Thursday, April 26, 2012


On the last day of our weekend trip, we visited Berlin.  Wow - what a city packed full of history!!  We weren't sure if we'd like Berlin that much (some of the bigger cities we've been to aren't as family friendly), but Berlin was great and we really enjoyed our time there!!!  We were able to talk to several of the locals that day who actually remembered when the Berlin wall was up and also how their family communicated with others on the other side of the wall.  It was really neat to be able to visit with them.  Anyway, enjoy the pictures!!

 Thank you to our wonderful hosts - they were so nice and we really enjoyed our time there.

 Getting closer!

 Inside the car...

Look what Berlin has!!!

We drove through Checkpoint Charlie - it was amazing to think what it would have been like not too many years ago.

Another angle

East Berlin today

In which we park

We got our passports stamped at Checkpoint Charlie
This gentleman was very nice and extremely funny - we won't forget our Checkpoint Charlie experience anytime soon. He even almost sold our passports... :)

The kids got their hands stamped.

"Is this you?"

Heading to an all - important stop...

...and enjoying a few treats!!

Shenandoah was very intent on something out the window.

Next we headed to the Brandenburg Gate.

The Quadriga (a chariot drawn by four horses) on top of the gate.

"In 1806 the Quadriga was stolen by Napoleon following the occupation of Berlin by the French army and it was removed to Paris. It was returned to Berlin in 1814 following Napoleon's fall from power, and the statue's olive wreath was exchanged for an Iron Cross."

I would have liked to see how they stole it!!!  I can just hear Napoleon saying "Run up there real quick and bring that with us.  It will be a great sign of victory."  :) Seriously, that took just a little bit of effort!!

We stood in the center of the gate which, traditionally, is where only the royalty would have passed through.

Daddy and Mommy

We touch all 12 pillars!! :)

The ruins of the gate after WWII

Building of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate

View of the wall and the gate facing east.

After the fall of the Wall: Berliners from East and West on and around the Wall at the Brandenburg Gate.

On the west side

Everybody where the wall was with one foot in the east.

We met some helpful people who showed us a map of where the wall use to run as well as the bricks in the sidewalk that represent where it would have been.

On the west.

This is where Ronald Reagan gave his "Tear Down This Wall" speech.  I had no idea when I read that for school a few years ago that I would actually be here in person!!

This is the old Brandenburg Gate

Building work at the new Brandenburg Gate

View of the Brandenburg Gate from the west with adjoining excise wall

Napoleon's entry into Berlin

The triumphant imperial army enters the Brandenburg Gate on 16 June 1871

View of the Brandenburg Gate from the north-west

I made these larger in hopes that you could read them better.  If not, just try clicking them. :)

Out in front of the gate, there were lots of people all trying different ways to earn some money...

...from blowing big bubbles... dressing up in many different kinds of outfits!!

Horse drawn carriages.

This is a neat bike!!!

Walking through Berlin

This lady bug landed on daddy's back

This policeman was very helpful and we greatly enjoyed talking with him!  We originally just went up to ask him a quick question, but he ended up telling us a lot of great information.  He told us his family's experience of the wall and how they were split half and half on each side (he was on the west).  He also told us that just down the road from where we were standing is where the first traffic light in all of Europe was put up (he didn't say when).  In addition, he just told us some more misc. information about the area and pointed us in the direction we wanted to go.  We must have visited over half an hour.

The US Embassy

Across the street is the Jewish memorial - dedicated to all the Jews who were put to death during "the dark times (WWII)" as the policeman referred to it.

As you walk through it, the pillars aren't very large at the start, but the farther you go they get bigger and bigger.  I think it's to symbolize that things got worse as time progressed.

On the other side of the street is what we learned from the policeman to be Berlin's version of our New York Central Park.  He said you don't want to go there at night...

Instead of all the "learn to read free" signs we see back home, this is "test your English for free" :)

Next, we headed to the part of the Berlin Wall that is still standing

The brown poles represent where the wall once stood as well.

This building commemorates a church that was torn down in order to build the wall.

Some original fixtures from the church

The bells from the church

"Reconciliation: To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Berlin Wall"

The "Reconciliation" statue - do you see the Bible down at the bottom?

There were actually two walls - one a ways back from the other with the "death zone" in between. I'm standing at the first wall looking west.  Between me and where you see the brown poles is where the death zone once was.  Those trying to escape had much to pass through.  As more and more escapes happened, the guards made it harder and harder for others to escape.  The death zone became filled with mines, killer dogs, barbed wire among other things.  Wow - imagine trying to escape!!

Map of (part of) the wall

About Ackerstrasse

More about Ackerstrasse

One of the guard towers

Looking through towards the wall

By the wall
(no, we're not saluting - the sun was so bright!!)

On the other side

Pieces of the wall

This memorial is quite long and two sided.  It is dedicated to those who died trying to escape.

We climbed up the building across the street where you could get a better view down into the wall.

Driving through Berlin, we were enjoying the tunnels. :)

Just a street in Berlin

Train tracks - we were reminded of the thousands of people that were transported on these very tracks to concentration camps during WWII.

We went to 43 Marienburger Allee

Dietrich Bonhoeffer's House

The surrounding neighborhood - very pleasant

Though we couldn't go inside (it's still a residence and only open sometimes), we met this very nice lady who lives across the street.  It was wonderful talking to her!!

She told us that when the wall was up, her family lived on the west and her father would smuggle scissors to his hairdresser sister on the east (when she was unable to get them).  She told us that 48 years ago she was an exchange student in California and she still stays in touch with her exchange family.  In fact, she is going to visit them and go on an Alaskan cruise later this summer!!  I thought it was fun that she was an exchange student in CA because she was familiar with Monterey which is where I was born.  I've never been back, but I would like to go someday.

We broke down and ate McDonalds for dinner - something we virtually never do - but it was late and we had a long drive back to our German home. :)

While getting ready to leave McD's we noticed the people on top of this hill with the autobahn on the other side - they apparently watch the autobahn for entertainment over here. :)


Breanna Watje said...

wow! y'all got to see Dietrich Bonhoeffer's House! that is so cool! having fun in Germany? When are y'all coming back?
-The Watjes

Lisa said...

So, so neat and amazing!! Oh, you all are so blessed to be experiencing all this! Thank you so much for the pictures! It makes these places so real for me.