of Veterinary Medicine
On our own, we set out to explore Berlin in different groups. Five of us took a bus tour to see the sites. The City Circle Bus Tour was a hop-on/hop-off individual tour that made 16 stops around the city. We started at Checkpoint Charlie. President Kennedy ordered it built along with two other checkpoints, Alpha and Bravo, after the Berlin Wall was built. At the checkpoints, allied forces could enter West Berlin.
Residents of other countries could travel between East and West only through Checkpoint Charlie. It was the site of a stand-off between Soviet and U.S. tanks, visits by U.S. presidents, and escapes by East Berliners. Today, Checkpoint Charlie has a replica booth and sign, a brick outline where the wall once stood and a museum, Haus am Checkpoint Charlie.
Our first hop-off was at the East Side Gallery. At just over one half mile in length, it is the longest preserved section of the Berlin Wall. After the Wall fell, in 1989, hundreds of artists from all over the world came to Berlin to paint on the East side of the Wall. The East side couldn’t be touched while the Wall was whole. It was amazing to see these tributes to the people of Berlin and Germany. Being able to witness sections of the wall that shaped so much of Germany’s recent history was a powerful experience. The Gallery’s presence ensures that the Wall will not be forgotten or its history diminished. In the shadow of the 12-foot high wall, we tried to imagine what life was like for East Berliners.
Our second hop-off was at the Brandenburger Tor. It was built in the 18th century, originally the main entrance to Berlin, and part of a wall surrounding the city. Standing on the East side, it was a symbol of Germany’s division while the Berlin Wall stood because West Berliners could no longer travel through it. Communist East Germans draped red cloth over the gate for President Kennedy’s visit so he could not see beyond it or allow East Germans to see him. It was the site of President Reagan’s famous speech, asking General Secretary Gorbachev to ‘tear down this Wall.’ After the Wall fell, it became a symbol of its reunification. We could see the Reichstag from the gate. While the Wall stood, it was on the West side, also near the border, and empty. After the wall fell, the German Parliament was moved back to the Reichstag.We stopped at a flea market at Straße des 17 Juni. It was one of Berlin’s biggest flea markets with a lot of stalls and tourists. I found a porcelain cat sculpture made by famous artist Rosina Wachtmeister at a great price. Later, we had lunch at Restaurant LeBuffet at KaDeWe department store. The restaurant was at the Wintergarten on the seventh floor. It had a variety of food choices and a nice view of Berlin. We had a great time exploring a city with such a rich history. It was exciting to find remnants of every decade all over Berlin.
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