At first I didn't really know what I was seeing - lots of almost coffin shaped stones in the ground. Then you notice that the ground undulates and the stones are different sizes, some almost up to ten feet tall creating a maze to walk though and get lost in. There was no graffiti anywhere, the stones were clean. They were also quite popular.
I wandered through the stones, touching some of them and kept walking. It's a large and spread out memorial. At the far end from the Tiergarten is an underground information centre that I didn't visit. And beyond that were the bars, cafes and restaurants and shops that you always find at tourist sites. I assume the information centre explains what the blocks of stone are meant to represent and why there are that amount of blocks on the land allocated to the memorial.
The cynic in me wondered how many times property developers have challenged the use of the land as a memorial - it's a prime site in the centre of Berlin and must be worth a pretty penny. It's use might not have been challenged but I suspect it will be one day and that's when the intent of Berlin and the German Government will come under scrutiny.
It's quite a touching place, relatively quiet once you're inside it and wondering how many stone blocks you have to walk past until you reach the other side.
Just over the road and in the Tiergarten is the memorial to homosexuals and lesbians. It immediately made me think of the Homomonument in Amsterdam, just round the corner from Anne Frank's House. This is less elegant and is simply a big block of concrete, slightly sinking into the ground on one side. There is no writing on it to explain what it is but there's a small indentation on one side with a window to look inside and see a film on loop of gay men and women kissing - men kissing men and women kissing women.
Of course, it wasn't long until I saw the wall for the first time. Walking round the side of the Tiergarten to Potsdamer Platz and there were the first slabs of wall I saw. along with text plaining what we were seeing. So, this was the wall?
In the courtyard is a statue to the dead and, on one side, is a wreath to the senior army officers who planned to assassinate Hitler in 1944 and who were shot in that courtyard. The exhibition inside the building includes the room where the death warrants were signed for those men and that made it particularly powerful. It was a very sobering experience to read about and witness this.
I should think it's quite important for Germans to show that not everyone supported the nazis and their policies. Sadly, most did - or at least didn't actively oppose them - otherwise the horrors wouldn't have happened. I couldn't help but reflect on what's happening in post-Brexit UK and Trump's America and think that there's no point in quietly tutting, we all must stand up for what we believe in or evil will return. It's so easy.
Something I was particularly surprised and pleased to see was the number of youth groups that opposed the Hitler youth in different ways. This was youth rebellion in true rebellion mode and particularly brave. Those who wore short-shorts and colourful scarves, those who insisted on listening to jazz music, those who dressed on overtly British and American styles - that's dangerous during a war but they did it anyway.
Good on ya youth cults, I'm proud of you!
Snd let's not forget Claus von Stauffenberg who tried to assassinate Hitler and who was shot in the courtyard I'd walked through to get into the building.
It didn't take long to get back to the wall in Potsdamer Platz and some colour. I assume the paintings were made after the fall of the wall but it's still nice to see.
It's that oddity that you're never sure when you're going to come across parts of the wall. In the centre there seems to be bits of the wall all over the place. It's here that I noticed for the first time that the path of the wall is indicated in public spaces by a double row of cobble-stones, across roads and across grass. There's a ga for the tram rails, but the cobbles continue at the other side.
I couldn't help but wonder what Berliners think of these reminders of pain, of the war and the wall, every time you turn a corner and bother to open your eyes. Do older people wonder what their parents did and do younger people even care? I don't know.
The oddity is that you don't know where or when these odd reminders of the past will occur. Even wandering through the Mall of Berlin, built in the rubble left around the wall, you know that you'll see a bronze plaque enshrining a quote from Ronald Reagan saying 'Tear down this wall!'. Do people under 30 even know who he was?
One of the most touching memorials was to the nazi book-burning in Bebelplatz. This was just a few minutes walk away from our hotel in the former East Germany and it's really quite stunning.
I saw it after sunset so it was at it's most stunning, a shining light coming out of the cobble-stoned ground. It's a square of light in the ground above an empty room of empty white book-shelves. No books. Ever again. It's very noticeable that it's in front of a university building and in sight of the Cathedral of St Hedwig - academia and the Church condoning or at least not opposing - the burning of knowledge. That is shameful. But to the credit of modern Germans that they have created this memorial.
We went back the following morning to see what the memorial would look like in daylight and it's largely the same - a white light in an empty room - but it's surrounded by tour groups. Can't have it all I suppose!
On the pyre tourist side of things, there's always Checkpoint Charlie.
Ignoring the charade I wanted to see what was inside the shop. What is actually sold at a shop about Checkpoint Charlie? The usual tourist tat, of course, plus chinks of concrete that claim to be from the wall.
I found this all really quite disturbing. People died here, the dreams of people died here, and yet here we are, invited to but a coffee cup about the wall to a tee shirt, a chunk of the (supposed) wall in a glass case, a baseball cap. What is going on here? People died for this tat.
There was a really weird morbid fascination walking round the shop, looking at the tat and the stuff that claimed to be about the wall. Looking at the staff I'd say that, when I was there, no-one was over the age of 30 so wouldn't have remembered the wall or what it meant. This was all about making money from stupid tourists. I couldn't bear to buy anything there. I'd love to know who owned this shop - an American? A German? Maybe a Russian? Someone is obviously making a killing from history.
I stopped about a third of the way round the displays and just thought 'I can't'. This isn't what I was expecting, I don't want this to cloud my memories of Berlin. But it has. What do Berliners think of all this? Of seeing their grandparents and great grandparents photos all over the place, illustrating lessons from the war or the wall? Do they even notice any more? I don't know how I'd feel about it all.
My parents were alive during the war but too young to participate so, if they'd been German, could so easily have been featured in one of these illustrations. Thankfully they're not.
There's a lot more to Berlin than these memorials and it's that that I'll remember. I'll remember the glory of the Gemaldegalerie as my Berlin, and seeing Nefertiti and the 19th Century paintings in the Alte Nationalgalerie.
Now, of course, I wonder how German and French people see London. Is it a bastion of previous wars and monuments to our past colonialism? I'll probably never see that, at least not the way others might do.