Back in 2014, I visited Berlin, Germany with Warwick Photography Society.
At the time, I wrote a series of blog posts about the trip – here they are, along with some of my favourite photos:
Days 1: Saturday
Had to be up horribly early in order to get a train to Coventry, a 3 hour coach to the airport and then a flight to Berlin. First impressions were that it was a pretty cool city, loads of awesome street at around which I really like.
Meal out in the evening where I had the tastiest thai red chicken curry. Spicy but so good! Hit a pub afterwards with everyone, then ended up in a great little bar with Sam and Jack. Me and Jack danced (badly) for ages and it was so much fun even if a lot of the music was really cheesy (like Abba).
Day 2: Sunday
We headed out early for breakfast at a bakery near the station; I had a marzipan croissant which was incredible. We got a train over to near museum island and ended up heading into the Berliner Dom, a beautiful cathedral with a huge copper dome. We went right to the top and got to look out over the whole city.
The inside of the cathedral itself was beautiful. So I’m not normally really into cathedrals or religious buildings or anything like that but this one was rather nice. From the top of the dome we could see all the buildings around, the river running through the city, the park area on museum island and we managed to pick out a few of the buildings we wanted to visit later in the week.
Upstairs we got to learn about the history of the cathedral and how it was built and downstairs was the crypt which was a pretty eerie place.
Anyway, after the cathedral we stopped for food. Most of the boys got currywurst, I just grabbed a sausage sandwich, pretty tasty and I fed some of my leftover bread to all the cute little birds around, they were adorable.
After this we went for a bit of a walk, saw a war memorial and then Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag from the outside. All pretty impressive looking.
The war memorial was where a WW2 solider and concentration camp victim were buried together and the statue in the middle depicts them both. The whole building was huge with all this empty space and this one statue in the middle. Directly above it was a hole in the roof where the sunlight was coming through, it really had a big impact, pretty emotional.
Honestly, I think this is one of my favourite photos of the week:
Then we headed over to the Holocaust memorial and museum.
The memorial itself was pretty striking. When you were walking through the really tall blocks it really did make you think a lot and get kind of emotional.
The museum itself was under the memorial and was fantastic, although very sad. It taught me so much I never really before; I had no idea the Nazi’s ill-treatment of the Jews had spread so far over Europe and even into Egypt and other parts of North Africa. Plus, what I really liked were the sections on Jewish families and people affected and what happened to them. It made it so much more real and was, at times, really shocking and upsetting.
Day 3: Monday
After breakfast in a cute little cafe near the hostel we headed over to see another church – Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche which is the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church because it houses one of the crosses of nails from Coventry Cathedral.
There was a lot of building work going on from the outside so it didn’t really look like much but then you stepped into one of the chapel type areas (I’m afraid I don’t know the proper name) and it was unbelievably impressive. All the upper walls were made of these small square panels of stained glass, mainly blue, and it was beautiful. There was also this giant Jesus statue over the alter which was a little scary – it was a bit oppressive, but still impressive.
After the church we headed over to a supermarket and bough sandwich foods and had a little picnic outside another very pretty building, before heading into an incredible chocolate shop Sarah-Jane had told me about. They had all these awesome chocolate models of things like the Titanic, Brandenburg Gate and Berlin’s Radio Tower and the smell of chocolate was just incredible. In the end I found some of their slabs of chocolate and couldn’t resit buying a little bar of white chocolate with lemon and ginger.
After this we headed over to Checkpoint Charlie which, itself, was a little disappointing and not really anything special but I guess it’s one of those things you have to see while you’re in Berlin. However, the really good bit was all the information boards they had up about the history of the Berlin Wall and the 3 checkpoints – Alpha, Beta and Charlie. Berlin has such an interesting history it was so great to read about it.
Although, it was almost scary to realise just how recent all the Berlin Wall events were – it came down 4 years before I was born, that’s no time.
The last part of the afternoon we headed over to the East Side Gallery which I was very excited to see. It’s a mile long stretch of the Berlin Wall covered in Graffiti art by 118 different artists, from 21 different countries.
There’s such a diverse range of styles and images shown and I really enjoyed it. I took tonnes of photos and I’m going to use them to create a collage for that page of my scrapbook. I also got a load of inspiration for some paintings I want to do so I’m excited to get to work on them now I’m back.
And after this we saw the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower park. Again, it’s one of those huge and imposing statues Berlin seems to do so well – they just don’t do things on a small scale. I mean it’s a beautiful area and a very nice memorial, if a little more impersonal than some of the others that we saw, but it’s just so big!
Day 4: Tuesday
This morning we all headed over to the German Museum of Technology which from the outside looked a pretty huge building with a huge plane sitting on the roof and hanging out over the front – that was kind of cool.
Because we’re massive geeks we all headed straight up to the computer exhibit first which was pretty awesome. It had all this information on this German guy, Konrad Zuse, who created the world first programmable computer. It took you through his history and all the different computers he made from the Z1 and then as they got more and more advanced. It was really interesting.
After this I kind of split off from the group – I’m weird like that. Going to museums with others is great but I also love just going myself so I can do all the geeky things I want to do and spend as much time looking at things as I want and just being very uncool.
So after this I looked round a bunch of exhibits by myself – Textiles, Paper-making, Printmaking, Trains, Jewellery Making, Suitcase Making (Don’t ask, it was weird and just opposite the jewellery bit, I guess it was sort of interesting but also pretty strange…), Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals (which was really interesting), boats and planes.
