Backpacking to Europe – Part 20: Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie

Backpacking to Europe – Part 20: Berlin Wall & Checkpoint Charlie

Previously

If you just reached here and wanted to read the start of our journey, let’s go to Part 1!

We followed the whole family to Berlin Tegel Airport on a Mercedes van, driven by Dato’s personal driver. We had a taste of VIP treatment, being driven in a luxurious car with a driver without having to fork out money on transportation. Along the way, we talked about a lot of issues. Datin informed us that there were some Malaysians who actually met Dato’ to have their citizenship revoked, only to regret the decision later. “The only major difference between being a permanent residence of another country and being a citizen is the right to vote. Why should you revoke your citizenship only to regret it and wanted to become a citizen back? If you really want to stay in another country, being a PR is suffice“, Datin told us.

On the way to the airport.

Kitorang ikut Datin pergi hantar Jasmine ke Berlin Tegel Aiport naik van Mercedes yang dipandu driver Dato’. Memang rasa macam VIP! Sepanjang perjalanan, kitorang sembang dengan Datin pasal macam-macam perkara. Tapi, satu benda yang aku paling setuju bila Datin komen pasal orang yang melepaskan kerakyatan Malaysia. Datin kata “beza antara jadi rakyat negara lain dan PR antaranya ialah hak mengundi. Kalau setakat itu je, lebih baik you apply jadi PR je sebab ramai yang dah lepas kerakyatan, lepas tu menyesal. Rugi je, kan?”.

Pit stop at the Malaysian Embassy.

After we arrived at the airport, we spent some time in the airport whilst waiting for Jasmine to enter into the boarding hall. Once she went into the boarding hall together with her husband and kid, we all left the airport, sent Datin back to Rumah Malaysia and we continued our journey to the East Side Gallery, a portion of Berlin Wall which was not demolished after the reunification of East and West Berlin.

On the way to the East Side Gallery. This is Potsdamer Platz and the traffic light tower is a replica of one of the first traffic lights in Berlin.

Lepas sampai airport, kitorang lepak-lepak dulu sementara tunggu Jasmine masuk balai berlepas. Bila tiba masa untuk dia masuk, baru kitorang balik semula ke Rumah Malaysia untuk hantar Datin dan teruskan perjalanan kitorang ke East Side Gallery, bahagian Tembok Berlin yang tak diruntuhkan selepas penyatuan Berlin Timur dan Barat.

Some Heads by Thierry Noir. Notice the extent of vandalism.

Arriving at the East Side Gallery is like a dream came true for me as I have been wanting to visit this memorial for such a long time. There are more than 100 artistes involved in the paintings on this wall.

In front of My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love by Dmitri Vrubel. Notice the fence.

Menjejakkan kaki ke East Side Gallery seolah mimpi jadi kenyataan bagi aku sebab dah lama sangat aku teringin nak ke sini. Ada lebih 100 artis yang terlibat untuk melukis mural-mural kat sini.

Fridge magnets made like parts of the remnants of Berlin Wall.

As we walked along the wall after being dropped off by the driver, I could not helped but notice that a lot of vandalism activities happened on this wall (in fact, not only this wall as graffiti were literally every where in Berlin, more than what we saw in Amsterdam). A lot of paintings were marred with graffiti although there are signs to ‘respect this historic work of art’. Some of the paintings were protected by fences to ensure that it would not get graffiti-ed over by vandals.

Kitorang jalan kaki sepanjang kawasan ni lepas driver Dato’ turunkan kitorang dan aku perasan, banyak aktiviti vandalisme berlaku kat kawasan galeri ni (bukan kat sini je, malah banyak tempat kat Berlin daripada eskalator, stesen Metro, malah keretapi Metro sendiri dipenuhi graffiti. Kat Amsterdam pun ada tapi tak seteruk Berlin). Banyak lukisan yang dipenuhi graffiti walaupun ada amaran ditulis untuk ‘menghormati karya seni bersejarah ini’. Sebab tu, ada antara lukisan mural yang diletakkan pagar besi untuk elak diconteng oleh vandals.

Französischer Dom (French Cathedral)

At one point, we could stand in between the wall and I imagined myself living in those era, in the era where capitalism and socialism fought hard to become prominent force in the world causing the wall to be erected. I  stood in the middle, my right foot on the West side and my left foot on the East side, imagining life in those days where families and friends were torn apart. I could feel the devastation, the sadness and the stressful life embraced by the people then.

Masa jalan tu, ada kat satu tempat ni kita boleh berdiri kat tengah-tengah tembok. Kaki kanan aku belah Barat dan kaki kiri belah Timur. Perasaan masa tu, Tuhan je tahu. Aku bersyukur yang sekarang, tembok ni dah tak ada. Tak ada lagi kesengsaraan, kesedihan dan kehilangan yang disebabkan oleh kewujudan Tembok Berlin.

