Walls protrude from the tangled undergrowth. Cobblestones cut through the grass with kerbstones delineating old pathways and tracks. Ahead, steps spiral up to what once must have been a grand doorway. A stone plinth stands empty, the statue it once held long since disappeared. Then another plot, this time with a cross – presumably the remnants of an old church. Opposite it, a staircase leads to a former fort. You can still see a tiled bathroom, a relic from a bygone era.
May 8, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of the Wehrmacht in Berlin, which brought the Second World War to an end in Europe. As the last remaining witnesses to these dark pages of history pass away, many places of reflection and commemoration are only gaining in significance.
In the early hours of April 16, 1945, the 2.5 million strong Soviet Army began its assault on Berlin in the hope of defeating Nazi Germany once and for all. After 16 days of heavy fighting and at times even hand-to-hand combat, 200,000 soldiers and civilians had lost their lives and much of the city lay in ruins. Despite the devastation, several landmarks and battle scars still survive today scattered across Berlin, serving as an important reminder to the last major offensive of the Second World War in Europe.
In these strange times of self-isolation and social distancing we find ourselves in, it’s hard not to feel a little disconnected from the world going on around us. A world which, for now at least, we’re forbidden from venturing out into.
But being stuck in our homes does not mean we have to press pause on our sense of adventure. Travelling is about far more than just transporting yourself from A to B. It’s about discovery and learning and letting your inquisitive side take over. And thankfully you can do all of this now from the comfort of your own home. So grab your phone or tablet or even stream it on your TV and join me on a stroll through some of Europe’s greatest museums, just without the queues and admission fees.
They say you can’t properly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. And while this saying might be overused to the point of being trite, I think we can all agree that a little more empathy in the world would go a long way to bridging the gaps in our increasingly polarised society.