I wake to another grey day creeping around the edges of the curtains. Something about this one feels different, though. The snow forecasts have been pushed steadily backwards since I got here and now are saying the snow won't be here until Friday. The weather men are going to have to explain why everything outside is white this morning, then.

While I admit that Berlin could have been attacked by a flock of angry pigeons, I have to say it looks like snow to me. It's still falling as I peer out through the curtains. There's only one thing for it...it's time to get out there!

The Berliner Mauerweg is a route which follows the course of the wall, with signs to direct walkers and cyclists following it. It would be easy to get confused here, though - there are three signs:


Signs for the Berliner Mauerweg pointing in three directions


How could the wall have possibly gone in all the directions the signs indicate? Enter the strange story of Steinstücken.

S-Bahn: 
Griebnitzsee (S7)
A West Berlin exclave once guarded by an American helicopter regiment.

The origins of Steinstücken go back to 1787, when farmers from the nearby town of Stolpe acquired land here, outside of the town boundaries. A settlement was later founded there, which later became part of Wannsee which later, in turn, became part of Berlin. This was all fine until Germany became divided and Steinstücken, part of West Berlin, found itself in the middle of East German territory. In 1951, East German Volkspolizei (people's police) occupied Steinstücken in an attempt to annex it. Neither the residents nor the Americans, whose occupation zone it belonged to, were very happy about this turn of events and the police were forced to leave a few days later.

Following the GDR's closing of its borders with West Germany in 1952, the residents of Steinstücken could only access West Berlin by passing through East German border controls; anyone from the west wanting to access Steinstücken needed special police permission. Though West Berlin was walled off in August 1961, the border around Steinstücken wasn't initially so heavily fortified. After several escapes into Steinstücken, including a number of GDR border troops, the exclave was more fully walled off.

The US military maintained an outpost here from September that year, manned by three soldiers, who came in and out by helicopter. This is commemorated by a street name and by a small memorial, made from two helicopter blades, where the landing pad was. Finally in 1972, in exchange for some uninhabited exclaves, the small strip of land along Bernhard-Beyer-Straße was given to West Berlin. after this, the wall went on a detour from its former course around West Berlin, along Bernhard-Beyer-Straße, around Steinstücken, then back again, before continuing along around the rest of West Berlin.

From Griebnitzsee station, I head towards the Teltowkanal, the waterway which flows south of Berlin, connecting Potsdam with the south east of Berlin, ending between Köpenick and Grunau. The wall followed a particularly crazy, winding route here, with some parts of the canal between Griebnitzsee and Dreilinden forming the border between West Berlin and Brandenburg, while others were firmly within West Berlin.

S-Bahn: 
Griebnitzsee (S7) - followed by a roughly 40 minute walk
Hiding in the forest, the original Checkpoint Bravo.

As I head out on the S7 towards Wannsee, there are thin traces of snow on the ground. It seems like my quest for snow has been fulfilled, even if it's not in the city centre.

Wannsee itself is quiet. In the summer, it's a popular destination for both tourists and Berliners, but now, everything's boarded up for the winter. A mist rolls in across the water and a few last flakes of snow fall from the sky.

S-Bahn: 
Wannsee (S1, S7)
Berlin's other Allied Checkpoint which, unlike Charlie, is still standing.

Unlike most German Christmas markets, the Weihnachtszauber market at Gendarmenmarkt charges an entry fee (though a new development this year is having a few stalls outside the fenced off area, accessible for free). It's only 1 euro, but when there are so many others which you don't need to pay to get into, it's certainly easy to wonder whether it's worth the money. I'd say it's worth a look though, as it's different enough to all the others to stop it from feeling like you've paid to see something you could have seen for free elsewhere.

U-Bahn: 
Stadtmitte (U2, U6) - the U2 gets you marginally closer than the U6, because of the platform layout
Französische Straße (U6)
Hausvogteiplatz (U2)
Topics: 
A look the Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt, along with some of the square's history.

Around the base of the Fernsehturm is a construction which I think could best be described as a spiky thing. It could alternatively be described as a pavilion with ridged triangular reinforced concrete roofs, designed by the architects' collective Walter Herzog and Herbert Aust. You might think of concrete as a hard, inflexible material, but if you've ever seen anyone jump on one of these roofs, you'll know that's not true (I'm sure they weren't designed as trampolines though, so I'd not recommend trying it yourself).

S-Bahn: 
Alexanderplatz (S3, S5, S7, S75)
U-Bahn: 
Alexanderplatz (U2, U5, U8)
Topics: 
I decide it's time to take a closer look at the spiky thing underneath the Fernsehturm - otherwise known as the pavilion.

The Berliner Rathaus (Berlin town hall), designed by Hermann Friedrich Waesemann and completed in 1869, houses the government of the federal state of Berlin, led by the mayor of Berlin (currently the Social Democrat Klaus Wowereit). Its colloquial name, Rotes Rathaus (red town hall), refers to the colour of the bricks it's built from, rather than being anything to do with its politics, though it did serve as the town hall of communist East Berlin.

S-Bahn: 
Alexanderplatz (S3, S5, S7, S75)
U-Bahn: 
Alexanderplatz (U2, U5, U8)
Topics: 
I take a wander around the Christmas market in front of Berlin's town hall.

Berlin is a city built on shifting sands. The foundations of the Palast der Republik stand like a rift in the city's very fabric, a place where time has started to go backwards and forwards at the same time...

S-Bahn: 
Hackescher Markt (S3, S5, S7, S75)
I explore the hole left after the demolition of the Palast der Republik.
Topics: 

I get on the eastbound S-Bahn at Zoologischer Garten. I have in mind that I'll go round to Alexanderplatz, but end up getting off at Bellevue instead and heading out into the Tiergarten.

S-Bahn: 
Bellevue (S5, S7, S75, S9)
U-Bahn: 
Hansaplatz (U9)
Topics: 
A prussian victory column, modified and placed in the middle of Friedrich II's former hunting ground by the Nazis, with underpasses by Albert Speer.

The Siegessäule (victory column) was completed in 1873. It was designed after the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war in 1864; cannons captured in the war and gilded decorate the bottom ring of the column. During the column's construction, the Prussians also fought wars against Austria and France, in 1866 and 1870-71 respectively. Their victories in these wars were also commemorated on the Siegessäule - the second ring is decorated with Austrian cannons, the third with French cannons.

The Siegessäule was moved from outside the Reichstag to its current position in the middle of the Großer Stern by the Nazis in 1938-39. At the same time, a fourth ring was added, to commemorate the annexation of Austria in 1938, increasing the column's height by 7.5 metres. A set of subways was installed to allow pedestrians to access the Siegessäule. The entrances were designed by Hitler's chief architect Albert Speer and are now the only remaining works by him in Berlin.

It now stands at a height of 66.89 metres (measured to the highest point of the statue); there's a viewing platform at 50.66 metres, which offers nice views across the Tiergarten, if you can face climbing the 285 steps to the top. The statue on top is Victoria, goddess of victory, sometimes referred to as Goldelse (golden Lizzy).

Yes, I did do more yesterday than ride the bus and eat Currywurst, but time is once again trying its best to run away from me, so the rest will have to wait until later.

The clouds which gathered yesterday are still here today, though it's slightly warmer (a positively tropical 0 degrees). Time to head out into the city again!

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