Vivid headgears worn by Minorities @ Sapa Market

Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Mango dessert sold in Hoi Lau San @ Yau Ma Tei


Rare glimpse of Proboscis Monkey @ Bako National Park


A Blue & White (青花) Vase displayed @ Forbidden City


Day One

It's beginning of another trip. We woke up very early in the morning and took the train at about 0530 am from Neuchâtel to Basel Airport. We arrived at the airport almost 2 hours before departure but were only allowed to board the flight about 30-mins prior its take-off. Like most budget carriers; there was no aero-bridge, all passengers would have to walk out of the building to board the flight (left photo below), and there was no in-flight entertainment (right photo below). Of course we are not that particular with all these for such a short flight of 1 hour and 25-mins.

When we arrived at the airport it was raining heavily. Thus decided to stay inside the airport terminal for a while and had our brunch at Marché Bistro (left photo below). Here's my order: Meatball potato salad and a cup of latté at a total cost of EUR 7.50 (right photo below).

After our meal at about 11 am, we then walked about 5-mins to Airport InterCity Hotel Berlin to try our luck if we could check-in to the hotel. Fortunately there were rooms available. We gotten our key and deposited our luggage in the room. After a quick wash-up, we then walked towards Berlin Schönefeld Flughafen train station. As part of the hotel promotional package, each guest was given a free local transportation pass during our period of stay. This free pass really helped us to save a fair bit on transportation expenses.

Museum Island

Nested on a long island in the tributaries of Spree River, this island is known to be the cradle of Berlin's history. The island, originally a residential area, was dedicated to "art and science" by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1841. It was further extended under succeeding Prussian kings; the museum's collections of art and archeology were turned into a public foundation after 1918. It is now so called 'Museum Island' for the complex of five internationally significant museums; all part of the Berlin State Museums that occupy the island's northern part.

In 1999, the museum complex was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

The nearest station to the Museum Island is to walk for about 5-mins from Hackescher Mart of S-Bahn station. We didn't go into the museums to visit any of its exhibitions but rather walked around the island to see these museum buildings.

Berlin Cathedral

    The first building we saw was the Berlin Cathedral (left photo below). Also known as Berliner Dom in German, this Baroque style building (right photo below) was built between 1747 and 1750 on the site of an old Dominican church.

    The church façade was ornately decorated (photos below). The central copper dome, measures 98-meters tall, was severely damaged during World War II, but was now restored in a simplified form.

    From the Lustgarten, the Cathedral looks even grander (photos below). At 114-metres long, 73-metres wide and 116-metres tall, it was much larger than any of its previous version and was considered a Protestant counterweight to St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

Old Museum

    Known as Altes Museum in German, the museum is located north-east of where the Lustgarten lies (left photo below). Originally a part of the Berlin City Palace, the Lustgarten has been used a parade ground and a place for mass rallies in the past history. Now it is a public park.

    The Altes Museum, literally known as Old Museum, was originally built between 1823 and 1830 in the neoclassical style to house the former Prussian royal family's art collection. The building takes the Greek Stoa in Athens as a model, borrowing heavily from Greek antiquity and classical architecture (right photo below). On top of the eighteen ionic columns sit eighteen sandstone eagles. Below these eagles is the dedication inscription that reads:

    Friedrich Wilhelm III founded this museum for the study of all forms of antiquities and of the liberal arts in 1828

    The corners of the building top stood the figures of Castor and Pollux, both heros of Greek mythical figures (photos below).

    The statue named "Fighting Amazonian Woman" or Kämpfende Amazone in German (left photo below) flanked the right side of the main staircase leading into the building. It displays with great expressivity the attempts of an Amazonian woman to ward off a panther's attack. While the statue on the opposite side "Lion-fighter" or Löwenkämpfer in German (right photo below), shows a lance-wielding man on horseback about to kill a lion.

Old National Gallery

    Also know as Alte National galerie in German, the Gallery (left photo below) was built between 1866 and 1876. The building is situated on a high platform that can be reached via a double staircase. On the top stands an equestrian statue of Friedrich August Wilhelm IV (right photo below).

    The façade of the building is preceded by a magnificent colonnade and its decorations are keeping with its purpose – the tympanum (triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance) features Germania as patroness of art (left photo below). The top of the building is crowned with the personification of the arts (right photo below).

