I had an amazing time in Berlin, but wish I had more time in the city that divided the world and then re-united it! One full day is not enough to scratch the surface on all the great things the city has to offer, especially if that day is a Monday – when all the museums are closed. This meant that other than walking around the city and taking a walking tour, there was no way to gain any further insight into the city’s rich history.
Given that we only had one and a half days in Berlin, I definitely did not have time to relax. We arrived at the hostel at around 3:30 PM on Sunday night. The hostel was in a great location, so I walked around until it got dark on Sunday night exploring the sights and sounds of the city. Within walking distance of my hostel was the TV Tower, the place that the Stasi Officers did most of their spying from, St Mary’s Church, and many other beautiful buildings.
Berlin was very quiet on a Sunday evening
A park near the TV Tower
TV Tower & St Mary’s Church
After it got dark, I went back to the hostel to meet up with the rest of my group for dinner. Much to my dismay, they decided to get sushi. It was my first time ever having sushi because I don’t like fish, so I cheated and got a spicy chicken sushi. It was good, but something tells me a weinerschnitzel or bratwurst would have been more up my alley!
On Monday, we started the day off with a tour of Berlin. We walked past the TV Tower again and then saw Museum Island where most of the museums of Berlin are located. As I mentioned earlier, all but one were closed. The only one that was open was an art museum and I am saving what little attention span I have for art for the Louvre in Paris. After Museum Island, we saw the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny which is very general on purpose. The Germans did not want to exclude anyone (including Nazi Soldiers) from this monument. Underneath the monument, there is the tomb of an unknown concentration camp victim and the tomb of an unknown soldier. Every foreign diplomat stops there when they are visiting Berlin. We also saw the University where Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin, and Albert Einstein studied. The plaza in front of the university was the site of an infamous book burning after Hitler came to power where he and his propaganda ministers oversaw the burning of books by Jewish and homosexual authors. After this, we walked to Checkpoint Charlie which was the crossroads of the East and West for a significant part of the Cold War. Then, we stopped to try a piece of traditional German street food – Currywurst. Then, we saw a piece of the Berlin Wall and learned some of the history behind it. It was constructed during a period of 57 hours. After this, we went to a piece of grass in a parking lot which was the spot where Hitler’s bunker was. They have absolutely no sign or anything to commemorate it. I was very happy to see this because they do not want to attract any Neo-Nazi followers. After this, we saw the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe which was really eerie. Walking through it, I felt lost, claustrophobic, and alone – three traits the victims felt in the concentration camps. The tour ended at one of the oldest and most famous sites of Berlin – Brandenburg Gate.
Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Tyranny
Currywurst – My new favorite food!
One of the remaining parts of the Berlin Wall
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
This caught my eye on the way to Hitler’s bunker.
Me in front of the Brandenburg Gate
I don’t know why, but I was surprised that Berlin was just like any other city. It had big buildings and very little historical sites. This was because most of Berlin was destroyed in World War II.
After the tour, half of our tour group decided to do a tour of the “Alternative Side of Berlin”. I really wanted to take a tour that explored the rise and fall of Hitler and the Third Reich, but it was not being offered. The Alternative tour was interesting as I was able to gain insight into the world of graffiti and now better understand it. Now, I don’t think I’ll look at graffiti as just something that dirties up a city any more, but as a form of art. I also took some really cool pictures. We went to an old abandoned building that had graffiti all over the interior & exterior and visited the famous East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery is a part of the Berlin Wall that world famous artists painted murals of peace after the wall fell in 1989. They were really cool and some were very risqué.
Abandoned building that has graffiti all over
East Side Gallery
History Lesson at the East Side Gallery
A man jumping to freedom at the East Side Gallery
“My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love” at the East Side Gallery.
After our tour, our group met up and went to a traditional German restaurant. I was finally able to have the traditional German meal I’d been craving since our bus crossed into Germany. I had the best, most tender beef goulash I’ve ever had and apple strudel for dessert!
After our meal, we headed back to our hostel to grab our bags for an overnight bus trip to Amsterdam.
Note: This post was originally published on March 28, 2011 in a blog entitled “Romeing Around Europe” which chronicled my study abroad experience.