Travel Diary: East meets West

The final leg of our journey brought us to Berlin. With only a day and a half in such a big city, we chose another Hop-on-Hop off bus to see as many sites as possible, along with an extended stop at the DDR Museum of Berlin. The museum was fantastic – absolutely the most interactive museum we have been to, with exhibits allowing us to experience life in Soviet-occupied East Germany. This museum was informative and fun, and we all left with a better understanding of the politics, oppression, and daily reality of those living in East Germany and East Berlin prior to 1989.

Exploring the mock GDR apartment – complete with bedrooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen
Learning about the politics of the GDR.
Jake’s turn in the Trabant!

Our full day in Berlin was a whirlwind of places… Checkpoint Charlie (one of the most tense moments of the Cold War occurred here when Soviet and American soldiers stood their ground on either side of the line between East and West Berlin; had a single shot been fired, the threat of nuclear war loomed as a reality), Alexanderplatz (food and beer gardens!), Babelplatz (underground library memorial to the millions of books burned by the Nazi Regime), Potsdamer Platz (Embassy row and nearby memorial to the more than 6 million Jewish people murdered by the Nazi’s), remaining sections of the Berlin wall, and Brandenburg Gate (symbolic entrance to the city of Berlin and signified the separation between East and West during the Soviet occupation)… only to name a few.

Victory Column, Berlin
Berlin Koncerthaus (Opera House)
Part of the remains of the Berlin Wall.
Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe
Brandenburg Gate
National Art Museum, Berlin
Berlin Cathedral
Berlin Cathedral

All-in-all, Berlin felt a lot like a large Americanish City. Perhaps due to the many influences of the west during the 40-year occupation by American, British, French, and Soviet influences –  it was more of a melting pot similar to what we are accustomed to in North America. With several opera houses, musical venues, museums, high-end shopping, and countless restaurants with cuisine from around the world, it is likely very popular with city-savvy folk… AKA, not us Irvine’s ;).

As I write this, we are beginning the 5-hour drive to Frankfurt before flying home to Canada tomorrow. Tomorrow, we will wake up at 6 am on August 15th, and 16 hours later arrive in Calgary at supper time, also on August 15th, then drive the 1.5 hours home ;). We are expecting it to be a long day. Stay tuned!



2 thoughts on “Travel Diary: East meets West

  1. Joey Tipping

    An amazing, amazing, amazing adventure you all have had! You will be talking about it for years to come. Such a great history lesson for all, especially the boys. Your description of the Berlin leg of your tour was every bit as emotional to me as the war memorials in Belgium. Thank you so much for taking me along via email on your tour. I loved every minute of it and am grateful for your insightful and wise comments. You will be happy to be home again but the experience of your trip will live in your memories forever. Such a gift for your sons! Love to you all. Joey

  2. Hi Joey! It has been a fantastic experience for us all… I think it will take us quite some time to digest it all!! I could have said more about Berlin… I had no idea that the entire city of Berlin was so far within Soviet-occupied East Germany, leaving the tiny area of West Berlin a true island of freedom in a vast country. The wall not only blocked East from West Berlin, but also stretched around the perimeter of West Berlin as well… over 100 Km of barbed wire and trenches in modern day Europe! Unbelievable. We watched videos with the boys of Ronald Reagan’s speech on the steps of the Brandeburg Gate beseeching Gorbachev to open the wall, and it was surreal to have stood there ourselves. Modern day history is no less brutal or unbelievable than the atrocities that we shake our heads at from 100 years ago. Truly. Thank you for your comments. I always love to know that someone is reading!! 😉

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