Pergamon Museum

    Built between 1910 and 1930, the museum or Pergamonmuseum in German (left photo below) houses one of Europe's most famous collections of antiquities. It is named for the famous Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate, where the original sized parts are reconstructed inside the museum. The museum is subdivided into the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art.

    The museum is visited by approximately 1,135,000 people every year, making it the most visited art museum in Germany. Therefore it is not surprising that long queue at the ticket office can be expected during its opening hours (right photo below).

Berlin Art and Nostalgia Market

    While walking towards Bode museum along Am Kupfergraben, we saw a flea market consisting of several stalls selling some second-hand arts and collectibles (photos below). Only during the write-up of this blog then I found out that it is the popular 'Berlin Art and Nostalgia Market' or Berliner Kunst und Nostalgiemarkt in German. This market opens only on weekends (Sat and Sun) from 11 am till 5 pm.

Bode Museum

    Erected on the island between 1897 and 1904, the Bode Museum (photos below) was designed to fit the wedge-shaped end of the island. This museum is the home for a collection of sculptures, Byzantine art, and coins and medals. Highlights include an outstanding collection of world's oldest coins dating back to Athens in the 6th century BC and Roman medieval times.

Berlin Insider Tour

After a quick exploring around Museum Island, we decided to walk back to Hackescher Markt Station. This station is easily recognized by the red brick adored with decorative patterns (left photo below). The meeting point for the tour is just in front of A.M.T. coffee outlet (right photo below).

We booked this Berlin walking tour from Insider Tours which lasted for 4 hours. Cost of the tour is EUR 12 per adult or EUR 10 if under 26 years old / pensioners. Further discount at EUR 8.50 is available for holders of 'Welcome' or 'City Tours' cards. Number of tours per day is dependant on season; there are 2 tours daily at 1030 hours and 1500 hours (Apr till Oct) or a single tour daily at 1030 hours (Nov till Mar). Do note that for visitors who book this tour at West Berlin (Zoo Station in front of McDonalds) will have to take the subway to East Berlin (Hackescher Markt) meeting point.

The tour started off at the Museum Island where our guide described to us the history of the island during World War II and the Cold War. One description that left me with great impressive was an old photograph showed to us by the guide; it was taken on the massive gathering of Nazi members at Lustgarten listening to the speech by Adolf Hitler, with Altes Museum as the backdrop. Comparing the photograph against the actual building, I felt a sudden relief that the Lustgarten is so peaceful now.

Around Bebelplatz

This section of Unter Linden between Schlossbrücke and Friedrichstrasse is one of the most attractive places with some magnificent Baroque and Neo-Classical buildings. Designed in 18th century, it was known formerly as Opernplatz (Opera Square), but this square was renamed in 1947 in honor of social activist, August Bebel.

On 10 May 1933 the infamous book burning scene occurred at Bebelplatz. Organized by the Nazi Propaganda machine, some 25,000 books written by authors considered to be enemies of the Third Reich were burned. Today, a monument was built at the centre of the square.

New Guard House

    After the museum island, we then walked towards the New Guard House (left photo below). Also known as Neue Wache in German, this building is a war memorial built between 1816 and 1818. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of Neo-Classical architecture in Berlin. Originally used as a royal guard house, in 1931 it was turned into a monument to soldiers killed during World War I.

    After German reunification, the Neue Wache was again rededicated in 1993, as the "Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny". The previous memorial piece was removed and replaced by an enlarged version of Käthe Kollwitz's sculpture - Mother with her Dead Son (right photo below). This sculpture is directly under the oculus (circular opening in the roof), thus exposed to the rain, snow and cold of the Berlin climate; which is meant to symbolize the suffering of civilians during World War II.

Berlin State Opera

    Better known as Staatsoper Unter den Linden in German, the Berlin State Opera (left photo below) was completed in 1742; making it Germany's oldest theatre building. This Opera house is now closed for restoration until October 2013.

Humboldt University

    The Humboldt University of Berlin (right photo below), or Humboldt Universität in German, is the oldest University in Berlin. Many famous scholars have worked at the University, including Robert Koch, Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Among the well known graduates are Heinrich Heine and Karl Marx.

St. Hedwig's Cathedral

    This huge church (left photo below), also known as St-Hedwigs-Kathedrale in German, was first built in 18th century as first Catholic Church in Prussia. The church is easily recognized with a huge green dome and its façade featured many beautiful bas-relief sculptures.

