Finding that bit of the Berlin wall in Tirana makes for the perfect transition to our recent Berlin weekend break.
Our Berlin stories.
Thursday 22 June 2017
We left home fairly early and made our way to London City Airport – destination Berlin.
Flying from City was on Andy’s list. It is our nearest airport and it seems ridiculous that we never make use of it. Especially when you can be in a place like Berlin in no time (we were in the air for an hour and twenty minutes).
I guess we just needed an excuse!
We landed at Tegel and got the bus TXL to the terminus, Alexander Platz. From there, we got the metro U5 towards Hönow and got off at Frankfurter Tor.
Our airBnB apartment was located minutes from the station, in Friedrichshain. The views from the windows are exceptional, looking out towards the towers of Frankfurter Tor (formerly Stalin-Allee & Karl-Marx Allee). It doesn’t get any more East Germany than this.
“The building of the apartment is a historical monument. It was built in the 50s together with the avenue Karl-Marx Allee (in the past called “Stalin Allee”). In the GDR it was a very significant and monumental avenue. The building has a special glamor of spy movies of the Cold War.” (From our host).
We dropped our bags and headed out to lunch.
The neighbourhood’s friendly and just on the right side of trendy. After a tasty lunch at Aunt Benny (a lovely place with delicious coffee, minimalistic interior and friendly service), we shopped for supplies and made our way back home.
And then it rained. Heavy rain.
So we staggered our journey back to the flat, taking regular shelter in doorways. We had checked the weather forecast so often leading up to the weekend, and rain hadn’t really been part of the agenda. Oh well.
Waiting for the rain to ease up, we finalised our itinerary for the forthcoming days. And ventured out again mid-afternoon.
We started with a walk along ‘Karl-Marx Allee’. This boulevard is allegedly 89 metres wide and two kilometres long (we’re not convinced). The style is over the top socialist classicism. The buildings are impressive.
From there, we headed towards the Spree River where we walked along the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall (1.5 kms). And it’s incredible what memory does to you. Straight away, footage from 9 November 1989 came to mind. These were incredible scenes. History in the making, and here we were… at the wall.
The East Side Gallery – as that stretch of the wall is known – is an open-air gallery. Over 100 artists from all over the world were invited to paint a section of it. The most famous section of it all is probably “The kiss of death” with Brezhnev and Honecker kissing.
We walked across the Oberbaumbrücke – the bridge connects Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg, two districts formerly divided by the wall. Architecturally, it’s an old interesting bridge, made a lot more interesting for serving as a pedestrian crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. We spent ten minutes or so walking about what was West Berlin, and retreated to the East.
Walking back towards our apartment, we stopped at Hops and Barley for a swift pint of incredible craft beer. ‘We’re coming back here, right?’, asked Andy. Oh yes. Definitely.
Dinner was a quick affair at Il Ritrovo – dead cool waiters and tasty pizzas – before our next date with history.
We made our way to the Olympiastadion, about 40 minutes away. This is very much a modern stadium now; one of the world’s top entertainment venue. But there is some murky history there.
Walking past the Olympic rings, we went in and took our seats (thankfully covered). The sky darkened. There was lightening in the sky followed by thunder. Rain fell hard.
It didn’t matter much… because when Depeche Mode are on stage, little else matters.
Now, I would happily have brought the day to an end here, but Andy asked me to expand on the concert… so here goes. The set was pretty much the same as the one we had on London a few weeks ago with just one different song. The crowd was mental, the way Depeche Mode fans are pretty much everywhere in the world apart from the UK. And consequently, the band had fun.
We got away from the stadium quickly considering how many people were about, and got a couple of metros back home. A few people in our carriage were very soggy. Soaked through. Yet everyone was buzzing.