Archive for the ‘reichstag’ Tag

Berlin – Spandau, Tiergarten & Potsdamer Platz   10 comments

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Our last day in Berlin and we headed to the suburbs. My guide-book said Spandau was nice so that was our first port of call

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We found the castle after wandering through some industrial complexes. It did look rather nice but it reminded me of Caerphilly Castle in South Wales. All the photos you see make it look the castle is out in the countryside, surrounded by fields and accompanied by the chatter of birdsong. Th reality is that both castles are smack in the middle of industrial towns and the only noise was traffic

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We had a wander about but had no real enthusiasm for another castle and tried to find a way across the river/lake into the town.

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The only way was over the busy road bridge and it was beginning to feel like Spandau might be a little over-rated. When we found the town our impression was confirmed. Pleasant enough, a couple of interesting buildings, but nothing remarkable. It was just an ordinary town with ordinary shops and restaurants. It reminded me of Hereford where I was heading the day after.

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Not really what we wanted and we were soon back on the S-Bhan heading into the city. Considering we’d had 3 weeks of exploring, having one slightly disappointing experience among everything else we’d done wasn’t a bad return

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We pitched up in Europa Park and I took TJS and TBF up on onto the roof of the mall to see the monkeys

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After a good lunch we took a stroll around. It’s not one of Berlin’s better known areas but I really liked it

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This is the very odd but likeable Wasserklops or Water Meatball Fountain in Breitscheid-platz

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Again for no apparent reason I really liked it

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No idea what this equally weird sculpture is. I almost got run over (again) taking the photo

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This is the weird “Flow of Time Clock” by Bernard Gitton

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We headed back towards the city on foot through the vast Tiergarten park. Crossed by lakes and waterways and a vast network of trails it was a relaxing way to work off lunch

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We emerged in the middle for a view of the Siegessaule Monument or Victory Column. Another fearless venture into fast-moving traffic to get this shot

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You can climb to the top but I had a better idea for city-wide views

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We continued on through the park before emerging back into the urban world at Potsdamerplatz

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It was such a clear and sunny day I thought another tower-top view was in order so we headed up Europe’s fastest lift to the Panaroma-punkt viewing platform

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The views were better than the Fernsehturm as you were outside, albeit peering through a metal grille. A view out over the Sony Centre and Tiergarten

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West Berlin

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The Daimler Centre

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Panorama shot west to east

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The Holocaust Memorial

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The Reichstag

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East Berlin

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Leipziger Platz. The death strip ran right through here

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South West panorama

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If you pay someone some money they take you up in this balloon. Views must be superb but you have to suffer the ignominy of being associated with one of the worst movies of all time!

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The Berliner Dom and ever present tower crane. Berlin will be great when it’s finished

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The Fernsehturm tower

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Brandenburg Gate

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Siegesaulle Monument

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Looking to the base of the Deutsche-Bhan  Tower

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Cracking views to end the day, nearly.

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The Funsters needed an ice cream fix but the Sherpas had a last couple of historical sights to bag, tucked away among the towers and suburbs

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Along a tree-lined back street and hidden to the extent you’d miss it if you didn’t know it was there is an old Berlin Wall watch tower

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No idea why they left this one standing but it’s quite an unusual thing to see among banks, skyscrapers and shopping malls

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A short walk away is this famous car park. Well obviously it’s not the car park that’s famous but what used to be here

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It’s the site of Hitlers Bunker. The place where he committed suicide when all his plans went pear-shaped. At the end of the war it was detonated and buried but its been excavated and re-buried a couple of times since. This sign is all there is to remind us of the evil that took place down there

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We wandered back to collect the Funsters. The towers of Potsdamerplatz were looking majestic in the late afternoon light

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The one on the right below is the Panorama-punkt tower we were on earlier

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We headed back to the apartment, packed, had a nice Italian meal down the road and that was that for our visit to Berlin. You can probably tell from the tone of the posts and my comments that Berlin was fulfilling rather than the same love I had for the other cities. To try to compare Berlin to say, Rome is rather unfair. Both are completely different in style and history. I can be certain in saying I’m equally glad I went to both. Berlin provided a stark contrast to the Italian cities and some lessons in modern history that everyone should be aware of and learn from. Like all the other cities I’d happily return to Berlin, it’s just that I’d rather re-visit the others first

Just one more city and one more post to conclude the journey

 

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Berlin – Fernsehturm   12 comments

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As you can probably tell I like views over the cityscapes from tall buildings and Berlin has one of its own, the Fernsehturm or TV Tower. Its 368m high and built by the DDR in 1969 as a demonstration of the DDR’s strength and technological prowess

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The viewing platform is inside the 4800 tonne sphere at 203m and its design is inspired by the space race of the 1960’s. It was originally supposed to be built in one of the city parks on the outskirts and was was actually under construction until some bright spark realised it would be on the flight path of a planned airport at Schonefeld!

