By Jess in Minneapolis
The primary reason we were in Berlin last week was of course the Berlin Marathon. But post-race, we had a solid three days to explore this interesting city.
Monday morning, we were up early to walk over to the Reichstag building. If you recall, this building was close to the staging area before the marathon, so we had already taken a few pictures in front of it on race day.
Even though we had seen the outside of the building, we wanted the full tour. In order to do so, we had to pre-register to obtain clearance to visit. We had read that it could take over a week for an appointment, yet we heard back within twenty minutes that we were cleared. This could have been because we weren’t trying to visit on the weekend; I’m sure the weekends are much busier. You can register online, but you will need your passport to register, and to obtain entry.
“The large glass dome at the very top of the Reichstag has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main hall of the parliament below can also be seen from inside the dome, and natural light from above radiates down to the parliament floor. A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight which would not only cause large solar gain, but dazzle those below.” source
We both thought that tour was very well done. We had English audio guides that were activated by a GPS system, meaning it would begin discussing whatever item of interest you were facing, etc. The glass dome was really cool, and the 360 degree views were amazing.
After the Reichstag tour, we went on our way to explore more of the city. We saw a lot just by walking around and occasionally popping onto the U-bahn, which was pretty easy to understand. Eventually, we made our way to Checkpoint Charlie. Checkpoint Charlie, or Checkpoint “C” was the name given to the Berlin wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War. This crossing became synomous with the Cold War, as Allied troops faced off with Soviet troops here during the Berlin Crisis of 1961.
Checkpoint Charlie is now a tourist attraction, with actors dressing up as soldiers for pictures. Honestly, there were definitely a lot more interesting things to see in Berlin, so if you’re pressed for time, I don’t think Checkpoint Charlie is a must-see.
We then explored the Topographie des Terrors, a museum alongside a remaining part of the Berlin Wall. This site was remarkable because of the Berlin Wall, but it was also the headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS, and the Reich Security Main office.