Wednesday 28 September 2022

Our European Holiday - Berlin day 3 & 4

 For other signs from around the world please check Tom's blog

Day 3

We started our day with a visit to the Jewish Museum in the suburb of Kreuzberg. The 3500 sqmt ( 38,000 square feet) building, opened in 2001, is the largest Jewish Museum in Europe, and presents the history and culture of Jews in Germany from the Middle Ages to today.

The fragmented design of the building by Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind is intended to symbolize the extermination of the Jewish culture in Germany.

The Jewish museum building

Aerial view of the Jewish Museum (photo from net)

 Fallen leaves - more than 10 thousand "faces" with open mouths made with iron plates cover the floor of the ground floor void.

Jewish superstars - Sigmund Freud, Leonard Cohen, Albert Einstein, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Golda Meir, Charlie Chaplin...

Where did the Jewish could emigrate to?

After the visit we had lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant, then it was time to catch the underground to Hallesches Tor to visit the East side gallery - Berlin's open-air gallery, which is reached via the Oberbaum Bridge (Oberbaumbrücke), a double-deck bridge crossing Berlin's River Spree, which is considered one of the city's landmarks. It links Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, former boroughs that were divided by the Berlin Wall.

The pedestrian area on the side of the bridge. Last photo the bridge from afar

From the bridge I spotted Molecule Man, a 30mt high (100 feet) statue designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky. The aluminium sculpture of 3 men leaning into each other in a circle, symbolizes the coming together of the districts of Kreuzberg, Treptow and Friedrichschain.

The East Side Gallery was fantastic as expected - at just over 1,3km long, it's the longest continuous section of the former Berlin wall still in existence. Immediately after the fall of the wall, 118 artists from 21 countries began painting it and the gallery was officially opened in September 1990 and has now protected memorial status.

Outside a pub just before the East Side Gallery

As we looked at the murals we noticed a row of Trabants (East German cars) driving by slowly - cardboard cars as they were known then...


Across the road is the Mercedes Benz Arena, a sports and musical venue. In the square where it was located there were a lot of cafes/restaurants and we sat down for a drink and some sweet therapy.


In the square of the Mercedes Benz arena, I came across this very clever sign - Love/Hate which on the other side could be read as Hate/Love.

Love/Hate sign and the Mercedes Benz Arena in the background

After our short rest we caught a bus to the Mitte district to visit the DDR Museum by the River Spree, just across from the Berlin Cathedral (Dom).
It was for us the best museum we visited in Berlin, and we learned a lot about life in the former East Germany.

Inside map of the DDR Museum

The inside of a typical East German apartment

An office from a Stasi employee

Trabi jokes :)

3 Girls and a Boy - Outside the museum the life-sized statues by German sculptor Wilfried Fitzenreiter  sit on the wall over the River Spree, across from the Cathedral.

We had an early light dinner at a restaurant not far from the Museum before walking back for about 20 min to our hotel to pack our bags and have an early night, as we would have to get up at 3am the next day for our flight to Lisbon.

Ham and egg on toast, Curry wurst with chips and salad with Pretzel(?)

This next statue was seen next to the Friedrichstrasse railway station, probably on our first day walking around Berlin and it's a very moving statue. Called the Trains to life/trains to death, it commemorates the Kindertransport Memorial (children’s transport) rescue mission that began nine months prior to the outbreak of World War II. Through this effort about  10.000 mainly Jewish children were able to escape from Nazi Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland and taken in by British families. 
The 4 boys and 3 girls, five of them looking in one direction and two in the opposite direction, reflecting the contrasting fates of the children.
This statue as well as others by the same sculptor in London, Hook of Holland and Vienna, was designed by artist Frank Meisler who himself was one of the lucky kids rescued by this mission in 1939.

Trains to Life, Trains to Death

Other signs seen in Berlin:

Time for Taiwan, might have been seen in front of the Taiwanese embassy

We love Berlin

Day 4

We woke up at 3am, the taxi picked us up at 4am and we reached the airport shortly after 4,30am. Our flight to Lisbon was at 7am, but with airport delays we thought it best to be there a little bit earlier and we were almost the first ones in the queue.

We loved our short visit to Berlin and I wish we could have spent more time there, as there was still so much we wanted to see, but we also had to spend time with family in Portugal.

The sun rising on the horizon as seen from the airport

Coffee shop - Last chance to taste Berlin - Lego man, BER that stands for Berlin airport, and tower of Jägermeister, a herbal liqueur made in Braunschweig.

Monday 26 September 2022

Monday Murals - Fraternal Kiss

I love murals and street art. If you like murals or have a mural you'd like to post, this meme is for you.  Just follow the Linky steps below.  Once you start looking you will find murals everywhere.  The "Monday Mural" meme goes live on Monday at 12,01AM, Perth,Western Australian time. Be sure to link back to this blog and visit your fellow posters. Looking forward to your mural finds this week.

Thanks, Sami  

The Berlin Wall, in the Friedrichshain district, once a symbol of a divided city, is now a large open-air gallery - known as "The East Side Gallery", featuring over 100 murals by artists from across the globe. Many were painted in 1990, the year after the wall fell, the artworks that line the banks of the River Spree standing as a memorial to the reunification of Germany and other moments of global political change. 

One of the most striking and well know mural is the "My God, Help Me to Survive this Deadly Love" also known as the Fraternal Kiss, by the recently deceased Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel

It depicts the embrace between Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German president Erich Honecker at the 30th anniversary of the creation of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1979.

