Berlin

I cannot believe that Easter Break is over already and that we only have two more weeks left at St. Clare’s! Time is flying by and it is extremely bittersweet. While I’m so excited to be at home with family and friends (and tacos), I will really miss being abroad and being able to hop on a train and get anywhere.

Reflecting back on Easter Break as a whole, it is amazing to see how much better we’ve all gotten at planning trips and how we have grown as people. I’m super proud to say that we planned and achieved an incredible two-week backpacking trip all on our own!

Now, on to talking about Berlin! My Amsterdam post will come soon 🙂

Berlin

If you’re wondering why I have so few pictures from Berlin, it is because IT SNOWED while we were there. While I packed lots of layers, I did not bring gloves or a hat and therefore my hands were WAY too cold for photos. We toughed it out in the rain and snow and still had an amazing time!

Out of all the places we visited, we all agreed that if we had more time in any place, we would’ve picked Berlin. Our friend Alexa back at Elon gave us absolutely amazing recommendations (she was lucky enough to study abroad in Berlin) and she did not lead us astray!!

Unfortunately due to the way our travel and trip worked out, however, we had a very limited amount of time to explore and I already want to go back!!!! If you’re going to Berlin, definitely stay more than a couple days because there are an infinite amount of options. If you’re a student looking for a great hostel, stay in The Generator! It was in a prime location, cheap, and SO nice with a great lounge and bar attached!

Berlin caught my attention because everything seems new and unique and fresh. It is still a city very much discovering its own identity – and it is so cool! After all, the wall was only taken down in 1989. I really appreciate how much Berlin accepts its history and keeps the important things at the forefront and refuses to acknowledge that which does not deserve to be. For example, Hitler’s bunker is unmarked while other various memorials lie throughout the city.

Here’s what we did during our limited time:

Day 1:

On Day 1, we were extremely exhausted and decided to take it fairly easy and sleep in, then head to the Turkish Market for lunch.

The Turkish Market is on the Eastern side of Berlin in a fairly Middle-Eastern neighborhood. The incredible smells draw you in and the views along the river are gorgeous! We spent an hour or so wandering through the market, snacking, and enjoying the weather (which would not last!)

Afterwards, we headed to the Jewish Museum. Learning more about the Holocaust and the history in Berlin is an absolute must. I definitely recommend the Jewish Museum. It is huge, comprehensive, and extremely well-done. The first exhibit focuses on making you feel in order to understand. As you walk through, the floors are sloped, everything is grey, and you feel uncomfortable. Subtle design choices really force you to think.

The museum itself is huge. We spent about 3 hours going through and probably could have spent even longer. Although we were not able to visit a Concentration Camp during our trip, I’m really glad that we got the chance to visit this museum.

After the museum, we were pretty much wiped out. We went back to our hostel for a short nap, went to a lovely dinner and explored the central historical city, and then got some much needed rest! Traveling sure is exhausting!

Day 2

Day 2 in Berlin is one of the most memorable days of the trip for me because of the free walking tour.

The three of us met up with a group right in the middle of the city to embark on a three-hour walking tour through the sleet and snow. In a way, these unideal conditions made learning about Berlin’s history even more real. I was absolutely blown away as we stood at the spot where Hitler shot himself (now a parking lot surrounded by apartment complexes), stared at a remaining piece of the wall, and got a glimpse of the reconstructed Checkpoint Charlie where the famous tank standoff occurred. Even though I had learned about these events in school, I was completely unprepared for the impact I would feel by actually standing there. Our guide did a fantastic job of keeping the group engaged and knew exactly how to set the mood at each “stop” along the tour.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews cannot be encompassed by photographs. While a bunch of ugly huge concrete slabs in the middle of a city might seem strange, the effect that one feels makes complete sense. Our tour guide stated: “The Holocaust is not easy to understand, so why should the memorial be easy to understand?” Quite simply, this memorial works because it is controversial. It is not a statue that you see and take a picture of, but something that you experience and then talk about. As you walk through this memorial, you are forced to walk in straight lines, almost like you are soldiers or maybe prisoners marching. When you are walking, you can still hear the eerie noises and sounds from the outside: children screaming and playing and cars zooming by. As you get closer to the center, the concrete slabs get higher and the ground slopes. Again, you are uncomfortable. Once you enter, it is impossible to find your family or friends until you exit on the other side. Finally, you may meet again.

This is something that everyone needs to experience for themselves! Our tour wrapped up in the spot where books were burned. Here lies the quote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end, burn people” – Heinrich Hein 1821, years before the Holocaust.

I am extremely thankful for my country, my ability to travel, and for freedom of press and speech. Let us not forget nor repeat history.

 

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