Konzerthaus Berlin with the Schiller Monument in front.

From the East Side Gallery, we were then driven to the Gendarmenmarkt area, a square with an architectural ensemble where the Konzerthaus Berlin stood proudly in the middle, flanked by the Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom, two identical churches belonging to the French and German which now have museums dedicated to their histories. It was astonishing to be at this square because Berlin was almost flattened after World War II and most of its buildings were new buildings and lacked the architectural details of the earlier days of the city. This square, however, are exceptions.

Dari East Side Gallery, kitorang dibawa pula ke kawasan Gendarmenmarkt, satu kawasan dataran yang ada bangunan lama yang cantik di mana Konzerthaus Berlin berdiri megah di tengah-tengah diapit oleh Gereja Perancis dan Gereja Jerman iaitu Französischer Dom dan Deutscher Dom. Aku kagum sebabnya kebanyakan bangunan di Berlin ialah bangunan baru sebab bandar ni musnah lepas perang. Tapi, masih ada senibina lama yang mengagumkan di kawasan ni.

The notice and the checkpoint.

After spending a few minutes there, we proceeded to Checkpoint Charlie and thanking the driver for driving us there. Checkpoint Charlie is the well-known checkpoint during the separation of East and West Berlin. It is the symbol of the Cold War and throughout its history, it has recorded a lot of events from defections to the death of an East German, Peter Fechter, who was shot in the pelvis by East German guards while trying to escape from East Berlin.

Lepas dah spend time beberapa ketika kat situ, kitorang terus bergerak ke Checkpoint Charlie. Kitorang ucap terima kasih kat driver Dato’ sebab dari sini, kitorang akan naik public transport (nasib baik…kalau tak membazir beli tiket pagi tadi! Haha). Checkpoint Charlie ni pintu sempadan antara Berlin Timur dan Barat yang paling terkenal. Macam-macam cerita berlaku kat sini antaranya tempat di mana orang-orang Berlin Timur lari ke Barat dan tempat di mana Peter Fechter, seorang remaja Berlin Timur ditembak sampai mati sebab cuba nak lari ke Barat.

Tips:

Be careful when you are around this area as scammers are reported to be loitering the area. They will ask you to sign some petition or to sign something in support for a cause and will then demand payment. Just tell them that it is okay and you are not interested. It happened to us and we refused to entertain the person.

Today, Checkpoint Charlie is just a small booth with actors for photograph donning the Allied army uniform. There is also a mast with an image of the Soviet soldier to show where the East Berlin side used to be. There are also remnants of the Wall with an exhibition and stalls selling souvenirs relating to the area.

Harini, Checkpoint Charlie ialah satu kawasan dengan pondok pengawal kecil dengan orang-orang yang pakai uniform ala-ala askar Allied zaman Perang Dingin dulu. Signboard yang menunjukkan sempadan kawasan Allied dan Soviet masih ada dan satu gambar askar Soviet diletakkan lepas pondok pengawal untuk menunjukkan yang tu dulu kawasan Berlin Timur. Kat kawasan ni juga ada baki tembok yang belum diruntuhkan dan dijadikan kawasan Exhibition yang menceritakan sejarah tempat ni. Kedai cenderahati pun ada kalau nak beli apa-apa ole-ole.

Actors for photograph donning the US and Allied Army uniform.

We spent some time walking and immersing ourselves in the area, thinking how hard life was during the separation. More importantly, our presence there made us chilled on how devastating war could be to a nation.

Kitorang spend masa kat sini jalan-jalan dan tengok keliling. Memang tak boleh bayang weyh betapa susahnya hidup zaman ada Tembok Berlin ni dulu. Sedih bila baca dan tengok gambar-gambar sejarah tempat ni.

After taking some photos and reading the explanations at the exhibition, we proceeded to a coffee shop, brought a coffee and a croissant before proceeding to take the U-Bahn Metro at Kochstraß station, a metro station on the U6 line, closest to Checkpoint Charlie.

Lepas dah ambil gambar semua, kitorang singgah satu kedai kopi kat kawasan ni dan beli secawan kopi dan satu croissant sebelum ambil U-Bahn di stesen Kochstraß di laluan U6, stesen paling dekat dengan Checkpoint Charlie. 

More photos:

Next: Part 21

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We were supposed to take Berlin Bus 100 (public bus) to explore Berlin attractions but thanks to HE the Malaysian Ambassador’s generosity,  we were driven to the East Side Gallery and Checkpoint Charlie by his driver, accompanied by his Cook and Q, our friend’s friend. 

To sight-see in Berlin, you can take public bus No. 100 from Alexanderplatz right through Berlin Zoologischer Garten or the other way around. Normal one day ticket can be used to board the bus. More info here.

Another option is to take the Hop On Hop Off Sightsseing Tour Bus. One of the famous one is Berlin City Sighseeing. More info here.

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