Visit to Berlin - September 2014

President Venn declares "Ich bin ein Berliner"

Well, what a trip! Berlin is steeped in ‘ancient and modern’ history and our visits to many historical locations were thought provoking and sobering. We stayed in a splendid hotel where bacon and eggs, cold meats, cheeses, cereals, fresh fruit, bread and much more ensured a good start to the day. Most impressive was the Fellowship. It was brilliant to note how we all watched out for each other. It was pleasing to note that the veterans of Bonn, St. Lo and Krakow were joined by a number of newer members and their partners. Thank you to everyone for making the event so successful. Particular thanks, of course, to Dick and Megan Bailey. We must not underestimate the time and effort involved. His attention to detail was remarkable. Many thanks to our excellent leader.

 

 

Flight to Berlin – Maurice Lamb reports.

We joined the white motor coach at 1415 for the journey to John Lennon Airport via Chester, hindered only by a diversion. Sweets were passed around and the countryside observed in the harvest mode. Inside the airport it was up and down, boarding passes, luggage gone, up to Security, then to the bar for refreshments and shopping, all watched by a hologram of a girl promoting socialite cigarettes.  At the departure gates we were delayed because on the incoming flight a lady had been injured by luggage from the overhead locker. The wait was warm and oppressive, but just half an hour late we joined the 1810 hours Easy Jet flight to Berlin. Dick found our transfer coach on a wet car park. We boarded, put our watches on an hour and were driven to the Hotel Tiergarden in time for bed albeit one or two found the energy to have a nightcap! What will tomorrow bring!

 

Day 2: The Berlin of WWII – Peter Seaward

A bright morning saw us up for breakfast in a crowded room with some of our American cousins. Schnell! Schnell! – Appel! - the cry of our team leaders as they checked us onto the coach for the WWII tour. First to the Reichstag. Its reconstruction led by architect Norman Foster following its almost total destruction when the Red Army reached Berlin. Originally with a flat roof, a dome was added enabling the public to view Parliamentary sessions.  A short journey found us on the west side of the Brandenburg Gate. Passing under the gate towards Unter den Linden we turned back to look at the Quadriga, a symbol of peace looking eastward. In the distance we could make out the Siegessaule, the column in the Tiergarten topped by the goddess of Victory who is looking westward.

Next to the Holocaust Memorial, 2,700 identical blocks set at different heights and angles – compelling to walk amongst and a chilling reminder of the chimney stacks of Auschwitz seen on our trip to Krakow.  Then to the site of Hitler's bunker which was completely destroyed to ensure it did not become a place of pilgrimage. Hence to a small memorial to Georg Elser whose attempt to assassinate Hitler failed. Kept alive in a concentration camp until the last days of the war Georg would only say: “I only wanted to stop the war”.The evening found us together again in a very large Bavarian eating establishment. Meaty starters followed by more meaty main courses, including the famous pigs knuckle and sauerkraut, plenty of beer and wine.

 

Day 3: The Wall – Mike Dorricott

The morning was not cold but overcast and bleak so we boarded our coach to see the parts of the Berlin Wall that were still standing. The line of the wall is denoted by cobbled stones throughout the city. The well known “Checkpoint Charlie” proved to be a busy visiting point where you could buy a piece of original wall. Checkpoint Charlie was the 3rd check point in the American sector but became the most talked about because of possibly the name, the first two being Alpha and Bravo. We then went to a stretch of wall which has remained standing as a symbol of the time that West and East Berlin were separated. This area preserved the “killing zone” where the Soviet guards would shoot at any East Germans trying to escape to the West. This entire wall is covered in graffiti drawn by artists who were invited to cover the section of wall. The buildings in the East of Berlin were drab and high tenements which was common of the Eastern Block during that time. 

 

Day 4: Potsdammer Day – Herr Beadle

Despite the groans which greeted our Leader’s announcement that the coach would be leaving at 09.00 instead of 09.30, we scrambled onto a luxury vehicle with our Guide. The first stop was at the Glienecke Bridge which separated East from West and then on to the Cecilienhof Palace, a mock Tudor building where the famous post-war Potsdam Conference was held. Audio guides were available and Members were to be seen, wandering around, with varying expressions, imitating teen-agers with a phone clamped to their ear. Then on to visit the Sans Soucci Palace built by Frederick the Great, so that he could ‘get away from it all’. Perched on the brow of a hill, the view and terraced gardens down to the valley were magnificent. Two of the more fit Members descended to the bottom for upward photographs, while the rest of us posed for a ‘groupie’ on the top terrace. Then into town for a quick snack, back to the Hotel and farewell to our guide as one or two of a more adventurous nature sallied forth for the remainder of the afternoon.

 

Day 5: Berlin Sunday – David Tomkinson

A rather lazy breakfast time on Sunday was due to the great success of the previous evening`s get together at the Probiermahl restaurant. The evening had been very enjoyable and, after settling our bills, we made the fifteen minute wander back to our hotel, although some of our number were seen to have diverted and to have determinedly entered the bar on the corner of Stromstrasse. The morning started with heavy rain which looked to be set in for the day. So as to make the most of our final day and to avoid the rain most of our party made a visit to the great indoors – the nearby Charlottenburg Palace. Joy of joys by late morning the rain disappeared and the sun returned for the rest of the day, even encouraging some to return by taking a river cruise down the Spree! A final meal at a local Italian family owned restaurant provided just the right freshly prepared comfort food and drink on which to end our visit to Berlin.