31-Days-of-Travel-in-Europe-PENSIEVEA crucial reality you have to come to come to terms with when traveling abroad is you can't do everything (I bet Rick Steves would back me up on this).  Accept this and you'll better enjoy what you do have the time and money to do.

Berlin is the perfect example; we had less than two days to squeeze in as much as possible.  Even if we had two weeks, I'm certain there would still be things left undone.  It's not easy to choose from the hundreds of pictures I've taken, but here's my attempt to share my favorite

Top Ten Things To Do in Berlin

1.  The Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Important, impressive and unexpectedly moving.  So much so I've already devoted an entire post to the Wall (be sure to click if you haven't, there's a good chance you'll see the Berlin Wall like you never have before!).


2.  Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate)

Brandenburg Gate statue ~

During our visit, Pariser Platz was partially blocked for the grandstands and screen set up for public viewing of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.

At Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

Located in Pariser Platz, the famed Brandenburger Tor is a first-visit must-see.  Designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans in the late 18th century, it was later topped with the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria (the Roman goddess of victory).  Throughout its history, the Brandenburg Gate has been a symbol for peace, victory, political party and reunification.  

It is where in 1987 President Ronald Reagan declared "General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

And, lastly and perhaps infamously (at least to Americans), it's where David Hasselhoff sang "Looking for Freedom" in 1989.  


3.  Holocaust Denkmal
(Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe)

 German Holocaust Memorial, Berlin

"…the design represents a radical approach to the traditional concept of a memorial…"

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Located between Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz and designed by New York architect Peter Eisenman, the Holocaust Memorial is a field of 2,711 stela set on undulating ground, the same length (7' 10") and width (3' 1") but with varying height. Though very different, its lack of convention reminded me of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and when I read Eisenman's words, I better understood his vision:

"The enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate … Our memorial attempts to present a new idea of memory as distinct from nostalgia … We can only know the past today through a manifestation in the present."


4.  Checkpoint Charlie


Checkpoint Charlie ~ Entering American Sector,

The photos of soldiers above and to the right are contemporary art; “Ohne Titel” (light boxes), Frank Thiel, 1998.  Said the artist, "…these portraits translate the omnipresent sector signs of the past – 'You are leaving the American/British/French sector; – into picture form. They are likewise a reference to the historical moment when Soviet and American tanks faced off against each other right here."

Entering the American Sector sign @ Checkpoint Charlie



Russian soldier photo at Checkpoint Charlie
Leaving American Sector Checkpoint Charlie Sign















5.  Outdoor exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie

Outdoor exhibition of Berliner Mauer at Checkpoint Charlie

Outdoor exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie, photo credit to berlin.deNow, THIS is a fantastic way to teach history in school:  a larger-than-life gallery of photographs and text of important events.  I'm borrowing a photo from the Berlin.de website that shows you what I mean; I'm kicking myself for missing the opportunity to take one.

It's right beside Checkpoint Charlie, impossible to miss.  I wanted to read and memorize every word.  Many of the images chosen for the exhibition are familiar, which makes this incredibly engaging.


Faceoff of American and Soviet tanks at Checkpoint Charlie

Soviet and American tanks face off against one another, October 1961.  (On display at Outdoor exhibition.)

Outdoor exhibition at Checkpoint Charlie




Yikes–this is getting long.  To make it easier for you to read (and for me to compile), I'm dividing my Top Ten Berlin list into two posts.  Be sure to subscribe in a reader or by email if you haven't; I've already begun the next list and you're going to want to see where we're headed!

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