Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

I can’t see a thing in the video. I can’t hear a sound on the radio. In stereo, in the static age.

I got up this morning a little earlier than usual.  The Reichstag opens at 8am and supposedly the lines get fair long and the waits excessive later in the day.  My common struggle to wake up in the morning meant I wasn’t there at 8am as I had hoped but was getting there at 8:30.  I have to say though that the wait later in the day must be shocking as it still took about 20 mins to get through security and up to the dome and this was way too early on a Sunday morning.  The Reichstag, which historically was the home of the democratic parliament of german, famously burnt down in 1933 and since reunification has once again become the home of the German parliament, is an impressive building.  The original stone facade and towers on the corners have been preserved but a brand new (and shiny) glass and steel dome and interior were completed at the turn of the millennium.  The dome gives great views of the city (although it was a little cloudy) but there is a really fancy and interesting audio guide provided for free that explains not only the history of the building but the parts of Berlin you can see. It was cool to see and learn about a landmark building for the history of Berlin and Germany and get a free view of the city from above all for the cheap price of free.



After the Reichstag I made my way over to something else that is free (there are an amazing amount of good, interesting and free things to do in Berlin).  I went to the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand or in English the German Resistance Memorial.  Set in the buildings where Claus von Stauffenberg and his fellow coup conspirators where executed in 1944 it tells the story of the limited resistance the Nazis encountered. (The story of von Stauffenbergand the coup was made into that rather poor Tom Cruise flick I saw earlier in the year Valkyrie)  This was an brilliant museum.  For starters on the 1st floor there was a moving temporary exhibit about life in Auschwitz on the first floor that was compiled by a group of young polish people and then there is a vast amount of rooms and exhibits on the second floor.  In each room there was a different topic, a raft of pictures and documents and mountains of text.  Unfortunately the text was solely in german but there was a well organised and intriguing audio guide available.  The audio guide didn’t explain everything in each room and skipped over some rooms but I think it would last for 10 hours if it did. In the end you can complete the place in 90 mins.  It does a great job of not only explaining and celebrating those who did act in resistance to the Nazis but it also explained the reasons (propaganda, ruthless suppression, etc) that the resistance movements in Germany itself were rather limited in spite of the horrors committed by the Nazis.  My favourite room was a small room where the walls were covered with real photos from the time.  On the top level were Nazi propaganda pictures and below were the realistic depiction of what life was like under the Nazi regime.

It was then time to buy one of my rare souvenirs (a little piece of the Berlin Wall) and then take my afternoon Third Reich tour which was again through the Sandemans NewBerlin group.  I will start off by saying I have done loads of tours since I left Australia.  I would hate to count exactly how many.  However, without a doubt this was the BEST.  It was absolutely brilliant. It was a paid tour and I still tipped Louis, the guide, well it  was that good.  (A short detour is that I think Louis is one of the best names a parent can give.  It is right up there with Joseph.  Why do I have this theory?  Well it is simple.  They are three names in one.  As a youngster they are “Louie” or “Joey”, then when they are middle aged they can become a “Joseph” or “Louis” and then finally when they are old and wrinkly “Old Man Joe” and “Old Man Lou”.  I am just saying…that’s a cool quality for a name to have!)

Anyway back to the brilliant Third Reich tour.  Easily the best aspect of the tour was our guide.  Louis was a ranting, energetic, interesting, knowledgeable and funny Englishman.  What more do you want from your guide on a tour?  He had studied German history (particularly world war 2) in Manchester and had moved to Berlin as a result of his interest and is currently completing a Masters about Nazi Germany.  This guy had a passion for the subject.  This guy knew his stuff.  This guy was even a good guide at organising the group, keeping people moving and balanced out the discussion throughout.  This guy was great.  I am sure the topic and walk itself would make it a 7 or 8 out of 10 tour anytime in my eyes but with Louis this was the only 10 out of 10 tour I have done.


So what did the tour cover.  Well for starters we learnt (and although there were no footnotes and references I trust Louis when he knows as much as he did) that the Hitler had one testicle myth has actually been proven in the last few weeks as a world war one injury report has been discovered that confirms he had to have one removed.  Now that’s a good start to the tour.  As we walked around Louis went on to explain why the Nazis started fighting the Russians (something I never knew), the details of the Russian liberation of  Berlin (something I knew little about particularly the tactics used as well as the well supported allegations of rape and other offences committed by the russian soldiers),  Goebbels horrific last few days where he and his wife murdered their six children, how the soldiers at the end of the War had been under 12 years of efficient and extensive propaganda by the end of the war(which is quite a bit for a 21 year old soldier fighting on the front lines) and much more all before the break.

After the break at a local kebab place we were walked through the topography of terror but Louis made sure to not cover details explained on the displays for people who have been or wanted to go, walked us through the jewish district and also discussed the allied “crimes” of  world war two (The bombing of Dresden) ensuring that we had some perspective as well as explaining the Neo Nazi situation.  It was a full on tour where even I (as someone who has a greater than normal knowledge of and interest in the topic) learnt a LOT of stuff.  My brain may now be full haha. Just a side note for me,  Louis recommended the book “Inside the Third Reich” by Albert Speerand the German movie Downfall.

Now I am going to rest my tired legs.  I am really feeling the effect of 6 weeks of solid travel with tired legs and also somewhat exhausted.  As much as I can’t wait for tomorrow and the next almost two weeks of travel.  I really am looking forward to getting home, seeing friends and family and just being a bit more relaxed (ie Lazy) for a while.


July 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments