2004

Berlin winter sunset

Lübeck

Nov 16, 2003 in Hamburg 2003

Lübeck

Hamburg

Nov 15, 2003 in Hamburg 2003

Hamburg

Alexanderplatz

Aug 22, 2002 in Beijing to London 2002

The last thing I did in Berlin was go up the Alexanderplatz TV Tower. It is almost identical to the CCTV tower in Beijing, but 35 metres shorter. I had a snack in the rotating restaurant, watched Berlin go by far below, and felt like I was almost home. I had a ticket for the night train to Paris, and so in the morning I would be just two hundred miles from London, and five thousand miles from Beijing.

Reichstag

Aug 21, 2002 in Beijing to London 2002

Reichstag

The Reichstag, burned down in 1933 and used as a pretext for Nazi repression, had been restored in the 1990s, and three years before I arrived it had become the parliament of Germany at the same time as Berlin had become the capital again.

In many cities throughout the world, if you want something glassy and modern to be built, you call in Norman Foster, and Berlin had done just that when they needed a new cupola for the Reichstag. The dome he designed was spectacular, and soon became a major attraction for tourists in Berlin. It was a blazing hot summer day when I decided to go and have a look at it, and I queued for about an hour to get in.

I hadn’t used Euros before this trip, and I was still getting used to their value. Under the glass of the dome it was incredibly hot, and there was a stand selling ice creams and cold drinks. I bought an ice cream and an orange juice for six euros, and I actually thought for a few minutes that this was a reasonable price.

East side gallery

Aug 21, 2002 in Beijing to London 2002

East side gallery

I got a train to Berlin. The six hour journey went by in a flash, and I barely had time to notice the countryside. What I did see as we crossed into Germany was the Oder River looking scarily swollen and fast flowing. I had heard that there was severe flooding in countries to the south of me.

I liked Berlin straight away. It had the same atmosphere of a place heavy with recent history that Moscow had had. I grew up hearing about the Berlin Wall all the time on the news, and remembered watching the fall on TV when I was 11 years old. The first place I went to in Berlin was the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the wall. After the fall, various international artists painted murals all along the stretch. What seemed most amazing was how thin the wall was. I always imagined it would be several feet thick, but a couple of inches of concrete was all that had physically separated East and West Germany.

Some of the works of art on the wall were very famous, like the picture of a Trabant bursting through, and of Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing. They had all recently been restored, but already there was a lot of inane graffiti on a lot of them. There seem to be a lot of Argentinians, in particular, who wish to record the fact that they have been somewhere.

Munich to Paris

May 27, 2000 in London to Munich 2000

Munich to Paris

About to take a train from Munich Hauptbahnhof

Englischer Garten

May 26, 2000 in London to Munich 2000

Englischer Garten