Fresh from attending the G8 summit in Northern Ireland earlier this week, the Obama contingent descended on Berlin where a spot of sightseeing was the order of the day for the First Lady and her daughters. Accompanied by no less than 8,000 policemen and women, the whistle-stop tour of the German capital incorporated many of the principal sites for which the city is so famous.
First port of call was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a rather sombre yet striking ensemble of some 2,700 concrete pillars of varying height dedicated to preserving the memory of those lost to the Holocaust, set just a short distance from the iconic Brandenburg Gate, backdrop for a speech given separately by the US President.
Next stop on the tour was Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin’s most prominent border crossing between East and West and scene of the 1961 US and Soviet tank stand-off. Here, they took in artist, Yadegar Asisi’s fascinating photographic panorama of a 1980’s divided Berlin (running until spring 2014), from the graffiti-covered wall on the West side to the stark drabness of the East.
The party then moved on to the Berlin Wall Memorial, the last remaining 720 feet of wall left (from 95 miles) that divided the city between 1961 and 1989. Situated in the Bernauer Strasse and complete with border strip and watchtower, the memorial has a visitor and documentation centre providing an interesting insight into the history of the wall, its construction and purpose.
The tour ended with a visit to the prestigious Reichstag building, once housing the assemblies of the German Empire, the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany until it was destroyed by fire in 1933. Abandoned for decades, the building was extensively refurbished in 1990 after the German reunification by the world-famous British architect, Sir Norman Foster, whose addition of a striking glass dome is said to symbolise open democracy. Today the Reichstag is home to the Bundestag, the national Parliament of Germany.