Before we went on this cruise my ideas of East Germany were shaped by  spy films and books. That is I was expecting grey sombre buildings and frightened people!  It might have been like that before unification, but what we found was that Warnemunde is an attractive seaside town, which has been the resort town for nearby Rostock  for over 100 years and is the ferry terminal for traffic from Sweden and Denmark.

If the tour to Berlin had not been on offer, JW  and I would have been quite happy to have explored the two towns.

Rostock was the home of northern Europe’s first university in 1419 and was one of the Hanseatic League’s main trading centres.

Our guide from Warnemunde to Berlin was a handsome, friendly young man. He told us some of the history of the area, especially the recent history when the Stazi held sway in the area. That must have been a very grim time for the general public. They built grey utilitarian blocks of appartments and living space was carefully regulated by size of family etc. He pointed out “the little gardens” (which we would call allotments, I think) and said how prized these were, by those fortunate enough to get one, not only for the possibility of supplementing the restricted variety of vegetables available in the shops, but as somewhere to spend their holidays away from their small appartments. I found the latter information incredibly touching.

The scenery to Berlin was very reminiscent of Southern England, gently rolling green fields, maybe more woodland and definitely more Wind turbines. They certainly seem to be harnessing every breath of wind.

We were met in Berlin by a second guide, a small cheerful  man who was,  justifiably, proud of the rebuilding of Berlin. Of course they have had to do this twice in the last 60 years. once after the war and then again after the wall came down. The Eastern sector had been the grim, grey streets of the spy films, but they have worked tirelessly since then to restore it to its former glory.

We saw so much that it was difficult to take it all in. I think I would like to go back and go on the “hop on, hop off” bus for several days, so that we would have time to look in more depth and maybe sit and drink coffee Unter den Linden, or on Kurfurstendam.  However I have achieved my ambition to see and drive along these and through the Tiergarten:)

The Wall was a surprise. I had expected it to be much more solid looking, but, of course, its effectiveness was reinforced with many watch towers and thousands of armed soldiers, mined areas and barbed wire.

A section of the wall which has been preserved

A section of the wall which has been preserved

The other side of the wall showing where the minefields were

The other side of the wall showing where the minefields were

 There were memorial plaques  to the brave souls who lost their lives attempting to get to the West. It must have been devastating to the residents when the wall went up and seperated family members one from another.

We saw Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous crossing point, but as our guide pointed out it was a crossing point only for foreigners not for Germans.

The Brandenberg Gate

The Brandenberg Gate

We saw the Reichstag, the Brandenberg Gate, cathedrals, churches, the Charlottenberg Palace and the Allied war museum ( which was devoted to the Berlin airlift in 1948).

At the latter the thought uppermost in my mind was, ” How can man live like this?”  We spent years bombing the H*** out of  the country, and then three years later, the same pilots were risking their lives to beat the Soviet blockade, to feed them.

It was a very full tour broken only by short breaks to take photographs or buy postcards and an hour for lunch in a Bierkeller. This was set in a pleasant garden and presented an appetising “pub lunch”

It was an impressive day, very enjoyable  thanks to the guides, but also very tiring and I think we were all glad to see the Ocean Majesty, and stumble aboard for a very welcome dinner and rest.

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