Berlin (May 9, 2017)

A 7:00 am walk-up call was a bit painful but room service softened the blow. We grabbed our hats, coats, and backpacks and headed for the assembly area at 8:30. Hundreds of us cruisers were headed to Berlin for the day, so a special train was parked at the dock poised to take all of us the 120 miles. It was a two and a half hour ride from the port of Warnemunde (677 nautical miles from Amsterdam) to the capital of Germany. Cookies and apples were offered straight away to tide us over until we got there. The ride took us through the countryside where we saw lots of rapeseed in bloom, quite a few wild turkeys pecking plowed fields, and a few deer. We met our bus and guide at Berlin Ostbahnhof, a very nice, new post-German unification train station.

Our guide was born in former East Germany and lived there until the Berlin Wall came down just before year’s end in 1989. She shared a few personal stories with us but we could have listened for hours and asked lots of questions had there been more time.

Our first stop was at a section of the Wall that has become an outdoor art gallery. Different panels are painted with different scenes, the most famous of which is titled the Fraternal Kiss where the leader of East Germany is mouth kissing the leader of Russia. We saw other sections of the Wall as we drove around the city, some painted, some drab concrete as it would have been back in the day, and some that has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that rebar was visible. In parts of the city where roads have been built where the wall used to stand, a two paver-wide strip has been laid into the road as a permanent reminder of the forced separation of the city from the end of WWII to the end of 1989.

Another sober sight were white metal crosses installed along the river as well as along certain fences to commemorate citizens who were lined up and shot for the crime of being born a Jew. There is also a monument that covers a city block and is comprised of cement block after cement block in the shape of unadorned sarcophagi.

Berlin is essentially a new city, especially on the former East side where, under communist rule, drab ruled the day. Construction cranes are visible everywhere. Hard to believe that the transformation has been going on since 1990. There are now beautiful monuments, ultra modern stores and restaurants, and lots of impressive government buildings, museums, and churches.

Checkpoint Charlie, one of three ways in and out of the former American sector, and the Brandenburg Gate were special stops for us since we had heard so much about them when we were living in Germany in the late 80s. We also drove passed the location where Hitler’s bunker used to be, where he and Eva Braun committed suicide.

Berlin has been transformed into a vibrant city full of things to enjoy. We left knowing we had barely scratched the surface. Our train ride back to the ship gave us a chance to discuss the events of the day with W&C and enjoy a boxed dinner. In spite of having had a great German lunch at a beer garden and dinner on the train, we headed straight for the buffet when we got back at 9:30. Shame on us!

Side bar: Matt and Murphy visited Berlin in October 1989 and had to
have been among the last Boy Scouts troops to visit the city since the
Wall came down the following month.


2 thoughts on “Berlin (May 9, 2017)

  1. We too visited Berlin early in 1989. The contrast of West and East was phenomenal, like black and white!!! The West was filled with life, music, color and happiness while the East was one color, drab. There were very few people in site and streets with barely any cars.


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