The Brandenburg Gate is perhaps one of the best known architectural monuments in all of German. It's a beautiful 19th century stone structure that was built to commemorate Prussian victories over their enemies and was originally named, ironically, the Peace Gate. It
was incorporated into the infamous Berlin Wall during the years of the Cold War, but is now a stand-alone structure again.
Berlin was a surprisingly easy town to navigate on foot. A brief walk from the Brandenburg Gate took us to the Reichstag, Germany's new Parliament building, moved from Bonn after the Reunification of East and West Germany. It was a stunning building mixing elements of the older classical architecture with the very modern
new dome seen rising from the top. You can also make out the 3 hour queue to get in for a tour of the building.
I had the supreme pleasure of being accompanied and guided throughout Berlin by
my Quest colleagues, Christiana and Timo. Timo, who stands 6'4" and is rather slender, bears a striking resemblance to Shaggy, if you ask me. Christiana's parents had lived in Berlin at one time, so she knew the place really well. They both took pains to explain German customs and
sayings, as well as pointing out good food and history of the locals. And of course, we drank LOTS of good German beer.
I found it rather hard to get over the German habit of not running the AC. Of course, I understand that summers there are unreliable and can be quite cool. In some ways, it's a lot like summers in the USA in states like Wisconsin or Minnesota, where many people still buy cars
without air conditioners. But I never really got used to the Germans even carrying coats with them and undressing/dressing for whatever the temperature might be.
Of course, no visit to Berlin is complete without a visit to the old Cold War vestiges such as Checkpoint Charlie and the few remaining chunks of the Berlin Wall, which are mostly sites for murals these days. We also visited a lot of museums and monuments, and basically wore our feet out trapsing all over the city.
One of the really fun idiosyncracies of Berlin are the East Berlin traffic crossing lights. The little men on the lights have very conspicuous noses and hats. Too cute!