Okay, so I’ve been back in London for almost two weeks now, but I haven’t had time to sit down and type out the adventures I had in April. I’m going to have to split everything up, but I’ll start at the beginning. First stop: Berlin.
On the afternoon of April 8, we boarded our flight from London Luton to Berlin. After the Paris debacle at Luton, I was a bit worried for the trip, but Luton turned out to work okay, and the trip was off to a good start. At first, there was a little nervous anticipation because none of the four of us spoke any German, and we had no idea what to expect. We landed safely and headed to figure out the public transport.
1. German words are really long and interesting to try and pronounce.
2. The public transport system is a little wack and tough to figure out because a) they don’t really ever check your tickets b) you have to get them stamped but no one ever tells you that, so you just have to figure it out and c) you don’t swipe into the transport, so it’s not like you even need one.
After figuring everything out, we arrived in Alexanderplatz only to circle around a bit before finding the hostel. Alexanderplatz is a main square in Berlin, and is home to a world clock that tells the time, you guessed it, all over the world. It is also home to the Fernsehturm (TV Tower, seen pictured below) and is the tallest structure in Germany.
If anyone ever goes to Berlin, I promise you, the 180 hostel is the best. Go to it. Photo booth, happy hour, food in the hostel, comfy beds with plugs and lights, and a good location make it prime. Trust me.
Anyway, the first night in ended with a whole pizza for each of us at this little Italian place, and then it was straight to bed because we had no time to waste in our awesome plan of adventures.
We headed to Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam in the morning. Although the palace itself wasn’t all that impressive, I liked a few different things.
1. Sans souci means life without care, and the guy who lived there built the palace as a sort of escape from work and important things. It’s my new motto (to a sense) because life is too short to live it miserably. Sorry for the cliche. But not really cause
2. The grounds were absolutely glouriously beautiful. There were extravagant buildings strewn throughout the grounds, and we walked through the miles of gardens. There are multiple palaces of his in this one area, and they are all so beautiful on the outside. After spending a good portion of the day there, we headed back to Berlin to begin our WWII/Cold War portion of the trip.
First, we stopped at the Brandenburg Gate (an old city gate) on the way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (otherwise known as the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin). The memorial is a huge collection of concrete slabs of various sizes collected on top of a sloping and rising floor. You start walking into this maze of concrete, unaware that at any turn, you might be completely surrounded by concrete and are unable to see anything except for the path in front of you. It was absolutely,beautifully haunting to walk through it.
We continued to the Topography of Terror. This is a museum that stands on the former location of the Gestapo and SS headquarters during the Nazi regime. When the Berlin Wall was up, it ran along the same location and a preserved portion of the wall still stands. The last stop of the day was at Checkpoint Charlie. I learned quite a bit of historical facts that I was previously unaware of. 1. For those of you who don’t know, Checkpoint Charlie was the name the Allies used to describe the crossing point between Soviet controlled East Berlin and the allied controlled West Berlin in the American sector. 2. The name Charlie comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet. 3. The first death caused by wall was Peter Fechter, a teenage boy who tried to escape the East. He was shot in the pelvis, and fell to the ground, caught in a barbed wire fence. He was bleeding to death, but American soldiers couldn’t rescue him because he was a few metres inside of the Soviet sector. After an hour, his body was removed by East German guards.
Now, when I learned Peter’s story, I was fascinated by the history of the separation. I had learned about the dangers of trying to cross the wall when I was in history classes, but no one ever explained how awfully inactive soldiers had to be on our side. Everything was happening in front of everyone’s eyes, yet nothing was/could be? done. It was a story that stuck with me, and I can’t forget it.
Anyway, we headed back to the hostel for a night of relaxation and got to know our two British roommates quite well. For our final day in Berlin, we woke up and headed to Museum Island. The museums were very largely based on Greek and Roman influences, and it was interesting to walk past and see them all. They all cost money (unlike the beautiful London museums), so we didn’t really explore any. We did see the outside of the gorgeous Berlin Cathedral though. We had some extra time and hung out at the DDR museum. Now, before you think Dance Dance Revolution, stop. It’s not it. It was a really cool, hands-on museum about life in Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall. My personal favorite part was the old newspapers and magazines from the Soviet controlled part of the country. Seeing the type of propaganda they spread was fascinating. We had a lot of time to kill until our bus left for Prague, so we hung around the hostel for a bit.
I should probably stop here, because this is long and winded and no one is going to sit through and read all of this. In whatever case, this is my blog to document my experiences, and I intend on remembering everything, so it’ll all here to stay. Stay tuned to hear more. There are five more destinations to write about and then London adventures to catch you up on.