French Cathedral

Also known as Französischer Dom in German, this cathedral (right photo above) is located at Gendarmenmarkt. The structure is dominated by a massive cylindrical tower which is encircled by Corinthian porticoes at its base. The church now houses the Huguenot Museum, which details the history of the Huguenot community in France and Brandenburg.

Coffee Break during the Tour

This walking tour can be tiring especially during a hot summer afternoon. Our tour group was then brought to this café 'Lagano Lifestyle Coffee' (left photo below) to have a short break. Of course any orders in this café will be personal expenses. I've ordered an iced Cappuccino at EUR 2.90 (right photo below). The other glass in the photo was a candle holder decorated with coffee beans, which I find it interesting and took it together with my cappuccino.

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie or "Checkpoint C" was the name given by the Western Allies to the crossing between the American and Soviet sectors in Berlin during the Cold War (1961 to 1990). During that time, it represented a symbol of both freedom and separation for the many East Germans trying to escape from the Deutsche Demokratische Republik Communist regime.

Today, the Checkpoint Charlie has become a tourist attraction; there are no longer gates, barriers or barbed wire to be seen. Instead a replica checkpoint booth, complete with sand bags, is on display (left photo below). Nearby there is a museum that is worth visiting: Checkpoint Charlie Museum or Haus am Checkpoint Charlie in German (right photo below). This museum display a rich collection of Cold War Border conflicts and related documents of successful escape attempts from East Germany.

At the old Western side stands the famous sign board that reads "You are entering the American sector". The mast with an image of American soldier signified the area behind was American sector (left photo below), while the reverse side showed a Soviet soldier (right photo below).

Trabi Car Rental

The Trabant was a car that was produced by former East German auto-maker VEB. It was the most common vehicle in East Germany, and was exported to countries both inside and outside the communist bloc. These cars are often referred to as the 'Trabi'. During our walking tour, we saw these Trabi were out for rental (photos below).

Berlin Wall

Perhaps this is the most famous wall after the Great Wall of China. Berlin Wall or Berliner Mauer in German, was a barrier constructed by East German (GDR) starting on 13 August 1961, which completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin. The border of East Germany to West Berlin was 155-km long and between the outer and inner walls was the death strip of 100-meters wide, which was constantly guarded and brightly illuminated at night. After almost 30 years, the wall was demolished officially in Jun 1990.

During the walking tour we walked passed a remaining section of the wall (left photo below). Almost all of the remaining sections of Berlin Wall were rapidly chipped away and badly damaged by souvenir seekers (right photo below).

Upon the announcement of the opening of new border crossings, crowds on both sides waited there for hours, cheering at the bulldozers which took parts of the Wall away to reinstate old roads. Some of these historical photos (left photo below) showed how excited the crowds were. Now almost all the walls were dismantled; only a plaque (right photo below) near the Charlie Checkpoint with inscriptions "BERLINER MAUER 1961–1989" reminded people where the wall once stood.

Detlev Rohwedder Building

Also known as Detlev-Rohwedder-Haus in German, it was the largest office building in Europe during its construction between 1935 and 1936. During the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), it was known as House of Ministries until 1992 when it was named to its present name: Detlev Rohwedder Building.

What caught our attention was this 18-meter long mural, made out of Meissen porcelain tiles in 1950 to 1952, located at the north end of the building. The mural depicts the Socialist ideal of contended East Germans facing a bright future as one big happy family (photos below).

In 16 June 1953, a strike broke out in East Berlin by construction workers, which turned into a widespread uprising against the German Democratic Republic government the next day. This is known as the 'Uprising of 1953 in East Germany'. The government decided to use force to stop the uprising and turned to the Soviet Union for military support. In total, around 16 Soviet divisions with 20,000 soldiers as well as 8,000 Kasernierte Volkspolizei members were used to quell the uprising.

According to the West Germany, 513 people were killed in the uprising, 106 people were executed under martial law or later condemned to death, 1,838 were injured, and 5,100 were arrested (1,200 of these were later sentenced to an average of 5 years in penal camps). Also it was alleged that 17 or 18 Soviet soldiers were executed for refusing to shoot at the demonstrating workers.

A huge blown-up photograph, of 1953 protesters shortly before their gathering was suppressed, was put up in 1993 to commemorate the 'Uprising of 1953 in East Germany' (left photo below). The pictures of the protesters formed a huge contrast against the nearby 1950s mural of Socialist idealistic life (right photo below).

