This trip marked my first trip to Germany. One of the many advantages of living on the continent is how easy (and cheap) it is to travel to other areas in Europe.
Berlin however, is unique compared to the rest of Germany, look back no further than 1945, the Cold War or even the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
I must admit, when I landed and came through the arrivals gate, I had a little moment of ‘I wish I was coming through the arrivals gate at Newcastle airport’. But the moment passed, and I ventured into Berlin on my own.
I can now proudly say I can navigate the Berlin transport and U-bahn all on my own.
Admittedly it was scary, and the lack of italian or english signs was a shock at first. I spent most of the day looking for the word ‘Uscita’.
A few of my dutch and german friends had told me I would love Berlin, not only for its history, but for its various food options. The amount of Vegan or Vegetarian restaurants in Berlin made me a very happy lady.
First Impressions; Berlin appears quite cold and industrial, almost like something out of George Orwell’s 1984. However, once my friend had arrived, it all started to pick up, and the copious amounts of street art and almost, never ending war memorials made me more inquisitive than anything.
The first day involved a really impressive tour, that took two hours. That sounds long I must admit, but it was so interesting, I didn’t even notice the time go by. It began at the Brandenburg Gate, passed the Reichstag, and the Holocaust memorial more specifically known as the ‘Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe’. The tour moved onto the site (above ground) where Adolf Hitler committed suicide, passed the old Luftwaffe building and then onto the Berlin wall and Checkpoint Charlie. Intense but beyond interesting.
- The Reichestag today, is open to the public with pre bookings, and now has an enormous glass dome on top of the building to give the impression of transparency when it comes to current day German politics.
- The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, is a modern piece of architecture, which is entirely open to interpretation. Designed by Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold, and was opened as recently as 2005. The site does not have any plaque of information or details, which leaves the whole experience of walking through it open to interpretation, and probably tends to resinate with the visitor on a more significant and personal level.
- The Berlin Wall (Im sure most of you know, divided Berlin between the East and the West, after the allied Victory of World War Two) I won’t go into the history of it as I will be here forever. But the wall was astounding in itself, to think one day the people of Germany woke up to a wall with guards, disallowing movement across what had once been a whole city. The images and depictions on the Wall resinated with modern day politics, and organisations such as Amnesty International. However, all I could think of when I saw the wall was Trump.
- Check Point Charlie I must admit, was just a landmark of significance in the middle of the road.
The last site we visited was Bebelplabtz, an important square in Germany today, it had marked the site of other historical events, but most notably was the burning of books which occurred under Hitler, and it is now marked by a quote from 1821 written a whole century before Hitler.
”Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings” – ”Wo sie auch Bücher brennen, werden sie auch am Ende Menschen verbrennen”. – Henrich Heine.
The long weekend also entailed a visit to the Museum of the ‘Typography of Terror’ which went through Hitler’s rise to power and all of the things that occurred throughout his regime. But most notably the people who worked alongside or for him, some of which who were prospected and some were not. One member of the Nazi’s died as recently as 2002, in the comfort of his own home, of natural circumstances.
Facts such as these, not only shock you, but almost add a sense of reality to something you would only tend to learn about in school.
I know what your thinking, pretty intense trip? Have no fear the Saturday evening was spent eating at a delicious Thai restaurant, moving onto a place called ‘Hofbrau Berlin’ where I had my first pint in what seems like a very long time. (If Italy has any flaws it is its lack of good beer, and lack of international foods)
My friend had a litre….yes a litre, but for once I actually enjoyed the beer. After this we headed to a German nightclub, which was one of the strangest experiences I have had in a while. The night club from the outside just looked like a block of offices, and when we entered, we were taken up to the 15th floor. (It always comes as a bit of a shock, but in Germany (like most of europe) you are allowed to smoke inside.)
Drunk Elly cast a few ‘side-eye’ glances at people smoking weed in the nightclub. But that aside, It was one of the best nights out I have had in a while! A fun filled night non the less.
I must say in Berlin, seemed almost apologetic, no matter where you looked. Everything seemed to shout ‘we are sorry’. I guess this is a way of disallowing anyone to forget the awful events of World War Two, which is incredibly important. It did pose the question, how do the Germans who live in Berlin get on with every day life. Do they notice these memorials? do they try to find out what their ancestors did less than a century ago?
Berlin, you were a unique experience, keen history student that I am throughly enjoyed the learning and good beer.
If you ever visit Berlin, make sure you also venture of the beaten Tourist track into the East sector of Berlin Mitte, the architecture and even the way of life seems to change entirely, showing the lasting effects of Communism. The Flea Marked in Berlin Mitte is also certainly worth a visit!
P.S – Berlin has an entire Island dedicated to Museums