Monday, August 19, 2013

In Berlin!

Last weekend I had a difficult decision to make: Florence or Berlin? I had originally been invited to visit Florence with some students who planned to make their way across Italy, France, and end in Barcelona. I've aspired to see Florence for years, but when a different group of friends invited me to go with them to Berlin, I had to reconsider my options. I had already spent a wonderful weekend in Rome, and the likelihood that I would be able to come back to Germany any time soon is rather slim. So one 5-hour bus ride later, I was on my way to Berlin!

In front of the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz
I met my friends at the hostel on Sunday, but our tourist itinerary wasn't set into motion until early Monday. We downloaded a self-guided walking tour of Mitte, the historical district, from the Berlin TripAdvisor app which I would absolutely recommend! In one afternoon we saw Pariser Platz, the Reichstag parliament building, the Holocaust memorial, Treptower Park, Tiergarten, and Berliner Dom.

Under the architrave of the Reichstag is enscribed "Dem Deustchen Volke," which means "To the German people." We also registered to visit the Reichstag Dome, a large glass done that gives one a 360-degree view of central Berlin, but I registered for the wrong day!

The Holocaust Memorial consists of over 2,700 concrete slabs on a sloping ground. Our guide noted that it appropriately gave "an uneasy sense of order." The ground slopes in such a way that towards the center of the monument, stelae that once were short enough to sit on tower over you and encapsulate you in their massive gray shadows.

On Tuesday we spent a relaxing morning exploring our neighborhood. Our hostel was in the middle of Kreuzberg-Fredrichschain, which is packed with cool restaurants, quaint bars, and a handful of edgy, independently owned shops. Just across the river was the East Side Gallery where artists had been commissioned to decorate the remains of the Berlin Wall. 

Our second day of fervent tourism was capped off with a visit to Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall Museum. Checkpoint Charlie, which refers to the phonetic alphabet used by the U.S. military, was the most trafficked point between East and West Berlin while the wall was still standing. The Berlin Wall museum had a strange and rather unofficial set-up, but my friend pointed out a sign that noted the museum was opened shortly after the wall was erected as a monument to human rights. The museum holds tons of newspaper articles highlighting the series of political events that led to the construction of the wall, stories of people who escaped both successfully, and those who were persecuted when they tried to escape. The resourcefulness of certain individuals was both amusing and frightening, and some people went to great measures to escape from their walled-in capital. One of my favorite contraptions was a hot air balloon that two families flew over the wall in the middle of the night.

Berlin, you were both beautiful and intriguing, and I am counting the days until I get to see you again!


  1. Choosing places to visit throughout Europe is hard to decide. If I had more time I would try to go to every major city in Europe. Sadly enough, it is nice to be able to hop on a cheap flight, train, or bus to these cities. In the states, I wish it was that easy and exciting to visit places.

  2. I liked Munich but if I get the chance I would love to go to Berlin too! From what I've heard Berlin is more city-like than Munich with newer architecture and more influence from the arts. I wish I had known about the Trip Advisor app while I was traveling, sounds perfect to use in a new city. Enjoy the rest of your traveling!

  3. Berlin looks like such a cool city! I've been to Frieburg, Germany but haven't been able to make it to Berlin or Munich. I'm hoping to return sometime soon and be able to explore those two cities.