Our next stop on our road trip east was Berlin.
We found the capital of Germany (pop. 3.5 million) to be a very progressive, modern, clean city . . .
and the entire place was under construction.
This picture was taken as as we drove into the city. We were so surprised at how little traffic there was . . . at first. Eventually that changed and it took us nearly 2 hours to go about 2 miles.
We decided to take the "hop on - hop off" tour bus. We've done this a few times before and in a big city, it's hard to beat the convenience and the price - plus the bonus of a tour guide who speaks English!
This is in the center of a huge roundabout. It's called the Berlin Victory Column and was built in 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War. Prussia is more or less Germany before it was Germany. That's Victoria on top - Roman goddess of victory. Believe it or not, this thing actually stood elsewhere in the city and was moved to this spot in 1939.
This is the Berlin Parliament building or Reichstag. The term Reichstag isn't used by German parliament any more and it's known as the Bundestag - something akin to House of Representatives.
You can see people walking around in that glass dome. We didn't go up there. Probably should have.
You've probably heard of the Brandenburg Gate. This is it. It was built in the late 1700's as the "start of the road from Berlin to Brandenburg" - about an hour by car. It has been completely restored since, like most everything, it was heavily damaged in the war.
Of course, practically everything is new in Berlin because almost nothing survived the war, but they've mixed the modern with the classic when constructing new buildings.
This is the River Spree which runs through the city center.
We were not the only tourists that day - about 500,000 tourists visit Berlin every day. This is the Bellevue Palace and is the official resident of the German President - no, not Angela Merckel. She's the German Chancellor. Joachim Gauck is the President.
In addition to the Brandenburg Gate, you most certainly know of the Berlin Wall.
More on that later.
This is the gardens outside the Pergamon Museum. It's the most visited art museum in Germany.
Berlin has what is called "Museum Island" and this is part of it. It's a really beautiful area. This photo is taken early in the morning when most of the city was still asleep.
You can see it here in this aerial photo I found online.
Jim with a very large beer. It's a Hofbräu.
This is actually a very nice TV tower called the Fernsehturm (which is German for TV tower :)
We got up early and walked around as the sun came up. This is the Berlin Cathedral. It was originally Roman Catholic, but is now Protestant. Re-purposed, if you will.
It's been built, bombed, burned and rebuilt since 1445, but this particular building has been there since 1901.
I just liked this photo.
This is Checkpoint Charlie. The name given to the most well-known checkpoint between East and West Berlin.
The Berlin Wall. It's hard to believe this city was divided until 1989. Mauer is German for wall. FYI
Here's a map - thanks to Wikipedia.
"This flag is based on the fundamental thoughts of peace and unity of all . . ."
This is the part of the wall called the East Side Gallery. It's about one kilometer of art by artists from all over the world.
So why was there a "wall"? Its purpose was to keep people from East Berlin from crossing the border into West Berlin. Sadly, over 100,000 people tried to escape and more than 600 were shot and killed. Keep in mind this continued until 1989.
This painting is one of the more famous. It's by Russian artist, Dmitri Vrubel and depicts Leonid Brezhnev (head of the Communist Party from 1964 to 1982) and Erich Honecker (head of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany from 1971 - 1989).
As I understand it . . . at the end of WWII, the Allied powers - the U.S., Great Britain, France and Russia divided Germany into four zones. This same thing was also done to Berlin with a reunified Germany as the intent. However, the allied powers' relationship became divided and it came down to Democracy versus Communism.
The U.S., Great Britain and France combined to form West Germany and the Soviet Union occupied and formed East Germany.
Here's where it's gets more confusing - the same division happened within the city of Berlin. Because the city originally sat within the Soviet zone, West Berlin became a democratic island within Communist East Germany.
Anyway, it's all history now, thank goodness.
These huge billboards were everywhere and here's how they get there. What a job!
See that iPhone 6 billboard in the background? It's huge!
Oh, and . . .
Oh, and . . .
another construction site.
One of the hotels has an area where tourists can pay 3 euros for a bird's eye view so we did that.
Our timing wasn't perfect since the sun was shining really bright on that side of the building at the time.
So it was a little difficult to get really good, clear photos. It looks like there's smog, but it's not.
You can hardly tell from here that the whole place is under construction! But it is.
Why do we English-speakers call it Germany and the French call it Allemagne when the Germans call it Deutschland?
Well, first of all, Deutsch is German for the German language. Germans speak Deutsch. Basically there have been a lot of different tribes in the area now known as Germany. Whichever tribe people from surrounding areas were associated with is what they called the region. English speakers first heard of the Gaul tribe so English speakers call it Germany. French speakers called the people of the German region, Alemanni so they now call Germany - Allemagne, and so forth.
For a big city, it's really nice.