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Do mention the war; There's so much to see and do on city break to Berlin, including poignant reminders of brutal Nazi regime and Wall that divided East and West NEIL MURRAY.

The streets of East Berlin were almost deserted, which was just as well as the Trabant P601 I was "driving" was not the easiest to handle and the car was weaving all over the place.

Not that I was actually on the real roads of Berlin. I was sitting in the Trabant in front of images projected on to the windscreen inside the brilliant DDR Museum, which shows what it was like living in East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

The chance to "drive" the Trabant is one of the highlights of the museum, where you can eavesdrop on a Stasi interrogation, "visit" a high-rise tower block flat and find out that while the workers' wages were quite good, supplies in the shops were not.

My wife, Linda, and I had used our Berlin WelcomeCards (discounted entry and free travel) at the museum and whipped them out again on the tram to Oberbaum Bridge to view the East Side Gallery.

A 1.3km-long stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing, it features the famous painting of a "brotherly kiss" between East German president Erich Honecker and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and is also covered in murals, artwork and graffiti. Other smaller pieces of the Wall are dotted throughout the city.

Crossing over the River Spree, we followed the Berlin Wall Trail to trace where the Wall had been as it zigzagged through what is now a residential area until we reached Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known border crossing point between East and West, which is now a massive tourist trap.

Far more impressive is a fantastic 60-metres-long,15-metres-high panoramic recreation of life on both sides of the Wall in the 1980s, with punks, squatters and a busy petrol station on the West side, empty streets, bleak housing and the occasional guard on the East - and the "death strip" and border fences in between.

If that wasn't moving enough, the nearby Topography of Terror museum, which faces on to another stretch of the Wall, is a horrific reminder of the terrible events and tortures inflicted by the SS on the Nazi regime's many victims. In the museum, located on the site of the old Gestapo HQ, the photographs and exhibits were viewed in stunned silence.

Almost as moving is the Holocaust Memorial, the open-air collection of more than 2700 rectangular concrete slabs that remembers the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, although, sadly, quite a few of the blocks are showing their age with some cracks.

A short walk away, the Brandenberg Gate, is another link with the fall of the Wall, as hundreds of thousands of people gathered in front of the gate on November 9, 1989, to celebrate the Wall's collapse. Now a symbol of Germany's reunification, it was built in 1792, not so much as a political symbol but simply to mark the end of the famous boulevard Unter den Linden. We headed along the mile-long boulevard to reach the impressive Berlin Cathedral.

Although known as a cathedral, it is actually the court church of the Hohenzollern dynasty, the rulers of Prussia and, later, the German Emperors. Today, it serves Berlin's Protestant community.

Back at our hotel (the affordable Hotel Berlin Mitte by Campanile), we could hardly not visit the Natural History Museum just across the road. A massive 13.27 metre tall dinosaur skeleton, said to be the largest in the world, greeted us, while Tristan Otto is one of the world's best-preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons.

And while the Wet Collection is a bizarre compilation of a million species stored in 276,000 jars, it was the beautifully-preserved creatures in the Masterpieces of Taxidermy section that captivated us.

On our last night, we looked for a good restaurant near our hotel and settled on Nithan Thai (Thai food with a twist) and had easily the best meal of our trip. Along with the list of desserts, we were given a box containing a small set of dominoes.

Now, as an "expert" in playing animal-picture dominoes with one of my granddaughters, I thought I knew the game. But Linda beat me easily.

Travel info n EasyJet (www.

easyjet.com) flies from Edinburgh to Berlin-Tegel in May from PS38.99 one way and from Glasgow to Berlin-Schonefeld, also in May, from PS27.99 one way. n One night, room only, at the Hotel Berlin Mitte by Campanile (www.campanile.com/en, 020 7519 5045) costs from approx PS66 in May.

n For more info, see www.visitberlin.de/en, www.berlinwelcomecard.

de/en

"Brilliant DDR museum shows what it was like living in East Germany"

CAPTION(S):

POLITICAL SYMBOL Brandenburg Gate

TOURIST TRAP Checkpoint Charlie

LEST WE FORGET Holocaust Memorial

LIP SERVICE Stretch of Berlin Wall that is still standing features graffiti and painting of East German president Erich Honecker and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 24, 2019
Words:810
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