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The views are all from inside (hence the strange grey/green tint to the images) but it was all really well done (if a bit crowded). At every window was an information board pointing interesting buildings and their history

A view over old East Berlin

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This hotel next door is famed for BASE jumping off the roof on weekends although we never saw any while we were there

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Karl Marx Allee. This was the main road in the DDR days and if you ever recall sights of military processions of armies and tanks in East Germany this was the street they paraded down

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The pink building is the Alexa Shopping Mall and the red roof building the Stadtgeticht Museum

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The River Spree and South Berlin

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The Altes Stadthaus, old home to the German Senate

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City Hall (Rathaus – I love that word)

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The Nikolaikirche and 13th century church, destroyed in WWII, now rebuilt as a concert venue

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South West Berlin

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Over West Berlin to Potsdamer Platz

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The Berliner Dom

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The distinct green copper dome of St Hedwigs Cathedral

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A close up of Potsdamer Platz towers

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The Reichstag

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Beyond to the massive Tiergarten park

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A zoom shot of the neighbourhood where we stayed

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Brandenburg Gate

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Grosser Stern Victory Column

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The Hauptbahnhoff station

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The rebuilt Jewish Central Synagogue

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A sunnier view of the Potsdamer platz area

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And a very distant shot of the Olympic stadium

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We spent a happy hour up here admiring the views. We’d booked online to avoid queues but there was no need. Downside was you can’t pick the weather in advance and we’d have been better waiting for a clearer day. We enjoyed the visit though.

The lift has a glass roof so you can see the shaft as you ascend and descend which I though was rather neat

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A video here that doesn’t really capture it but thought I’d share it any way

 

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Time for lunch and for me and TJS a chance to try a “local delicacy” – Currywurst. Basically a sausage covered in curry sauce. Very nice in a junk food sort of way.

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These guys are everywhere as well. Basically selling hot dogs from a gas burner strapped to their chests. SCUBA – Self Contained Underpaid Bratwurst Apparatus!

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TJS and TBF went to look around the DDR museum but TJF was feeling a little under the weather so we took a bus down to Europa Centre at the far end of the Tiergarten

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There is a shopping arcade called the Bikini Mall (supposed to look lime a bikini but neither of saw the resemblance). What it does have is nice a roof top terrace that overlooks the zoo with a free view of the monkey enclosures

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The area was Berlin’s first modern skyscraper development. We paid another visit a couple of days later

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On the bus ride back I saw my first “beer-bike”.

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Popular with the stag and hen do fraternity you pedal while the proprietor steers and a barman serves you drinks on board. A very short video showing one in action

 

We met up with the others and decided to take TJF back to the apartment to rest up

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Plenty of day left though and more Berlin to see….

Berlin – Reichstag   14 comments

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The Reichstag is one Berlins most famous and iconic buildings and has been the home of the German Parliament since 1999

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It’s free to enter and climb the dome if you book a ticket online so we did just that and took our cue on time in the late afternoon

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A glass lift whisks you to the roof of the main building on top of which is the glass dome designed by the famous architect Sir Norman Foster in his overhaul of the building after the fall of the wall. They provide you with a free audio commentary that helps understand the design and function and the views across the city

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The dome is there as a visual metaphor for the new open-ness and transparency of German politics. The main plenary chamber sits right beneath the dome. The views as you climb are excellent

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There is a spiralling ramp that ascends to the top allowing plenty of time to look at the views from all sides. I really liked the design and the idea behind it.

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The top is open with an oculus much like the one in the Pantheon in Rome. Rain water is dispersed by a clever system of ducts and sunlight is harnessed for energy by a rotating mechanism that tracks the movement of the sun

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Once back down from the dome the views from the roof terrace are equally fine

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The building was completed in 1894 and was the home of the German Parliament until 1933. Its had a role in most of Germany’s most famous and infamous moments. The German Republic was proclaimed from here in 1919. More infamously the Nazis seized power, using a mysterious fire in the building, on 27th February 1933, as a pretext. An anarchist was arrested for arson although that in itself was shrouded in mystery. The Nazis proclaimed that this was a part of a large-scale communist conspiracy and implemented the “Reichstag Fire Decree” that led to civil rights being quashed and widespread political persecution.

It was a pivotal moment in Hitler’s power grab and modern history. We all know what followed

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Victorious Red Army troops raised the Soviet flag over what was the bombed out building at the end of the war. The Berlin Wall ran right alongside the eastern facade and major pop concerts took place on the lawns in front. After the wall came down German reunification was enacted here in 1990 although the building was still largely a shell.

