Travel, books and history make a happy trio for me. I’m inspired to travel by books I’ve read and I’m inspired to read about places I have visited. My love of history sits neatly alongside. Reading a powerful, evocative piece of writing and visiting the places where history was made is about as close as you can get to time travel.
This is a good time of year to get stuck into some reading and travel planning, especially here in Germany. The fun of the festive season is behind us, but the longer days and the optimism of Spring isn’t quite here yet. The days are short and weather tends towards wet and cold. Being curled up indoors, lost in a good book is a fine place to be. This is my list of some of my favourite reads that have inspired me to explore in Germany and through time, and the places they have inspired me to visit…plus a few that remain on the ‘to-visit’ list.
Stasi Child by David Young.
Looking for a ‘whodunnit’ steeped in historical detail with a strong female lead? Look no further. The Harz Mountains feature heavily in this book, and are one of my favourite places in Germany to visit. The so-called German Inner Border dissected this area and traces of divided Germany can still be explored. Those feeling energetic can hike all or just a portion of the Harz Border Trail which tracks the boundaries and patrol ways that used to divide. A visit to the Grenzmuseum Sorge offers a glimpse into the area at the time of the books setting.
Much of the action in Stasi Child takes place in the Harz, but the lead character is Berlin based. Reference is made in the story to the former border crossing at Chauseestrasse. I was inspired to visit what is now an unremarkable stretch of Berlin street after reading about the The Disappearing Rabbits of Berlin. The Iron Curtain was designed to keep people apart, but created a haven for wildlife in more than one location.
A Woman in Berlin ( Anonymous) & The Zookeeper’s War by Steve Conte.
The former is factual and the latter fiction inspired by real events, but both are set in the same period and place; Berlin, towards the end of WW2 and the arrival of the Russians. You’ll never run short of historical sites and tours in Berlin, but if this period in particular is of interest then a trip out to Beelitz Heilstatten is worth the effort. In 1945 Beelitz was the scene of fierce fighting as the Red Army advanced into Berlin. The hospital complex was then taken by the Russians, who hung onto it until the 1990s. Today the site offers visitors a treetop walk, the chance to explore the buildings and the history and on a clear day, great views across parkland to the Berlin skyline.
Within Berlin, the Soviet Memorial Treptow, dating from 1949, is the final resting place of some 7000 Soviet soldiers.
Leaving Berlin, Joseph Kanon.
Set in Berlin in 1949, this a story set in a city in the aftermath war, coming to terms with Soviet Occupation. Trust is thin on the ground and espionage a daily business.
The Hotel Adlon features early on and almost feels like a character rather than a setting. If the budget stretches to it, you could book into the Hotel Adlon Kempinski. I checked prices for a weekend for two in May and you’d be looking at around the €700 mark for two people with breakfast. If that’s a bit much for you, you can still enjoy a little taste of the Adlon experience by visiting Adlon To Go, the in-house coffee shop. The local area is incredibly historic, elegant and the hotels exterior very Instagram-able. All set against the imposing backdrop created by the Brandenburg Gate.
Another key location in the Berlin of 1949 that can still be visited is the Tempelhofer Feld. The site that was once home to the Templehof Airport has been reincarnated as one of Europe’s largest inner city parks. The vast outdoor space is now dedicated to leisure, while the former airport buildings have been listed.
If You like the idea of visiting a park with an interesting past you might also enjoy Autumn in Berlin: Get Outdoors!
Acts of espionage are woven thick and fast into the storylines of Leaving Berlin. The Spy Museum Berlin is heaving with exhibits about the history of spying and the devious means and methods employed . It also has an amazing laser maze for younger visitors. Or older ones who don’t mind looking a bit silly having a go. And yes, by that I do mean me.
If writing based on the people and places of Germany interests you, I’d also recommend The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, Stasiland by Anna Funder and All For Nothing by Walter Kempowski.
Have you read anything lately that has inspired you to plan future travels? Have any of your travels inspired you to pick up a book? I’d love to hear about it, and please do leave me links and reading suggestions below. I am always on the hunt for a new blog to follow or a new book to read.
Until Next Time,