Exploring Berlin's culture and history

Although I'm not very happy with many pictures from the past two days, here are a couple of "highlights" and some of the activities we did throughout the city.

We started off by going on an 8-mile Fat Tire Bike Tour toward the former east of Berlin to explore the vibrant bastion of counter culture, progressive thought and urban renewal encompassing the city. Above, our tour guide named Andrew explained some of Germany's history before taking us to a number of famous squats, the former Tempelhof airport and several other locations (including a Mediterranean/Turkish lunch).

It is safe to say that despite Berlin's gentrification, the city's street art scene can never be accused of being stagnant or boring. Sometimes, people even blend in with the graffitied walls and structures.

On our third day, we went on a Discover Walks City Tour starting at the Spree River banks and walking through the historic core of Berlin. Despite the rainy afternoon, we ended up visiting the historic Brandenburg Gate, Neue Wache Memorial, the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe, and several other locations before we ended the tour at Checkpoint Charlie.

Formerly owned by the Kingdom of Prussia, and the DDR, the Neue Wache building now serves as the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship. Inside the post-reunification of the building, there is a Käthe Kollwitz sculpture known as the Mother with her Dead Son. The oculus above it exposes it to elements like rain, and often gives the statue the impression of a grieving mother with tears running down her cheeks.

Also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was designed for the Jewish victims by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. The 4.7-acre site is covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae" arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. There is also an attached underground "Place of Information" which holds the names of approximately 3 million victims.

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