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10 Things Not to Do in Berlin

by Ralph Martin

Don't…
Go to Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie, at the intersection of Friedrichstrasse and Zimmerstrasse in the city center, is Berlin's tourist epicenter. Though it was the only major crossing station in the city center between the former East and West Berlin and the spot where Soviet and American tanks faced off in 1961, the spy exchanges that inspired John le Carré and many other novelists happened elsewhere. What's there now is not even the original building, which is stored in the Allied Museum in the Western suburbs. Rather, the famous street corner has become an ad hoc memorial sponsored by the Axel Springer media company, full of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops and topped off by a shoddy Checkpoint Charlie museum full of wall-size enlargements of press clippings. It would be hard to think of a more superficial way to remember the very real terror and suffering inspired by the Berlin Wall.

Instead…
Go to the excellent, less crowded museums

Berlin abounds in thoughtful, soul-searching sites that examine the darkest corners of its 20th-century history. The Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial) on Bernauer Strasse, located along the last surviving stretch of the Wall in central Berlin, has a visitor's center that is rich in documentary material. It includes a fascinating exhibit on ghost stations, closed subway stops within East Berlin that West Berlin trains would pass through en route between Western destinations. More dramatically, walk through the controversial Holocaust Memorial (pictured), designed by American architect Peter Eisenman. The 4.7-acre space in the middle of the city is filled with thousands of stone slabs, each of a different size, laid out in a grid.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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