The next day it was still raining but we wanted to take a tour, so we bought an umbrella and braved it. We took the Third Reich Tour and it was really awesome! They took us to all of the old Nazi sites around Berlin. And some of the memorials too. These are sites that absolutely require a tour guide because most of the buildings are no longer standing, are unmarked, or have a history that is not fully explained by the small posted signs. It seems the Germans have been hesitant with confronting their past. They're just now starting to put up signs and all of the memorials are fairly new. Past generations had the mentality to just sweep things under the rug but that idea is fading away (thank goodness).
We started our tour in the Mohenstrasse underground station. The guide told us to pay close attention to the red italian marble that lines the station. He'd talk more about it at the end of the tour. We walked down Wilhelmstrasse, the street where all the important Nazi offices were. Only small parts of buildings were left after all the bombings in the city practically destroyed everything. Now it's just apartment buildings and restaurants. We went to the old headquarters of the Gestapo, the SA (Hitler's local police) and SS (Hitler's special ops and concentration camp operators). We saw an old Nazi building that is practically exactly how it was back in the 40's. It survived (along with a few others) because of a camoflouge net that was put over parts of the city and important buildings to make it look like parks. Because of the tour, we now can pretty easily identify the old Nazi buildings. They are all very big, very thick, very heavy-looking, made out of concrete and completely bland. We also saw the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag (the seat of the German Parliament) on the tour. We learned so much from the rise of the Nazis up until the last days. Toward the end of the tour, we saw the site where Hitler's office was. At the spot where the entrance used to be, now sits an Asian restaurant. Here the tour guide referred back to the red italian marble in the train station. That marble is from Hitler's offices. They were going through the rubble and preparing to demolish the building and the Soviets (they had control of that area) simply took all of the marble tile and used it in the train station a block away. The last site of the tour was Hitler's bunker. It sits under a parking lot for an apartment complex. We had to just stand there and use our imagination! The filled in the concrete bunker with gravel and more concrete after several failed attempts to use explosives to destroy it.
We left the tour probably with more questions than we had in the beginning. But we were cold, had been walking for 3 hours and had been rained on all day so we went to a good German restaurant down the street to warm up and relax. And it was REALLY good German food (recommended by our tour guide). Everything was cooked perfectly, was savory and rustic and flavorful. I had sauted potatoes with onions, an herb butter and a nice steak. Andrew had a platter with pork roast, a meatball (more like a hamburger patty) and a sausage with sauted potatoes.
All of the food was really good in Germany. On our second night there we ate at another German place where they had these awesome, thin, crispy German pizzas. We got one with apples, bacon, onions and this sort of feta cheese sauce. It was amazing. And then of course, more meat and potatoes. They have these little bakery and sandwich shops all over Berlin called Kamps. It was fast food but of a cafe quality. Every bread we tried on the trip so far (and especially in Germany) was delicious. The sandwiches were fresh. And they had so many danishes, strudels, rolls, twists, etc. The thing that was astonishing for us was these cute little sandwich shops and bistros and fast food places were in the train stations too. You would step off the train and right away be hit with all these great smells. We had the same experience in Brussells too. They had waffle carts everywhere. It smelled like heaven. Such a change from what we're used to. You step off the train in Chicago and New York and you're not hit with the smells of baked goods and steaming cups of coco and coffee. The smells of homeless people and steaming puddles of urine are more like it!
We saw most of the major sites in Berlin. We went to the DDR museum all about life in East Germany before the wall came down. It was very informative and interactive. You could get into the old cars and walk around a model of the apartments, even handle some of the old books, appliances, clothes, etc. Our hotel was right next to this awesome chocolate shop with big chocolate sculptures. We went in and browsed around. A few things were easy to interpret (a rum and a "wodka" filled chocolate, nuss=nut) and some words were the same. But we were left guessing more often than not. As a result, we walked out of there with a few "surprise" things. What Andrew thought was plain chocolates, turned out to be chocolate covered gingerbread cookies. That was a pleasant surprise! And I ended up with chocolatey nut-toffee discs. In addition to the chocolate shop, our hotel was also walking-distance to lots of things including all the Nazi sites and Brandenburg Gate. Here are our Berlin photos. There are lots: