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My trip to Berlin came at a perfect time: right at the end of last module, when I was riding high from my success in the Action Project. I had been out on Thursday night and spent most of Friday recovering, so didn’t have a big night out before leaving. Actually, to be fair, I didn’t leave London until 6:45pm on Saturday, so I had all day to lounge and prepare for my trip, which was really nice. I arrived in Berlin as the sun was going down, and twilight descended over the countryside as the plane touched down and I snapped tons of pictures out the airplane window.
I don’t know if I mentioned it when I went to Munich in 2011, but Germany is my favorite country in Europe, aside from the UK. I loved everything I experienced when I visited last, from the people to the countryside, the lush trees and greenery, the mountains in certain parts, and the cultural influences. German food, German language, and German history is so unique and fascinating to me. Despite missing my trip to Munich the weekend before*, arriving in Berlin was an absolute joy, especially as I was seeing a vastly different part of the country. In fact, Germany is the first country I visited twice.
Arriving late on a Saturday, I met up with my college friends, and we decided to head out and partake of the night life. Berlin is reputed to have a pretty great night scene, with a bunch of different venues and activities, if you’re up for the truly late night. We ended up skipping our first option, which was a rave, in favor of a smoky dive bar playing American classic rock and with a dance floor that had old theater seats around the walls for every half hour when I got tired and needed a break. To be fair, when we left at 3:45am, the sun was starting to come back up again, so tiredness seems perfectly excusable.
After what they call here in England a “lie-in,” we had brunch at a local cafe before heading to Mauerpark. On the weekends, this blank expanse of land becomes a huge flea market, with an outdoor amphitheater and live karaoke. As well, Mauerpark hosts one of the longer remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall. It’s not the same as the East Side Gallery, but is fascinating nonetheless. The afternoon found us wandering through Museum Island in the heart of Berlin: the Pergamon museum hosts several of the largest museum-owned relics from Greece and reconstructions from Rome. A nap in the sun, and an outdoor dinner of German sausage and Berliner potato soup and beer, and we ended up at the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag. The tour of the Reichstag (seat of German government, and free if you register in advance online) let me again watch the sun set over Berlin, this time from the heart of the city. That night, we were much calmer, having exhausted our late-nightedness on Saturday.
Monday, my friends all left to go home, so I spent the day on my own. I spent some time near the Brandenburg Gate again, working from a Starbucks where I could see the Gate and watch the people and tourist schemes. I wandered around the city, and walked the full length of the East Side Gallery. To see how 7 inches of cement could divide a city was pretty humbling, even though the reality is that governments enact these kinds of walls, whether physical, social, or economic, all the time. I had another meal of currywurst (my third in three days), and took a long train ride to the airport for my late night flight to London.
My general impression is that Berlin and Munich are like cousins… they’re definitely family, but have different parents, and different life experiences beyond what sibling cities might. After all, Munich was historically part of Bavaria, which has a very different culture and social feeling than northern Germany. Berlin in itself is fascinating, because it still wears its battle scars: all of the museums and monuments are peppered by bullet holes. Most of the buildings are quite modern (last 60 years), and there’s a much newer feeling to the city. There’s a pride, just like in Munich, but it’s also colored by their past. After all, if not for the war, there would have been no need for the wall. The war, in my mind, is inextricably tied with Germany and will be for many generations.
Despite all of this, I loved my trip. I found myself increasingly fascinated by the cities, wanting to see more of the whole country, and continue my lessons in German. I would definitely love to go back to Berlin some time, and see even more of the gems it hides, especially with food and arts, since I didn’t spend much time on those part of the city. Also, West Berlin is a bit of a mystery, since I hardly visited at all. I guess I need to do some more research, and put it back on the list for a few years from now.
*I lost my passport a few weeks back, on my way to the airport to go to Munich. I’ll tell that story in full soon, but I can say it’s been quite an adventure!