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In 1995 work began on a complete overhaul of the building, led by Sir Norman. Only the original 19th century shell and facade remained, while the inside was completely rebuilt and the landmark glass dome added

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We spent a happy half hour wandering about the roof and admiring the views of both the dome and city beyond

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The glass offices of Potsdamer Platz in the distance

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Brandenburg Gate

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The Fernsehturm tower behind a building that despite dominating the skyline, I never found out what it was

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We headed out toi take another look at the Main Facade. The inscription over the main entrance reads “Dem Deustchen Volke” – To the German People although this wasn’t added until 1916

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A hugely impressive building of huge historical significance. I’d happily see it again although I’d like to go on an organised tour that I think allows you to peek in to the Bundestag Plenery chamber if it’s not in session

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A nice evening stroll back to the apartment along the river Spree

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And a couple of shots of our local neighbourhood

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And the street where we lived (for a few days)

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A lot packed into our first day in the city

 

Berlin – Historic Mitte and Around   10 comments

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On to the last major city of our trip. Another sleeper train but a much better experience this time. Fuelled by more chimney cake from station kiosk, ready a few (worrying!) minutes before the train departed

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The train left on time and arrived on time. We had a nice leisurely evening watching the stations roll by before turning in for a proper night’s sleep

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Arriving bleary eyed but excited in a new city

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The huge and magnificent glass palace that is Berlin Hauptbahnhof

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The apartment was still being cleaned but the owner kindly let us use the facilities and dump our bags so we could do a bit of sightseeing. We were close to the historic quarter so we headed there along the Spree river

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First stop was the Reichstag building.

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One of Berlin’s most famous landmarks but more on that in a later post

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We were heading for the Brandenburg gate we passed this memorial to the Sinti and Roma gypsies murdered by the Nazis. Just a simple pool and fountain with a fresh flower laid every day. One of the list of Nazi crimes that I wasn’t aware of. It became a regular theme of our stay in Berlin, a city recovering from an association with the darker parts of history

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The Brandenburg Gate was built in 1791 as a triumphal arch based on the Acropolis in Athens.

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It was the heart of the city then and still to an extent is now with the Reichstag on its doorstep and several embassies around Pariser Platz where it sits. Its one of the city’s most recognised landmarks

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The sculpture on the top is the Quadriga, the winged goddess of victory, her chariot and four horses. Napoleon stole the statue after one his Prussian victories but it was liberated and returned by a Prussian general a few years later

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As an aside my guidebook said we should check out the DZ Bank Building with its free-form sculpture and glass atrium

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The metal sculpture is actually a meeting room

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Pariser Platz with Under den Linden stretching away into the distance

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Into the dark past again with a visit to the Holocaust Memorial. Its official name is the Denkmal fur die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe). Over 6 million people were mercilessly slaughtered.

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This is the descriptive text from my guide-book:

“For the football-field-size space, New York architect Peter Eisenman created 2711 sarcophagi-like concrete stelae (slabs) of equal size but various heights, rising in sombre silence from undulating ground

You’re free to access this massive concrete maze at any point and make your individual journey through it. At first it may seem austere, even unemotional. But take time to feel the coolness of the stone and contemplate the interplay of light and shadow and then stumble aimlessly among the narrow passageways, and you’ll soon connect with a metaphorical sense of disorientation, confusion and claustrophobia.”

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As I walked around with the family in silence I felt that disorientation mentioned above. It also entered my head as whether this was right sort of monument and indeed more pertinently whether there is any monument that can in any way represent the senseless murder of so many people

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The photos can’t really give the same impression as being there and making you think about what group of people can coldly and calculatingly do to another. I read that many Nazi officers spent hours working on plans and strategies to make the slaughter more efficient, how they could maximise the number of people murdered on a daily basis. I still cannot make the mental connection as to how anyone intelligent rational individual could think like that. Chilling.

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After sombre reflection and discussion among the family we decided we couldn’t face the excellent underground exhibition just now. We had a very fine brunch on Unter den Linden before walking down towards Alexanderplatz past the statue of Frederick the Great

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This is one of the buildings of the Humboldt University. Marx and Engels studied here and Einstein taught here. This building is locally known as the Chest of Drawers. Lenin did some of his study in this place.

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The Schlossbrucke Bridge

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The Berliner Dom Cathedral with the Fernsehturm Tower alongside, a nice mix of old and new

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Stepping over the Schlossbrucke effectively takes you on to an island in the Spree. The island is home to a collection of major museums that give the island its name Museuminsel. This one is the Altes Museum, home to Greek, Roman and Etruscan artefacts

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This is the Pergamonmuseum home to Ancient world and Egyptian treasures

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And the Bodemuseum with its medieval sculptures

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The museums are world renowned and a couple of days of your time to see them properly. Not reall our things so we wandered back along the river to the apartment to settle in

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Afterwards, time for a proper look at the Reichstag

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