Work trips. Free flights but no free time. Great meals but not necessarily great company. New places but little chance for new discoveries.
I love getting to travel for work, and I always try to carve out time to actually see something, but it doesn’t always pan out. My springtime trip to Berlin this year was pretty much that trip. Every minute spoken for, unscheduled meetings creeping into every 30 minutes of free time.. This left me with one free evening and a 40 minute morning run pre-airport taxi for my return to sunny NC. Still, it was something, and I think a got a little bit of the feel of the place, despite most of it being in the dark or the early morning hours.
My first chance to sightsee came around 9:00 pm after dinner. I seized the opportunity and began a two mile walk from the Hilton Berlin to the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer, the Berlin Wall Memorial. Beside it sits the Chapel of Reconciliation. To read about the Berlin Wall, this is a good option: History of the Berlin Wall. Standing next to the remains of the wall, I felt amazed that something could be built solely to immobilize a people; that 15 feet and some barbed wire can trap a city for decades.
The next evening I accompanied a colleague to a restaurant, and we strolled by the Berliner Dom, the Berlin Cathedral. It is the largest church in the city, and holds services, concerts, and tours. Underneath the cathedral, the Hohenzollerngruft, a crypt, is housed. There was a weddign taking place, and the sunny weather really provided a pretty backdrop.
Speaking of backdrops, behind the cathedral you can spot the Berliner Fernsehturm; a TV tower with a revolving restaurant at the top.
On my last day in Berlin, I started my run across from my hotel, at the Gendarmenmarkt. Here you get to view the French Friedrichstadtkirche, the Deutscher Dom, and the Konzerthaus. I didn’t have the opportunity to go into any of them, sadly. But you can tour the Friedrichstadtkirche, which is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday and which also houses musical performances. At the Deutscher Dom, you can tour the dome, the crypt, the organ, and the museum. Of course at the Konzerthaus they hold orchestral performances.
I then continued on my route to do a quick running tour of Checkpoint Charlie.
After Checkpoint Charlie I continued my run and headed past the Topography of Terror (it was not open), which documents atrocities committed during WWII. It is located on the site where the Gestapo, SS headquarters, SS Security Service (SD), and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Main Office for State Security) were situated.
I continued on to slow down (no running) and experience the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, on Cora-Berliner-Straße. The Field of Stelae, designed by Peter Eisenman, is haunting in its simplicity. The magnitude of the stones surrounding you grow as you pass by them, and in the deepest sections you feel quite lost, surrounded by blocks so massive and huge that you are nothing beside them. It is stark, and cold, and I felt alone, and small. I felt as if the memorial was memorializing the depth and scope of a loss so big as 6 million Jewish lives lost. Stone tombs in orderly lines, growing larger, and larger, and larger.
The Memorial was my last stop before heading back to the hotel and then the airport. It felt like an incomplete end, which might be exactly what is intended with a memorial such as this one. An open ending.