29.05.2016 - 03.06.2016
I recently just spent five days in Berlin and as I'm posting this now I am on a train to Prague where tomorrow I meet up with my mama- but first- Berlin. Berlin was different for me than my other legs of this trip, mostly because my hostel was not in a great location so I was far from the nightlife and really didn't get the chance to experience that part of the city culture.... Next time Mark 😉. What I missed in booze and raves I made up for with historical site seeing... I know- I'm such a badass.
This city has so much history- I really felt like I was back in seventh grade history class. Berlin is a city with 800 years of history dating back to the Prussians and recently WW2 and the Cold War. So much of the city was damaged in WW2 but there is so much restoration.
I did a general walking tour my first day just to orient myself. We saw lots of buildings that were once used by Prussian royalty in as early as the 1200s and then also saw buildings used by the Nazi's in the 30's and 40's. I visited the Brandenburg gate- a famous site of celebration after the wall came down. I saw Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson infamously hung baby Blanket off a balcony. I visited Checkpoint Charlie and saw many Nazi watchtowers lining the Berlin Wall. I also visited many parts of the Berlin Wall still standing today including the famous East Side galleria where there is a lot of famous street art that decorates the wall on both sides. The history around the Cold War was fascinating to me. At the time the wall came down I was just a chubby four year old who went by the name "the Refrigerator" (thanks Mom), so I really had no idea what it was really all about. It is unreal that overnight this barrier went up, changing families and relationships forever. Bad night to have a one night stand. Learning about the escape attempts was mind blowing; one lady dressed up as a car seat cushion and a man sat on her and drove the car to West Berlin, another guy ziplined across, and another used a hot air balloon. It's also amazing to me to see the aftermath of the wall coming down. There are still parts of East Berlin where it is very visible they are still rebuilding. Current Berlin is very much a city of unity and freedom to be who you want to be. There is a really cool culture of artists and musicians and the neighborhoods are each so unique! I also went on a street art tour and learned a lot about some very famous art and I also met a street artist who was commissioned by the city to do a piece and he chose a piece that was a take on the American voter....it wasn't pretty but all too real.
My favorite memorial I visited was the Memorial of the Murdered Jews. It takes up one full street block and is comprised of 2711 huge cement blocks lined in a grid but they are actually all individually different slightly in shape and angle. You walk through the structure and it's almost disorienting. It was really an amazing experience. The designer is a Jewish American who has refused to tell his inspiration in the hopes that people would walk through it and develop their own ideas and beliefs about what the memorial is about. It's different than any memorial I've been to and definitely more powerful than any statue or plaque. They also have a great museum below that tells the stories of six individual families effected by the holocaust in a very personal and emotional way.
Also in Berlin I went to Potsdam which is a city about an hour away where most of the old Prussian palaces are, including Frederick the Great! I also rented a bike one day and biked around the city and only ran into one street sign 😬.
My take away from Berlin- I was absolutely amazing that every corner you turn there is some reminder of the holocaust. Whether it be a memorial or museum or gardens, the people of Berlin are reminded everyday of the lives lost and that horrible dark part of their history. I learned that part of the German high school curriculum is to go visit a concentration camp! I think this speaks to the people of Berlin today that they keep the memories alive and refuse to ignore or forget what happened but quite the opposite -it is very much part of their daily lives and they chose to remember and learn from it.
Ok now off to Prague!!