Brussels/Berlin 2023

Friday 21st July 2023 – Going Underground and Showing Solidarity

After breakfast, I had a date with the underground of Berlin. Thankfully, this did not require me to agree to any potential espionage activities or to learn any passwords. Instead, €19 were paid to the very above-board and well-advertised “Berliner Unterwelden” and a meeting point communicated by email. This turned out to be 20 minutes walk north from my apartment.

The tour was excellent and told many of the stories of escape from East Berlin after the border closed in 1961. The fast majority of these occurred before 1965 and used the U-Bhan network, the swear system or, for the more energetic types, self-dug tunnels.

One of the most famous self-dug tunnels was “Tunnel 29”. This was dug in 1962 and is so-called as 29 people managed to escape through it. They did this by entering through the basement at 7, Schönholzer Straße, merely a couple of doors further down the street I have been staying in.

The stories of bravery and ingenuity were remarkable and while I often avoid guided tours, I was very glad to have been on this one. An added bonus was to be walking through WWII and later Cold War bunkers en-route.

The tour finished a 30 second walk from my front door, with the whole tour group having travelled there on the U-Bahn line 8. It is interesting to note that this and many other stations in East Berlin were essentially “ghost stations” during the time of the wall. This is because although the West German authorities still operated the U-Bhan under East German territory, the trains could not stop there. These stations were therefore bricked up to try and stop escapees.

after thanking the guide and departing, I took an afternoon coffee at “Puffle Bees”, an establishment further down Brunestraße, which serves excellent waffles. I enjoyed my “Apple Granola” waffle very much indeed.

The U8 and U9 lines then took me to Kreuzberg. The reason to visit this location was mainly to lend my support to the annual “Dyke March”, a march compromised of and celebrating those who identify as lesbian.

I departed the U-Bahn at “Treptower Park”. This was in fact further from the March muster point than I had realised but it was a fortunate miscalculation. As a result, I stumbled upon the Soviet War Memorial. This was a gigantic and very well kept affair commemorating the USSR war dead from WWII. It was quite spectacular in design and very reminiscent of other communist memorials I have seen either in person or in pictures. In the modern age it is historically fascinating as a representation of the time, but also does bring to mind the number of citizens of USSR countries who died and the fact this remains the largest death toll of any single country. It is also interesting to consider how different things would have been had the Soviet Union not been involved in WWII. Would the Nazis still have been defeated? I headed to the march muster point considering this.

I’m typical style for any LGBT+ related event, I found the crowd colourful and the atmosphere a positive one. They parade moved off about 6.20pm and I inadvertantly ended up in it, not really having intended to to so. My rainbow flag probably showed that I was a “safe” person as no-one seemed to mind. I was able to take myself off to the side to observe the placards, and some of the characters in teh parade. It was very pleasant and very good natured. The was a strong police presence but they were all quite smiley and simply making sure people went in the correct direction.

I caught the S42, and the U2 lines to Eberswalder Straße. Near the station was a Vegan Burger place where I enjoyed a “Crispy Chick” burger with “Cheesy Fries” and a bottle of Pilsner Beer. The rain was coming down in torrents so the staff were inviting people in to shelter and giving them free ice cream. I felt good about humanity.

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