December 1998

Checkpoint Charlie photo  1998 heiko burkhardt
Checkpoint Charlie
Photo courtesy Heiko Burkhardt
photo of Berlin Wall construction, 1961
Berlin Wall Construction, 1961
Photo of Brandenburger Tor, November 1989
Brandenburger Tor, November 1989

Berlin

I have decided to introduce my fascination with the Cold War to these pages, and which city is more associated in our minds with this darkest time in history than Berlin?

Now a (re)united city, Berlin is a both an historical and current destination. I'm not a "beach holiday" type of person; I liken my vacations to fact-finding missions. To this end, I have been doing a lot of research, finding many interesting web sites devoted to the traveller and history buff. To begin, we shall visit the most associated landmarks of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. I clearly recall early morning 10 November, 1989, awakening to BBC Radio 1 and hearing a very excited newscaster live from Berlin, describing the events as they were happening (the actual beginning of the end of the Berlin Wall started the previous evening, 9 November). I sat bolt upright in bed, scarcely able to believe what I was hearing, tears streaming down my face. It remains the most powerful world event of my life. If you are interested, you may view my fledgling collection of Cold War items here.

There are numerous web sites with travel information about this very large city and, in my opinion, few are more important than those dealing with transportation. Due to its size, one cannot traverse Berlin on foot. However, BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) can help you with everything from obtaining Visitor Cards to schedules and fares. This encompasses the U-Bahn, trams, busses and ferries. On a larger note, no other country can match Deutsche Bahn AG (DB) for rail travel schedules and fares, not only within Germany, but throughout Europe (note: can only calculate fares on journeys inside Germany, but excellent nonetheless). Additionally, let's not forget accommodation. Although Berlin can be expensive, I have found it much easier to find a reasonably-priced hotel room here than, say, London. The hoteliers I have been in contact with have been incredibly helpful and very friendly. HRS (Hotel Reservation Service) has an enormous and varied selection of hotels, and list any specials that may be available.

There are a wealth of historical sites to visit in Berlin, including the Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) and the site of Europe's formerly largest construction site, Potsdamer Platz (live cam). However, I would be taking on far more than is possible on this short page in trying to list everything. As fate would have it, though, I have done the research for you on places to go and things to see:

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