Ian Weightman

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On the Sunny Side of the Street

The Brandenburg Gate.  Checkpoint Charlie.  Potsdamer Platz. 

Some of the most iconic sites in arguably the most meaningful capital city in Europe.

But there’s neither time to go Unter den Linden, or to the top of the 368-metres high Television Tower in Berlin on this particular trip.  With meetings scheduled, and flights to catch, there’s less than an hour to marvel at the energy and soak-up one small chapter of the immense history that Berlin offers its visitors.

Five years ago, there was time to “hop-on hop-off” one of the value for money Berlin City Sightseeing Tours.

This time, there was all of 48 minutes.  Enough time to squeeze into a northbound U-Bahn from Alexanderplatz and to emerge, three stops later, in Eberswalder Strasse - one of the hippest and most happening quarters of the city.  Formerly a part of “East Berlin”, it’s one of the places to see (and be seen) - although it’s just as easy to melt into the throngs of local commuters who fill the streets on a warm late-summer’s evening.

The broad, tree-lined streets feeding from Eberswalder Strasse offer-up an eclectic mix of guerrilla gardens, bohemian restaurants, chilled-out atmosphere and - it has to be said - mock architecture (many of the facades of the faceless apartment blocks of the East have been given fancy facelifts).

The night may be young, but time is short.  So let’s keep moving.  At the bottom of the street is Mauer-park.  Somewhere the bright young things of the city gather for a beer these days, it’s also a place to step back in time.

The Berlin Wall may have all but disappeared, but its impact lingers on - as anyone who takes a gentle stroll down Bernauer Strasse will surely testify.

Remember that black and white image of the East German guard (Conrad Schumann) leaping over the barbed wire?  It was taken here.  On this very spot - on the corner of Ruppiner Strasse and Bernauer Strasse.  Over half a century ago.

There’s time for jaws to drop, and hair to raise on the back of the neck, but not much more on this 48-minutes in Berlin.

There’s no time to call into the grimly named Berlin Wall Documentation Centre.  But thankfully, there IS enough time to walk up to a small section of the original wall; and to spot some of the metal plaques in the pavement all along the Bernauer Strasse, which mark the attempted flights to freedom from the apartment blocks to your East, to the apartment blocks to your West.  And just about enough time to take-in the fact that this broad street, where all-comers are welcome, was once no-man’s land.

It’s the evening, and too late to take any photographs.  The Worldtime Clock is still turning, so 45 minutes after leaving the high-rise Park Inn Hotel by Radisson on the Alexanderplatz it’s time for bed.

And the other three minutes of sightseeing?

That’s the next morning, on the two-minute stroll from the hotel to the Visit Britain and Visit England offices, past the world famous Weltzeituhr (“Worldtime Clock”) in the Alexanderplatz and glancing skywards to the Television Tower.

Hang on a minute.

That still leaves time for some photographs.

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