Berlin

Fair warning now: All Europe posts will be photo-heavy. Some photos will be terrible because I took them from a moving bus. Also, I may not quite remember what everything is, but I am trying my best to look it up if I’ve forgotten and to not incorrectly label things.

The first city on our Baltic Capitals tour was Berlin. We had to take a bus from Warnermünde to reach inland Berlin, but the drive was so nice. We went from the rainy harbor on a beautifully scenic view of some of Germany…

One of the buses picking up tourists from Warnermünde to go to Berlin
I learned that, at least in Germany, European McDonald’s have a separate McCafe, akin to a Starbucks.

… before we arrived in front of Charlottenburg Palace.

Schloss Charlottenburg

We didn’t get to go inside, but it is spectacular just judging from its exterior. It’s the largest palace in Berlin and our first taste of this gorgeous city. Quick shout-out to our tour guide, Theo, who is an Australian ex-pat who showed us a wonderful time.

Fun fact: It was a record-high temperature of 37°C (~99°F) in Berlin the day we visited. 

I loved photographing old juxtaposed with the new all over Europe.
Berlin” is a sculpture of a broken chain, meant to symbolise how Berlin was broken by the wall during the Cold War
The Reichstag, or Reichstagsgebäude, with its glass dome so that the people can always see what their government is doing.
My family at the Brandenburg Gate, or Brandenburger Tor  (Wearing black was a poor choice on my part)

What I loved so much about Berlin is how acutely aware the city is of its history. Germans, and especially Berliners, it appeared, really feel the weight of what they’ve done in the past, both good and bad. The incredibly powerful Holocaust memorial, aka Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is one of the testaments of this mindset.

The design is excellent. It resembles a sinking cemetery built on a slope, and it is designed to make you feel uneasy as you walk through. You must pass between the stellae alone, as it is too narrow to allow a friend. You can easily lose your traveling companion at any turn. As you proceed through the memorial, the stellae get taller and taller, and you get swallowed whole by them. It is difficult to determine where the end is, or how close it is, from the center of the memorial. However, the memorial is a topic of controversy because many other groups were targeted during the Holocaust besides the Jews. This was one of the highlights of our tour and I am very grateful that, amidst our rush, Theo made sure we had time to really allow it to sink in.

19-year-old East Berliner Conrad Schumann jumping the Berlin Wall when it was just a low barbed wire fence in the ground, leaving his family behind.
He later committed suicide.
This is one of many pieces of the Berlin wall that has been converted to art.
The most interesting carpark in the world.
Underneath this carpark is where Hitler’s bunker was. The Allied forces found themselves unable to blow up the bunker (as it was… a secure bunker), so they eventually just filled it and now it’s a parking lot.

We had lunch at a place called Hofbräuhaus München, which had a lunch buffet and a live band playing some German folk music when we walked in. It was definitely way too hot for me to be eating German fare (and I don’t really like German food, to be honest). I did try a little bit of beer, since we were in Germany after all, even though I don’t really like beer. I was just glad they served it cold? I think someone told me once he was only served warm beer in Europe. (Also head cheese scares me.) (But pretzels!) The heat persisted but the fun didn’t stop!

The Berlin Cathedral, or Berliner Dom, is a Protestant “cathedral”, although it’s not an actual cathedral since it is not a Catholic institution and has no bishop presiding over it. Regardless, it’s gorgeous.
Altes Museum (“Old Museum”) is next to the Berliner Dom.

The Humboldt Box is a TEMPORARY structure that overlooks the construction site for the rebuilding of the Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). The old-looking structure is a little sample of what the finished product will look like. That’s just one little corner. There’s actual quite a bit of debate over whether this is actually worthwhile. Older Berliners want it, a reminder of how Berlin was great, while younger Berliners think Berlin should focus on the future rather than dwell on its history.

“Mother with her Dead Son” by Käthe Kollwitz.
Placed directly under the oculus of the Neue Wache, she is exposed to all of the harsh elements that Berlin throws at her.
She represents the suffering of the civilians during the Second World War. Very powerful sculpture.
A few of the many notable alums of Humboldt University include Otto von Bismarck, Albert Einstein, the Brothers Grimm, Karl Marx, and Erwin Schrödinger.
The famous little stoplight men of East Berlin. (They wear hats!)
Berlin is fighting to keep them, even though most traces of Soviet rule in Berlin have been actively removed.
https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Bebelplatz_mit_Mahnmal_B%C3%BCcherverbrennung_Aug_2009.jpg
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia because my own photo of this memorial came out a bit iffy.
This is the Nazi book burning memorial at Bebelplatz, and it depicts a room beneath your feet that contains shelves capable of holding the 20,000 books that the Nazis burned.
“Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people”
Checkpoint Charlie, with a McDonald’s looming in the background. Very cool though.
Berlin Wall! Fun fact: This part of the Berlin wall was also the location of an SS bunker.
Berlin Victory Column, or Siegessäule, celebrates the then-Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War and is topped by Victoria (victory)

I had an amazing time in Berlin. I love how much the city celebrates its rich history but is also very cognizant of its darker ages. With this kind of mindfulness of its past and an incredible optimism for the future, you can’t help but feel excited in Berlin.

Next time: Tallinn, Estonia!

(In case anyone was wondering, collages made for free on PicMonkey, which I also used to edit my Snow White Halloween photo.)

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