Having a large latte macchiato on Wednesday morning, looking out the window and seeing the groups of tourists running down the street with umbrellas and ponchos, there was no question that I would be spending my day sampling Berlin’s finest museums. I was like a spoilt child, naughtily indulging myself as to what I would like to see. I restrained myself to only two museums. Tränenpalast, also known as ‘The Palace of Tears’ and The Checkpoint Charlie Museum.
The Tränenpalast museum is quite small and just outside Friedrichstrasse train station but filled with a real visualisation into the life of East and West Berliners during the Berlin Wall. My favourite section was the suitcase displays, showing real stories of escapees from East Berlin to West Berlin complete with artefacts of their lives. Another great part of the museum is the film reel. This collection of films are at certain points of the wall’s gestation and you hear both perspectives from East and West Berlin. There is also an original checkpoint booth which you can walk through. The reason why the museum is named ‘The Palace of Tears’ is because Friedrichstrasse station is where East Germans said goodbye to visitors going back to West Germany. Oh! And you get to experience this wonderful museum for free!
(Top: An interview with a border patrol officer with signs from the crossing.
Bottom Left: Suitcase life story. Bottom Right: Photograph of women having an emotional goodbye)
Going to Tränenpalast before Checkpoint Charlie gave me a real emotional insight into the day to day operation of the Berlin Wall. Checkpoint Charlie is the name given by the allies to the most famous crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.
(Top Left: Checkpoint Charlie booth. Top Right, Bottom Right & Bottom Left: Signs from Checkpoint Charlie which are now preserved in the museum)
There was quite a lot of dense text for those who maybe didn’t do History past Year 9 to give them a real understanding to the state that Berlin was in post World War II. Having studied German History all the way up to and inclding my University Undergraduate Degree, I wanted to explore the everyday stories, like my experience at Tränenpalast.
Over the gestation of the Berlin Wall, 239 people were shot trying to escape from East to West Berlin. The creativity people went to was incredible. One such story is that of this woman who smuggled herself in two suitcases. She was crammed into this small space, waiting for 70 minutes whilst border patrol searched the car before being allowed to pass through to the West.
(Photo of a woman being smuggled across the border in two suitcases)
The museum is quite vast, spanning 3 floors. It even had a section around Germany’s support towards its neighbouring countries following the collapse of communism and the change of Eastern Europe. There is not a corner of this museum that isn’t filled with an interesting story, artefact or painting. There are also sections of the Berlin Wall in the museum as well if you don’t have time to experience the East Side Gallery. It is not a cheap museum to visit, at €14.50 but you definitely get bang for your buck and as I said before, caters to all demographics and expertise on the subject matter.
Between these two museums, they are quite emotionally draining hearing about the struggles this city has faced over decades. The remainder of my day was spent buying last minute souvenirs and writing postcards for my nearest and dearest and then I relaxed at the Hotel pool and went for a swim and sauna. After I had dried off, I had a cheeky cocktail or two in the Hotel’s Piano Lounge and then hit the town for another scrumptious dinner. What a way to end my holiday!
(Some photos of the Hotel Piano Lounge and Terrace)
To conclude reader, I would like to share a quote with you that perfectly sums up my brief time in this wonderful city
“Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.” – David Bowie
(Writing some Postcards to my nearest & dearest before going home)
Have you ever been to Berlin?
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