It might be a bit nerdy, but I love taking walking tours through European cities, like Madrid. I absolutely adore hearing how each one of them single-handedly ended WW2, or how they fought the most important battle of the war. I leave each city a believer in how strong the citizens are. Berlin was no different, except I had a walking tour that brought tears to my eyes. This is one example of why you should take a walking tour in Berlin. Hope you are ready for a history lesson!
Because I am from the U.S. and WW2 wasn’t fought in my hometown or state for that matter, it seems far away, and like it was a long time ago. Being in Berlin, it was a big reminder it wasn’t that long ago at all. Our guide was magnificent, although not German (most guides are Australian or English travelers trying to make a few bucks), she told various stories about how the wall came down and about lovers separated and reunited again. She told us clever ways Germans used to get past the wall. Some of the love stories were so tragic I cried (but keep in mind a good commercial can make me cry, it doesn’t take much).
She took us to a parking lot and said, “This is where Hitler died”. Berlin thought he deserved a parking lot over his burial site, instead of a tombstone. There were no signs or any indication that this was where his life ended.
where hitler died, a parking lot
One part that really caught my attention was the square, Babelplatz where they burned 20,000 books by greats like Marx and Freud. Having been a huge fan of the book, The Book Thief, it was very sad to see. Next to the space that commemorates the books burnt is a quote from well before the Holocaust occurred.
“That was only a prelude, there where they burn books, they burn in the end people.” -Heinrich Heine (1820)
the space commemorates the 20,000 books burnt, to the right is the original quote
Mother with her dead son’ a sculpture that is a memorial to the victims of fascism and militarism
On a softer note, she also showed us where Michael Jackson dangled his baby out the window. Yikes.
We wandered through the huge blocks at the Holocaust Memorial, which I was bothered to see kids sitting on and smoking weed. She took us through areas in which old buildings have bullet holes from the war. We saw old checkpoints for the wall, and propaganda from Hitler that was used against the German people.
Nazi propaganda- what they wanted the German’s to think life was like, painted on a wall
on the ground, in front of the propaganda wall, a photo of what life was REALLY like
I consider myself a history fan, although my lack of long-term memory means that if you ask me a question I’ll likely not be able to remember what I was taught. These walking tours make it nearly impossible to forget because you’re seeing it with your own eyes and the stories get stuck in your head. I recommend being a nerd in each European city and letting someone guide you through a tour. They may be free, but remember to tip whatever you think that tour was worth! If you’re not as into history you could consider a street art in Berlin tour or even a food tour.
look at all those bullet holes!
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Been to Berlin in December and I walked through the city for 3 days visiting different places. It was a great lesson of history and yes, it was absolutely worth going there.
agree! hope you had a great christmas as well agness!
I totally love doing walking tours as they are affordable or even free and you get to know the history and some cultural backgrounds of the city and that’s great especially in cities with such important histories. I can also recommend the Alternative Tour in Berlin (http://bit.ly/18O1lRY) if you are into arts. It brings you to a lot of art centres within the centre of Berlin and I really loved these spots. I didn’t know them before even though I have spent quite a few days of my life in Berlin.
thanks for the advice, i’ll have to check that out next time!
A walking tour of Berlin sounds like a great idea for the very reason you described – it’s such an important and historical city that it helps to have someone explain the points in digestible, bite-size chunks. I’ve been to Berlin twice, and LOVE it more each time I go but I also get a niggling feeling at the back of my head that’s itching to know more about the ins and outs of its history pertaining to WWII – it looks like I’ve found my answer. Thanks :D
OH great! with an interest in WWII you’ll definitely love the tour! It was my favorite part about Berlin
Enjoyed reading your blog but please stop referring to yourself as a nerd for enjoying history – patronising
hmm.. I’ll keep that in mind Pete
Hey, Rachel – loved the stories and the pictures. I live in Berlin and didn’t know some of these details!
Here’s another walking tour recommendation for the next time you’re in town. It’s centered on local food (but there’s lots of history and interesting stories along the way!) eat-the-world has four walking tours in different neighborhoods of Berlin. You can find more info here: http://bit.ly/1dPanje Would that be your cup of tea?
When I finally make it back I’ll have to check that out!
I think I went on the exact same walking tour with school! I remember telling the guide that room filled with light for the lost books was bad for the environment and he should think about the polar bears not the books.. ha. I loved the Book Thief too! We are heading back to Berlin this weekend and I think we’ll go on the tour again, but this time not hassle the tour guide..
Hope you enjoy the tour a second time around!
Hi there, we’ll be in Berlin this fall. I was wondering what was the name/company of the free walking tour that you did in Berlin?