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Autumn 2016 Travels in Europe: Checkpoint Charlie

Sunday, October 16, 2016 – Berlin, Germany

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What a wonderful two days so far in Berlin! There is much to do and see in this capital city of Germany. Wide boulevards, large platz (plazas) and much green space give the city an easy graciousness. The buildings are stately and grand. Everything is quite orderly. The River Spree runs through the city spanned by creative bridges, often with the intent to show the joining of the West to the East.
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Much history dominates and defines the city. While the recent history of World Wars I and II are alive in the city: ie, the rebuilt Reichstag (Parliament) with bullet holes still in the facade and with its rebuilt glass dome; the ruins of the Gestapo (Nazi secret police) building; remnants of the wall built by the Russian-backed East German government to keep people from escaping the tyranny of oppression; plaques on the ground where people died trying to cross the dividing line of the oppressive East to the free West, and Checkpoint Charlie, a visible reminder of the way station where people with proper identification could cross between West and East. Berlin, however, has an important distant history as well, where Kings and Kaisers helped shape modern day Europe. This distant history is alive in grand palaces and magnificent churches and world class museums.

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The Berliner Dom, an Evangelisch (Lutheran/Reformed) Church, is huge. An impressive multi- domed exterior and a gold and marble interior make it one of the largest Protestant buildings in the world. Its crypt is awe-inspiring; Kings (later Kaisers), Queens, Princes and Princesses are buried in beautiful bronze sarcophagi in orderly rows. Centered in the rear of the crypt is a large and beautiful statuary of an angel sitting on a stone slab with the script (in German), “He is not here…He is risen…,” in reference to the angelic announcement of the resurrection of Christ and in testimony to the royalties’ (mostly Lutheran) Christian faith. With all the tourists milling the crypt, it was eerily silent.

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The Reichstag dome is a wonder of glass and steel. We had an appointment to visit and went through the security process to enter. We walked the spiral interior walkway that curves its way upward until we reached the top platform where we received impressive views of the city. The center of the dome has a shard of reflective mirrors that reflect light into the German Parliament Hall below.

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We walked a great fair that was set up in the Alexander Platz. Requirements to set up shop must be stringent. Every tent was impeccable, and all tents matched. Interspersed were wooden shops in German country design. I could not resist a Thuringer bratwurst with spicy mustard on a hard roll, nor could I resist the dark chocolate-covered apple.

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We were happy to disembark our hop on, hop off bus at the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of the German nation. There were many protests going on. Sandra and I photobombed the Vegan demonstration. The rest of our group were like, “Really?!” I wanted to photobomb the Yemeni demonstration against Saudi Arabia, but everyone refused to take my picture. From the Gate, we strolled down Unter den Linden Boulevard, walking under the Linden trees, for which it is named, and past beautiful buildings. We stopped for pastries and hot chocolate before heading back to the hotel after a fulfilling day. WEG
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