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The Weather Network
Jun. 15, 2019 | Saturday
Entertainment News
Niagara Travels: Berlin, Germany
Mall of Berlin. (Supplied/Mike Keenan)

SUBMITTED BY MIKE KEENAN.
SPONSORED

Recently, you read about the sudden demise of Iceland’s no-frills carrier, WOW Airlines that stranded many Canadians when they pulled the plug. A good reason to employ a reputable travel agent and to consider insurance!

I wanted to use my Air Canada accumulated points to fly to Berlin, but thought that their surcharge was excessive, so I shopped around for a cheaper flight. I discovered WOW Airlines in Iceland, a country I fondly remembered on a previous trip, so I gave it a try.

From Reykjavik, we changed planes and flew to Berlin. One bag made it; one didn’t, and we had only that day in Berlin to check out the capital. More importantly, we would soon be on an AmaWaterways cruise through Germany, me without clothes. And I had booked us via Eurail to Frankfurt the next day. We waited two hours at the airport to no avail. We took a train into the city. After settling in at our lovely Hotel Novotel Berlin Mitte, we later learned that they found my bag, but we had to return to the airport to pick it up. More wasted time. A lesson learned when dealing with no-frills airlines.

Earlier, we trudged to the nearby and incredible Mall of Berlin to purchase a set of clothes for me. Bottom line – we had time to see only one item while in Berlin. What would it be?

Germany’s capital on the River Spree has much to offer, home to renowned universities, research institutes, orchestras, museums, and host to myriad sporting events. The city is well known for its festivals, diverse architecture, nightlife, contemporary arts, public transportation networks and a  high quality of living. Think Shaw’s production of Cabaret.

Famous architecture includes the Reichstag, Germany’s 1894 Neo-Renaissance Parliament building, the majestic Brandenburg Gate, a triumphal arch for Prussian King Frederick William II, heavily damaged in World War II, rebuilt in 1956, the Tiergarten, Berlin’s central park, three major opera houses, 153 museums, the group on Museum Island (near our hotel), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies) would be proud of us. We decided on the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, featured in his movie. The wall was erected when Communist authorities drew a line in concrete between East and West Berlin in 1961, cutting off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin.

Before its erection, 3.5 million East Germans defected from the German Democratic Republic Between 1961-89, approximately 5,000 people attempted escape over the wall, death toll estimates between 100-200.

On November 9, 1989, the East German government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin, and East German crowds climbed onto the wall, joined by West Germans in celebration. Over the next few weeks, the elated public and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the wall. The governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of the rest. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, formally concluded on October 3, 1990.

We walked along the historic area, most of the structure gone, with haunting remnants and touristy kitsch at Checkpoint Charlie, including a KFC located on one side and McDonald’s on the other side of the best-known crossing point during the Cold War. Viewed from the former American sector, there’s a reproduction of the original guard house, and tourists can get their pictures taken standing beside uniformed soldiers from opposing camps. There’s an informative display area that retraces the site’s history as well as a museum.

Next morning, happy to have all of our luggage, and after a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we caught a train at the impressive and huge Hauptbahnhof railroad station, a treat in itself. Off to Frankfurt and our cruise.

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Niagara Travels is sponsored monthly by Upper Canada Travel, a full service travel agency located at 333 Mary St., Niagara-on-the-Lake, serving the public for over 50 years. Upper Canada Travel assists you with all of your travel needs. Call the helpful ladies at 905-468-4201.

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