Our second full day in Berlin turned out to be a day of amazing contrast.

On the recommendation of many including Ian & Marie and Trip Advisor, we made our way by U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz from where we had a 200 m walk to the Holocaust memorial. Tellingly it is called the “Denkmal der ermörderten Juden” – the memorial to the murdered Jews – putting the emphasis unequivocally on the idea of individuals, no matter how many, being murdered by an evil foe. This was a point of stress we had not previously encountered and it provided us with a clear perspective within which to experience the memorial. I use “experience” deliberately as any other expression might suggest enjoyment, and it certainly was anything but. The exhibition starts with a quote on a wall and by the end you know exactly why it was put there.

                     The reason not to forget.

The sheer monstrosity of what we saw and heard was at times overwhelming and on at least 2 occasions I took off my headphones and walked away. Mary and I didn’t share a word for more than 2 hours. There is also a great deal of stress on the geographical extent of that Reign of Terror, showing how Jews, gypsies and Roma from almost every country in Europe were deported to the extermination camps. Yet another fact reveals that, despite an impression that the mass gassing of the victims was the solution to the problem, the truth is that one third of all those murdered (2 million men, women and children) were shot at close range by individual killing squads. Sobering stuff. Above the exhibition stands the field of stones, thousands of concrete slabs of varying dimensions on an undulating surface. Visitors are invited to walk through as they wish and the overall feeling is one of disorientation and unease.

                                  Die Steine

When we emerged from the “Darkness” we knew we would have to seek the “Light” so made for the Commercial Centre on the Potsdamer Platz and enjoyed a stroll round the lively mall before settling down to a quick lunch of noodles and stuff. We took the easy decision to raise our spirits by going to the zoo, a plan we set up last night in case we found the Memorial too harrowing. Well it wasn’t but we weren’t exactly jumping for joy so zoo it was.

I won’t bore you with a commentary on all of the animals but will simply say that we had a lovely afternoon in the Berliner Tiergarten and enjoyed it immensely. Here are some photos with captions. Happy for you to try and answer to the last one. I’ll tell you tomorrow!

Mary told me to come out at once!

What’s the difference between a buffalo and a bison?

We head back to the Rhine tomorrow on the 10 o’clock train to Magdeburg, Kassel and Frankfurt-am-Main. You know, that still manages to make me gasp with incredulity. If it’s a dream, I hope I don’t wake up!