Final destination: Berlin! Back in good ol’ Germany where I still can’t speak the language but understand so much more of it than Polish! We had a generous offer to stay with a friend of my host mom’s who lived there, so we looked forward to not having to lock our things up in the morning. We had one of our only mishaps of the trip getting there, however, since our flight was delayed and we missed our train. We had to take a night train instead of meeting our host that night, but he was very understanding and we got to enjoyyy the experience of sleeping on bunks in a train car.
There is a lot of history in Berlin that goes right from WWII to the Cold War. We were ready to be done with our history lesson since this one was rather depressing, but we were in the perfect place to wrap it all up so we couldn’t pass up one last day. Our first stop was only 2 blocks behind our house: Schwedter Straße. This is the famous road along which the Berlin wall ran and where a commemoration memorial replaces what used to be the wall.
This is a photo of a photo of the wall running through Berlin and splitting the east from the west. Notice this picture was taken only 8 years before I was born.
The very, very recent fall of the wall puts Berlin in a place of booming culture and development. After liberation the East began an explosive effort to catch up to speed with the rest of the world. We journeyed down past the river to the West Side where parts of the wall are still standing. A few years ago Berlin commissioned a number of artists from around the world to decorate the wall together, and the result is a very long stretch of politically graffitied wall with an incredible message to send. These are just a few pictures.
One of the murals depicts Berlin, Tokyo, and New York together: Berlin is likened to New York back in the 70s as “the place to be” for night life, arts, and big city excitement. Whereas Munich is a fairly expensive place to live, Berlin is still growing and hundreds of people move there to live or start a business because the prices are still low and the opportunity to make your own place still available. It’s so interesting to be surrounded by a city so old and simultaneously brand new.
This is the Brandenburg Gate. Built in the 18th Century by some King, it is now the symbol of Berlin unity and freedom. It was blocked by the wall and was the site for a lot of media coverage, riots, and rallies. I believe this is one of the places where they first broke through the wall. You can buy this archway (yes Peter, this exact archway) in miniature on keychains, shot glasses, t-shirts, and just about anything else you can think of. So if you see this anywhere… well… now you know that it’s a big deal.
Our last WWII event was the Jewish Memorial in Berlin. Over 2,000 concrete slabs of varying heights sit on uneven ground in a grid pattern commemorating perhaps both the countless unmarked graves as well as the chaos that masqueraded as an ordered system. The museum beneath it is filled with diary and letter excerpts from prisoners, family profiles with detailed information on their pre and post concentration-camp life, and countless stories and death counts. Interviews with several survivors are on film for viewing and the walls are lined with war timelines and information. It is a devastatingly interesting place, but after Hungary AND Auschwitz, I could barely handle more.
This Church was a block away from our house and the first parish of Dietrich Bonhoeffer; a famous Lutheran pastor that you should look up if you’re interested.
This is simply an example of modern day life in a very old city. The Train station is an epic stone building on the river.
It was a rather warm day and we stopped into a giant Cathedral thinking it was Catholic but the giant pillars of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli said quite otherwise. It was a pretty church 🙂
Oh yes- and it was also fashion week in Berlin, which of course I was incredibly excited for. ha. Can you say Mercedes Benz everywhere? We stood outside the venue for about 15 minutes watching people come in and out and speculating on whether any of them were famous in another world. So that was that.
We were pretty tired at this point in our travels, and while Berlin is a really fun city, it’s also… a big city. Most of the charm of Berlin, I believe, is in the life to live there. We did go out to a bar with our host one night and that was incredibly fun. Especially because they were still un-decorating from Christmas so you walking through a canopy of pine trees and over a carpet of evergreen branches just to enter the door. And the bouncer was a very scary-looking African-American woman. Aside from that however, our travels in Berlin were chalked up to WWII and people watching. The last night in Berlin we stopped at an Italian Restaurant and treated ourselves to a nice warm meal and a tall glass of Weiß Beer, which is a traditional German brew. Good conversation was definitely a highlight of the trip that I have no pictures of- but much of that was had. It was good to be with an old friend!!
Risa and I took a train to Munich and parted ways: She to Belgium and I to Bad Reichenhall. It was a bittersweet goodbye since we didn’t want to stop traveling together but the lack of clean clothes would have driven us apart eventually.
My return to the border was welcomed with my very own bed to sleep in and a good night’s sleep before we hit the slopes the next morning. No, I still haven’t skied yet, I was in charge of the sled and the baby. The 4-year old was getting her skis on for the first time this year and practicing on the bunny hills. Check out this view though! However many wonders I saw on my travels, it’s good to be back in the mountains I’ve come to know and love. Cheers.