During my recent visit to Berlin I went on a city walking tour. Thanks to our amazing tour guide I learnt more about Berlin city in three and a half hours exploring the city than I ever did at school.
Are walking city tours worthwhile?
When my friends first suggested a city walking tour I wasnâ€™t too fussed, but in the end I found it amazingly interesting and at times I actually got a bit choked when our guide shared some very emotional wartime stories.
We started our walking tour at Museum Island, which is home to the Altes and Neues (old and new) museums, which we learnt were mostly saved from bombing during the war in order to try and preserve some heritage.
Reminders of the World Wars
The walls and pillars are still pockmarked with bullet holes, and I thought it was good that they hadnâ€™t repaired them as they serve as a good reminder.
During our tour we moved around the city, visiting the Royal Cathedral and the TV Tower, which houses a revolving restaurant and has a brilliant view of the city. We also saw the National Memorial to the Victims of Tyranny and War: A temple-like building that has been used as a war memorial since 1931. Inside, there is an installation by local artist KÃ¤the Kollwitz entitled Mother with her Dead Son, which was installed in 1993. She lost family in both wars and her sculpture sits among wreaths. The ashes of a soldier and a victim of the concentration camps are buried beneath.
Visiting the Berlin Wall
Our tour also took us to Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall, which now, ironically, has to be protected from â€˜wall pickersâ€™ who take chunks to sell on the Internet.
We visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which was built in 2005 by Peter Eisenman and consists of 2711 concrete slabs. Itâ€™s in a very central position so you canâ€™t miss it and you can walk through the maze of slabs that tower above you. Itâ€™s a chilling memorial to the Jewish people who died so unnecessarily and it makes you feel vulnerable and lost and the uneven ground makes you feel unsteady. Itâ€™s a chilling reminder of how victims in the war must have felt.
Our tour ended at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which until the fall of the Berlin Wall was isolated and inaccessible. Itâ€™s a great place to end the tour, as it was a big icon during the fall of the wall and over the centuries itâ€™s stood there, itâ€™s been considered an icon of peace.
A trip to the Reichstag Buildingâ€™s roof terrace and dome
We enjoyed our walking city tour so much that we were inspired to explore even more, so we also booked a walk around the Reichstag Buildingâ€™s â€“ the German Parliament – roof terrace and dome.
We booked an evening slot for 10pm, but we set off with plenty of time to spare because weâ€™d been warned weâ€™d have to pass through airport style security before entering.
Youâ€™re taken up in groups and led to the huge glass dome, which looks down into the Plenary Chamber. If you book a slot at the right time this gives you a chance to watch parliament in session.
There is a huge mirrored structure that plunges down the middle of the dome, directing light down to the Plenary Chamber and during our visit we also discovered that the building is powered by biofuel.
A visit to the Reichstag Building isnâ€™t just for fans of politics; itâ€™s a really impressive building and well worth a visit if youâ€™re interested in learning more about Berlin cityâ€™s present, as well as its past.
Over to you! Have you visited Berlin city before, and if so, what stood out for you? Are you a fan of city walking tours or have we inspired you to try one out for the first time? Let us know in the comments belowâ€¦