Fraternal Kiss at the East Side Gallery

Remember this one from my first Berlin post, an advert which was a parody of the mural and original photo.

And the photo as seen at the "Wall Museum" near Check Point Charlie.

Another well known mural is "A Trabi goes through the Wall", by Birgit Kinder, where the iconic East German car, the Trabant is breaking through the Berlin wall. 

Along with other artists whose works have been badly damaged by tagging, this work of art has been badly damaged a few times, and Birgit has been allowed to repair or repaint her mural various times, the last time being in 2018. 

And at our hotel in Berlin, the Ibis Mitte - they had the replica by the lifts.


Another "kissing" mural I saw in a building not far from our hotel.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   


And a small advertising van with photos of some of the East Side Gallery murals.


Wednesday 21 September 2022

Our European holiday - Berlin & Signs

Please check other Signs from around the world at Tom's blog.


We woke up early, took the underground train and reached our destination about 20min later. We had breakfast at a nearby Cafe, then walked a short while to Parizer Platz (Paris Square) in the historic centre of Berlin, where the famous Brandenburg Gate is located.

The square is surrounded by lots of Embassies, the most expensive hotel in Berlin (the Adlon Kempinski Hotel), the Academy of Arts and apartment/office buildings.

Apart from the Brandenburg Gate everything around the square was turned to rubble by air raids during the war. When the city was divided by the Berlin Wall, the area where the Gate was fell under the "death zone" dividing the cities. 

After the city reunited in 1989, the area was reconstructed, and the square was once again turned into a beautiful space. Looking at all those buildings around the square you would think they had been there forever...

The Adlon Hotel and the Academy of Arts

We had booked a tour with Walking Tours of Berlin, and this was the meting place. After the guide and all guests introduced themselves, we were ready to go.

To our left was the Deutscher Bundestag (Parliament) with a glass dome at the top with a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. 

There is free admission to the dome for the public, advance registration is required with ID/passport details. Sadly we didn't book and didn't have our ID's with us to try and see if we could get in when we were there.


To the right of the Brandenburg Gate we walked through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It's a 19000 sqmt (200,000 sqft) site with 2711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. It was inaugurated in 2005, sixty years after the end of the WWII.  The area where it was built was also part of the "death strip" that once divided the city. Nearby, under an apartment building parking lot was what once was Hitler's bunker. 

Next we walked to the Federal Ministry of Finance (Bundes Finanz Ministerium), in Wilhelm street, a very austere building which was formerly the Air-Ministry headquarters.

A few minutes down the road there was an open-air exhibition called "Topography of terror", with photographs, graphics and documents, set along part of the longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall, to which the 3 of us returned to later in the day. 

Across the road was this huge "Die Welt" balloon (a national newspaper) and next to it the Trabi World, a tour company that offers guided tours of Berlin in Trabant vintage cars (cars from the DDR).

We reached Check Point Charlie, one of the most famous Berlin Wall crossing points between East and West Germany, during the cold war (1947-1991). 

After an explanation about the check-point, we walked on for a couple of blocks until we reached the area called Gendarmenmarkt, known for the Berlin Christmas markets, and across from it is the identical French and German churches, dating back to the 17th century. 

And this where we ended our walking tour of Berlin, and our friendly guide departed with our cash donations. 

French church

We stopped for lunch at Vapiano - a German franchise restaurant offering Italian food (just a block away from the Wall Museum). 


After lunch we returned to Check Point Charlie, to visit the Wall Museum in Friedrich Street. This is a private museum created to document the so called "best border security system in the world". Entry costs €17/Adults which is quite steep.

Replica of Checkpoint Charlie (on left)

Billboard signs warning you were leaving or entering the American Sector, with the Russian and American soldiers

The exhibitions shine a light on the many stories of pain, loss and courage of the hundreds of people that attempted to flee East Germany, and history of the cold war. Descriptions can be read in German, English, French and Russian. 
There is probably a bit too much in the 3 or 4 floors of the Museum, and towards the end I was getting a bit tired of all the walking and standing. 

Many tried to escape hidden in car, in furniture, in musical instruments...
A slice of the wall and a DDR border mark (top left)

After the visit to the Museum we walked 15 minutes to Postdamer Platz, to climb to the observation deck of Panoramapunkt to experience the stunning views over Berlin. You buy your 9,00 € ticket, then get into the fastest lift in Europe that takes you to the top in 20 seconds! You can also read a lot of information about the history of the square as you walk around the platform, and you can end your visit with a drink at the bar on the 25th floor.

Postdamer Platz had in the 1920's the first traffic lights in Europe and was Berlin's busiest area with traffic, shopping and entertainment. After WW II the area was in ruins and lay lifeless in the "death strip" between the divided cities until 1989. After the fall of the wall, international investors and international architects brought about its resurrection, and nowadays it's one of Berlin's trendiest places.

I even spotted a mural from high above, but we had no time to wander around to search for it...

A hidden mural seen from Panorampunkt

The tower closes at 7,30pm in Summer, but we had a dinner booking at 8,00pm at Schnitzelei Restaurant, at 8 Chaussee str, so we caught the underground and then a tram to the area. The restaurant is very popular and as the name indicates their speciality is schnitzel, and they have two sittings per dinner, so bookings are essential.
Karina had mentioned her boss was also in Berlin with his wife and kids, and we were halfway through our meal when he walked past and was surprised to see Karina. What a coincidence to meet up in such a huge city!

After dinner it was time to take the tram back to our hotel for some rest, as we had another full day the following day!

The cute and different traffic lights that we saw in Berlin

You can't miss this sign! Ice-cream anyone?