I've featured Checkpoint Bravo and its surroundings a few times here on journeytoberlin.com and, as you can probably tell, there's something I rather like about the place.

I was intrigued to read that it had been sold at auction on September 16th 2010, to an anonymous bidder who paid €45,000 for it. From reading the reports in the British press, it wasn't at all clear exactly what had been sold and, as I know that some people have been looking here to find out more about it, I thought I'd take the opportunity to clear up the details.

Griebnitzsee (S7)

"Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" By the time US President Ronald Reagan uttered these words on June 12th 1987, the Brandenburg Gate had long since been established as a powerful symbol of the divided Berlin.

Brandenburger Tor (S1, S2, S25)
Brandenburger Tor (U55)
A short history of one of Berlin's most famous landmarks, with pictures from the wall years!

It seems like ages ago that I last visited Platz der Luftbrücke, back in November 2009. It's the perfect time to return though, because interesting things are happening at Tempelhof...

Tempelhof (S41, S42, S46, S47) - for the park's main entrance
Platz der Luftbrücke (U6) - for the main building
Tempelhof (U6) - for the park's main entrance
Ernst Sagebiel's monumental airport building, designed in 1934.

The terminal building at Tempelhof was designed by Ernst Sagebiel in 1934, a suitably monumental structure to form part of Hitler and Albert Speer's plans for the rebuilding of Berlin. The shape, when seen from the air, is reminiscent of the Nazi Reichsadler (eagle of the empire) - the area which is now Platz der Luftbrücke was originally intended to be completely encircled by buildings, forming an equivalent to the Nazi Reichsadler's wreath.

Construction began in 1937 and a topping out ceremony was held in 1939, marking the completion of the building's frame. It still wasn't ready for use in 1945, when war ended. During the war, flights continued from the old airport buildings on the site, which were destroyed in the war.

It played a crucial role in the Berlin Airlift of 1948-49 and it was while under American control that the completed airport finally opened to passengers in 1962. It was closed as an airport in 2008 and the airfield has been open as a park since May 2010, now counting as the biggest park in Berlin. It's a bizarre windswept landscape, but a completely fascinating one, and one that's worth seeing before anything gets done to it - there's been talk of both re-landscaping and of building flats. The main entrance is on Tempelhofer Damm, opposite Tempelhof S-Bahn station.

The Bebelplatz memorial lit up at sunset

I'd actually had it in the back of my mind for a while to try and get a picture of the memorial at Bebelplatz at the right time of day.

Französische Straße (U6)
Hausvogteiplatz (U2)
The memorial to the Nazi book burning on Bebelplatz.

Designed by Israeli artist Micha Ullman, this memorial - called 'Bibliothek' (library) - is a reminder of how here, on May 10th 1933, Nazis burned over 20,000 books deemed to be 'ungerman' from the library of the Humboldt University. The memorial is a room beneath Bebelplatz, lined with enough empty bookshelves to house 20,000 books. A window set into the pavement allows passers by to look down into the room, which is completely inaccessible.

Two plaques, at opposite ends of the memorial, with a quote from Heinrich Heine's 1821 play Almansor are set into the cobbles nearby. The text translates as:

That was just a prelude, where books
Are burnt, people will eventually burn too

An old Soviet snow plough on a concrete pedestal probably isn't the first thing you'd expect to find in a small woodland clearing by the motorway. This is the wilds of Berlin, though...anything goes here.

Wannsee (S1, S7)
The Soviet tank memorial (with added snow plough).
The Soviet tank memorial that pointed towards Checkpoint Bravo...with a curious new addition.

This pedestal used to be home to a Soviet T-34 tank, allegedly the first to reach Berlin during World War II in 1945. With the building of the new border crossing at Drewitz in 1969, the tank was placed here, its gun pointed straight towards Checkpoint Bravo.

The Soviets took the tank with them when they withdrew from Berlin in 1990, leaving an empty pedestal. Eckhard Haisch, artist and professor at the University of the Arts, decided to do something about the situation and, in 1992, placed the Soviet snow plough, painted bright pink, on the pedestal. It was added to the list of protected monuments in 1995.

With temperatures soaring to 30°C, another walk in the woods seemed like the right thing to do...and I knew just the place.

Regular followers will recognise this place from December:

Wannsee (S1, S7)
What remains of Checkpoint Bravo's East German counterpart.

This is all that remains of the Drewitz border crossing point, where East German border guards checked vehicles and their passengers travelling on the Autobahn between West Berlin and Helmstedt in West Germany. Checkpoint Bravo, its counterpart run by the Western Allies, was roughly 1km north from here (the building is now being used as a customs facility).

The East German border crossing point once covered the area between the tower and the current business park (and a little bit more), with large, open processing sheds for checking the contents of vehicles passing through. The low height of this command tower allowed the guards to see into the sheds to check for signs of escape attempts. At the first sign of trouble, the guards in the tower could engage electro-mechanical barriers at the push of a button, to make sure the offending vehicle got no further.

There's a small museum inside the tower, run by Checkpoint Bravo e.V.

Out in the furthest reaches of Treptow-Köpenick, hiding behind a high barbed wire-topped fence, is another strange radome-topped tower on a hill. If you're thinking it looks like another cold war listening station, you'd actually be completely right, but it's one with a rather interesting background.

Köpenick (S3) then take the X69 bus from the stop on Mahlsforfer Straße, just outside Köpenick station, to Rübezahl
The first attempt at building a TV tower in Berlin (later a Stasi listening post) alongside a public observation tower with brilliant views of Berlin.

Lurking in the leafy surburbia of Berlin Lichterfelde is another artificial hill. It's not World War II rubble this time though, neither is it Germany's answer to Silbury Hill.

Osdorfer Straße (S25)
An artificial hill built by one of Germany's aviation pioneers.

Lurking in the leafy surburbia of Berlin Lichterfelde is Otto Lilienthal's 'Fliegerberg', which he had built for him in 1894, to assist in his pioneering experiments with gliders. Lilienthal's flights were significant for being perhaps the first to be repeatable (as opposed to one-off flukes), thanks to his methodical approach.

The hill is 15m high, which might not sound like a lot until you actually get up there and ask yourself whether you'd fancy jumping off. It used to have a conical top, under which Lilienthal would store disassembled gliders.

Lilienthal died in a glider crash in 1896, aged 48, and the Fliegerberg was turned into a monument to Lilienthal in 1932, the memorial designed by the architect Fritz Freymüller.

Stolpersteine in the pavement

These small brass-capped blocks are Stolpersteine (stumbling blocks), the work of Cologne-based artist Gunter Demnig. They are set into the pavement outside buildings and each one commemorates a resident who was deported or killed by the Nazis, including not only Jewish people, but also Gypsies, Jehova's Witnesses, political opponents, homosexuals and disabled and mentally ill people.

Alexanderplatz (S3, S5, S7, S75)
Alexanderplatz (U2, U5, U8)
Small brass-capped blocks which remind of Berlin's Holocaust victims.

Update December 3rd 2011: The demolition of the Deutschlandhalle, mentioned in this post as a possibility, began today. A new conference venue is set to take its place.

Getting off the S-Bahn at Messe Nord and crossing the road, I go through an underpass with some intriguing late 70s features:

Messe Nord/ICC (S41, S42, S46) - for the top end of the Messegelände (where the underpass is!)
Messe Süd (Eichkamp) (S9, S75) - for the Deutschlandhalle
Grunewald (S7) - for the Teufelsberg. It's roughly a 25 minute walk from the station.
The 1930s hall where Klaus Kinski once appeared as Jesus, plus an American listening post on an artificial hill named after the devil.


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