Our first full day in Berlin was a busy one. Me being the task master I was when planning our German trip, I had intended to start earlier than we actually did. And like other times during our trip, things didn't quite work out. We made our way from our home base at Frankfurter Tor to the station at Alexanderplatz, where I was promptly and thoroughly confused when we couldn't find the platform to the train for our final station, Hauptbahnnof. But what a beautiful station:
So my plans to tour the Reichstag were foiled by my poor planning, even poorer execution, and overall confusion about the Berlin public transportation system. The Reichstag has a reservation system, so you can't just wander on in, and there were no times that were going to work out for us the rest of the day. But we got really close to the building.
Distraught at this missed opportunity, we wandered through the Tiergarten (literally "Animal Park"), and using my handy dandy "Rick Steves Germany" book, came across the Soviet War Memorial.
I was quite familiar with the Soviet occupation on Berlin (not personal experience, though), and the Soviet domination of East Germany for decades afterwards, but it was still a little jarring to see this huge monument with Cyrillic. Having a huge enemy solider looming over the West German citizens during the Cold War couldn't have been very pleasant, either. Yep, the monument was built in British-controller Berlin during the four power period.
The monument reads: "Eternal glory to heroes who fell in the struggle against the German fascist invaders for the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union." 80,000 Soviet soldiers died in the assault on Berlin in 1945, with about 2,000 of them buried at the memorial site.
Also on the site are a howitzer and two T-34 tanks, some of the many weapons used during the battle. The fences aren't from 1945, but they were a theme of our day touring Berlin.
We only touched on the Tiergarten, but this is one of the interesting monuments in and near the park. It's only minutes away from the Brandenburg Gate, and worth a look if you're in the area.