I wish I’d had more time to look at the boats because they had this really cool section of model boats which, and this is really embarrassing for me to admit, but I absolutely love them! It started when I was a kid and I went to the maritime museum in Liverpool and I just fell in love with all the little boat models they had and all the detail that was put into them, I could spend hours looking at them. Anyway, that’s one of my geekiest confessions out there now…
So two of the most interesting bits were the Photography section and Film technology. They were both a lot of fun and really interesting and I could have spent hours in just those two parts.
Early afternoon we headed over to Postsdamer Platz to grab some food. I got a box of noodles with chicken and a curry sauce and it was so tasty!
Then we headed out and to the Sony Centre which has a crazy, impressive looking roof and it’s kind of huge! We even ventured into the Sony shop where I fell in love with a video camera and had my heart broken when I had to leave it behind.
We headed back to the hostel and then headed out for food. We ended up in this incredible Indian place where I had the tastiest curry! And then we headed out for a couple of drinks in a cute little pub (and I got asked for ID for the first time in Germany) and then to the bar next door for some incredible cocktails!
Day 5: Wednesday
In the morning we went to Topographie des Terrors which is a sort of history museum built on the site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters in Berlin. There was a crazy amount of information there about the history of the Nazi’s rise to power, what they did whilst in power and their downfall. It was really, really interesting but also pretty shocking in places.
Me and Dave were talking for a while about how, even though what the Nazis did was terrible and awful and should never ever happen again, how they did it and how they managed their image, particularly in the beginning, was fantastic.
After heading over to Postsdamer Platz again and had dinner and I had fish and chips with some of the tastiest chips ever. We then walked over to see the place where Hitler’s bunker was and then over towards Charlottenburg and saw Sophie Charlotte’s Palace – Charlottenburg Palace – which was intended to be a summer home for her. That in itself seems crazy considering how huge it is.
We didn’t go inside but we did have a walk around the gardens which were really pretty and ended up walking past the Belvedere as well.
In the evening we went to an incredible pub restaurant type place where beer was served by pumps in the table and you could just pour your own – the boys really liked that. I was mostly a fan of the fact that there were pugs everywhere. Also, the burgers were incredible. I had a chicken burger with bacon and parmesan and a caesar dressing. Potentially, the best burger I’ve ever had.
Then on to another bar near by, Palm Beach, that Sarah-Jane recommended. Yeah, the cocktails were tasty but the service was really slow.
After that we ended up in Dr Pong which is basically a grotty room with a ping pong table and an unlicensed bar. The most overrated place I’ve ever been. I think everyone was just in awe of the novelty of it all but, personally, not a fan.
Day 6: Thursday
After spending a big chunk of the morning queuing to register for the Reichstag, we went and picked up dinner food (including strawberry chocolate!) and headed over to the Olympic stadium from the 1936 Olympics.
The stadium itself is huge and in a lot of places just feels really imposing and a bit oppressive – like so many buildings from the Nazi Germany era. That said, the main stadium itself with the athletics track and everything is really awesome looking and really pretty. We also had a picnic in the stadium which was kind of cool.
After the stadium we headed back to the Reichstag. We got to go right to the top and into the Dome. There was even a really cool bit about the history of the Reichstag, like I had no idea that Hitler never actually entered the Reichstag – while he was in charge the government was based elsewhere.
In the evening we went to an asian restaurant where the food was pretty tasty although I was feeling really sleepy so I headed back to the hostel early and had a nice early night.
Day 7: Friday
James Deane arrived today! And Phil and Lauren.
They wanted to see a couple of touristy bits so me and Scott met them at the Brandenburg Gate. We all headed over to the aquarium but just me and Jamesy went in. It was actually really cool, the bottom floor was all fish and jellyfish and seahorses and underwater animals. The jellyfish were definitely my favourite to photograph! They just look so cool and the way they move around is incredible to watch. I loved the seahorses as well, they’re just so cute!
The second floor was all reptiles so there were a lot of cute little lizards and snakes and tortoises and animals like that. Again, it was really cool! A lot of the little lizards were coming right up to the glass so we were really close to them.
You know how in a lot of zoos and aquariums and things a lot of the animals, particularly reptiles, just sort of sit there, these were the complete opposite! So many were running around the tank, jumping through trees, eating things. One tortoise even tried running (very slowly)!
Then the top floor was insects and amphibians. So many frogs and toads which were my favourites here! I especially loved the green tree frog and all the poison dart frogs. The poison dart frogs are incredible because they’re so beautiful! They come in all different colours – these really vivid blues and yellows and reds, with black spots, although there are actually 175 different species of them so some look pretty different! They’re really brightly coloured so that other animals will see them and be like ‘Whoa… that’s bright, clearly poison. Better not eat you mate or I’ll be dead.’
Anyway, after the zoo we had some food and then headed over to meet Scott and the others to go on an underground tour. It was really interesting! They took us through all these underground bunkers and tunnels and told us all about people’s attempts to escape under the Berlin Wall via escape tunnels. It focused on people trying to escape through the sewers, via train-lines and by digging their own tunnels. It was about an hour and a half long and really, really interesting. Definitely one of my favourite things of the week!
When it ended, we came out near the Berlin Wall memorial so we walked down past that and had a read about some more things – we even saw the remains of some of the buildings that were inside the parameters of the wall. There was like a row of houses in this particular place and eventually the families who lived there ended up being thrown out of them, it was kind of sad.