Our second day in the bustling and open city of Berlin, was enjoyable, exciting and highly informative. As we saw the monuments and buildings we had learnt about in textbooks come to life around us.
After the early 7:30 breakfast the boys had become accustomed to, the boys walked to the local metro station. Here we met with our guides John and Josh who would take us around a portion of Berlin for the day. Both of American background it was amusing to see how seamlessly each of them would move from a strong American accent to harsh yet fluent German tongue. The boys then took the train to the most expensive station in the world costing just shy of a billion dollars. It looked more like an airport then a metro system, Town hall station was truly no match. Splitting into two groups we set out on the tour. First up was the oldest bridge in Berlin. Built for a past general of the Franco Prussian war, it looked beautiful on its own. However the modern and contemporary buildings surrounding it made the bridge seem strangely out of place. This was useful for the boys to see as it portrayed how destructive the Second World War must have been in Berlin as we could see the juxtaposed architecture of before and after the war. Moving on we past the Modern Chancellors building, or as the locals call it the washing machine due to the result of its funny appearance. Moving past the Washing Machine we were able to see the Reichstag, the shear presence and its stance over the near by park, illustrated how powerful the building must have been through German History. It was nice to see a new twist on the old building where a British architect had place a large glass dome on the top of the building . Allowing visitors to see directly into parliament. It was amazing to see how the German people wanted to show transparency through the government and reconcile the past, rather then ignore it. Next on the tour was a Soviet memorial, for soviet soldiers who had died during World War Two. The semi circular structure posed a large soviet soldier on top over looking the park, illustrating a powerful message of respect for the fallen soldiers. Just a small walk away we walked through the Brandenburg gate. The gate was named not on its location, but rather the direction (place) it faced. The gate was a large structure and the importance of it was only emphasised through the placement of the goddess of victory above the gate over looking the nearby busy square.
From the Brandenburg gate we travelled to the former location of the Fuhrerbunker where Adolf Hitler spent the last few months of his life, now the site of an inconspicuous car park. Its historical importance was only recognised by a solitary plaque explaining the purpose the block of land once served. This was followed by a visit to one of the only Nazi buildings to survive the ferocious bombardment of Berlin, the Luftwaffe headquarters and the offices of Hermann Göring. The building itself was an imposing mixture of limestone and reinforced concrete which helped it take the blasts of artillery fire and bombs preserving it to this day. With the Nazi eagles and swastikas removed, the building now acts as the Ministry of Finance, a decidedly more benign purpose.
At this point our tour ended and we broke away for lunch and free time in the Mall of Berlin. After reconvening an hour and a half later we moved to the Topography of Terror, a free museum placed on the site of the former Gestapo headquarters, the foundations of which were integrated into an outdoors exhibition. Between sections and panels the stories of Hitler's rise to power, Germany under the Nazi regime, the Holocaust and Germans during WW2 unfolded before us in a series of stunning, rare and shocking photos, ranging from humiliating public punishments of women to photos of SS patrols accompanied by muzzled German shepherds.
After spending 90 minutes within the museum we began to make our way back to the hotel to commence our second round of free time. After this was up, we come back to together for our second dinner in the Steakhouse, which for some was cut short before dessert, interrupted by the Berlin escape room experience. The group divided, those of us left spent one last period of free time in the area surrounding the restaurant before returning to the hotel for the final time that day.