Berlin Modernism Housing Estates

This property consists of six housing estates that testified to innovative housing policies from 1910 to 1933, especially during the Weimar Republic, when the city of Berlin was particularly progressive socially, politically and culturally (photos below).

The property is an outstanding example of the building reform movement that contributed to improving housing and living conditions for people with low incomes through novel approaches to town planning, architecture and garden design.

In 2008, the Berlin Modernism Housing Estates was listed as World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Temporary water pipes above streets

While walking from the housing estate, the striking pink pipes above the streets caught our sight (left photo below). Our tour guide explained that Berlin is built on swamp / marsh, so the groundwater is just below the surface. Every time construction takes place, the water has to be constantly pumped out, and that's the reason why there are such pink water pipes. Probably this is a unique sight in Berlin.


Literally translated as "Leader's bunker", it was an air-raid shelter located near the Reich Chancellery. Adolf Hitler took up residence in this bunker on 16 Jan 1945 and it became the epicentre of the Nazi regime until the last week of WWII. Now the bunker was demolished and the immediate area was occupied by a restaurant and shopping centre, while the emergency exit point for the bunker was occupied by a car park (right photo below).

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Also known as Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas in German, it is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Occupying 19,000 square meters covered with 2,711 concrete slabs, it is designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, with aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch (photos below). Interestingly the stelae are covered by a special protective coating known to be able to prevent graffiti works.

Brandenburg Gate

We finally walked to the Brandenburg Gate, which was the last sight of our walking tour. Also known as Brandenburger Tor in German, the gate is a former city gate rebuilt in the late 18th century as a Neo-Classical triumphal arch (photo below). Now it is the most well-known landmark of Berlin and Germany.

The Gate consists of twelve Doric columns, six to each side, forming five passageways; measuring 65.5-meters wide, 11-meters deep and 26-meters high. Atop the gate is the Quadriga, a chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of Victory (photo below).

After the 1806 Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon was the first to use the Brandenburg Gate for a triumphal procession and took its Quadriga to Paris. After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, the Quadriga was restored to Berlin and Victoria's wreath of oak leaves was supplemented with a new symbol of Prussian power, the Iron Cross. After the WWII, the gate was badly damaged with holes in the columns from bullets and nearby explosions (photos below).

With the fall of the Berlin wall, the gate has become a symbol for freedom and desire to unify the city of Berlin and Germany (left photo below). Several important buildings are located at proximity with the Brandenburg Gate.

The Hotel Adlon (right photo below) is located directly opposite the Gate, at the main boulevard in the Berlin city centre. Built in 1907, the hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Berlin. Perhaps the infamous scene was where Michael Jackson dangled his son "Blanket" out of one of the hotel's windows during his visit in Nov 2002.

Along the main boulevard, immediately after the Brandenburg Gate, it is flanked by the American Embassy (left photo below) and French Embassy (right photo below).


Built to house the Parliament of German Empire, the Reichstag (left photo below) was constructed between 1884 and 1894. Decorative sculptures, reliefs and inscriptions were added to the building during its construction (right photo below).

In 1916, the iconic words "DEM DEUTSCHEN VOLKE" – 'To the German People' were carved above the main façade of the building (left photo below). After WWII the building fell into disuse until it underwent a reconstruction after the German reunification. The reconstruction was completed in 1999 with a huge glass dome (right photo below) erected on the roof as a gesture to the original 1894 cupola. The glass dome offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. This attracted a large crowd to visit the glass dome everyday.

Dinner at Neve Promenade

Decided to have dinner at a small café called 'Stop, Eat and Drink' along Neve Promenade, near to the Hackescher Markt Station. Ordered a curry wurst at EUR 3.50 (left photo below) and a spaghetti carbonara at EUR 5.50 (right photo below). Taste wasn't that bad especially the café is located in a touristy area.

Hard Rock Café Berlin

Right after dinner, my colleagues and I decided to visit Berlin's Hard Rock Café (left photo below). The café can be reached by alighting at either U-Bahn Kurfürstendamm station or U-Bahn Uhlandstr station, and walked for about 5 to 10-mins. This café was relocated to a heritage protected Bauhaus building located at Kurfürstendamm 224. Several rare pieces of authentic music memorabilia, a Rock Shop with limited-edition merchandise (right photo below) can be found inside the café.

After gotten our souvenirs, we then took the U-Bahn and railway back to the hotel.

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