The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Escape -

The old Re­ich­stag build­ing, now the Ger­man Par­lia­ment, and be­low, the Ber­lin Wall. Left: Ber­lin Ober­baum­bridge and be­low, Ber­lin Cathe­dral. pho­tos // thinkstock

Short- stay vis­i­tors to Ber­lin will fo­cus on the Mitte, where the prin­ci­pal sights are to be found. I base my­self at the ex­cel­lent bud­get ho­tel Mo­tel One Ber­linHaupt­bahn­hof – named af­ter the nearby main rail­way sta­tion into Ber­lin.

Bravely, I opt for some un­con­ven­tional meth­ods of sight­see­ing. First, I take a tour in a bi­cy­cle Velotaxi. Ped­alled by a fi t young man, who acts as my guide, I perch at the back of the ve­hi­cle, shel­tered by a small roof, and with a blan­ket over my lap. It’s like be­ing con­veyed by rick­shaw in the Far East in colo­nial days.

My next ex­pe­di­tion is a Trabi Sa­fari, a two- hour car trip along the route of the Wall, and its sep­a­rate In­ner Wall, cov­ered by graffi ti and also more se­ri­ous art.

Ber­lin has never had a rep­u­ta­tion for great ar­chi­tec­ture. The old Re­ich­stag build­ing – now the Ger­man Par­lia­ment, the Bun­destag – does how­ever have a strik­ing glass dome cre­ated by Bri­tish ar­chi­tect Sir Nor­man Foster.

The in­ter­est­ing things in Ber­lin Mitte lie in­doors – in the shops, mul­ti­tude of restau­rants and bars, theatres, cabarets, clubs and, above all, in the won­der­ful mu­se­ums. There are fi ve of th­ese on the so- called Mu­seum Is­land and many more else­where.

Ber­lin has not shied away from its twelve grim years un­der Hitler. There is a riv­et­ing pho­to­graphic dis­play of some of the ter­rors of those times in the bomb- site base­ment of what used to be the Gestapo head­quar­ters, at the To­pogra­phie des Ter­rors.

For me, the great­est sym­bol of Ber­lin’s re­nais­sance is the re­birth of the Pots­damer Platz. It is back in busi­ness and, what had been ground zero, is a busy traffi c in­ter­sec­tion once again and the home of sky­scrapers – which stand out in Ber­lin’s low- rise sky­line.

On Ebert­strasse, which runs up from Pots­damer Platz to the Bran­den­burg Gate, lies an im­por­tant and sig­nifi cant me­mo­rial. It is mod­ern Ger­many’s ri­poste to the anti- Semitic poli­cies of the Third Re­ich, which led to the mur­der of mil­lions of Jews in the Holo­caust.

The me­mo­rial takes the form of more than 2700 un­marked blocks of grey stone, which vis­i­tors can wan­der through. The ex­pe­ri­ence is de­signed to refl ect the dis­ori­en­ta­tion and sense of be­ing lost which the Jews suf­fered.

That pe­riod of his­tory may be diffi cult for many to ac­cept, but it’s im­por­tant to re­call that be­fore Hitler rose to power, this buzzing city was one of the most ex­cit­ing places in Europe.

To­day, much of that vi­brancy and ex­cite­ment ap­pears to be resur­fac­ing. Night­clubs may have taken the place of cabaret halls and cloche hats may have been re­placed by an ar­ray of grav­ity- de­fy­ing hair­styles, but that same spirit of care­free deca­dence is still very much alive.

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