My trip to Berlin from Stansted Airport in London was exciting. A soccer group was on our 6:30 am flight to Germany. They were rowdy and cheered to the point that they were almost kicked off the flight. It was a hilarious precursor for our fun weekend.
In Berlin there aren’t many people who speak English. It was quite challenging at first to navigate through the transport system; but after a few mishaps, we finally found our way. Our hostel was on the outskirts of one of the city’s main squares, Alexanderplatz. At first, we were disappointed with the city, as we were not centrally located. However, we walked a good amount until we found the square. There were multiple restaurants and shopping centers. A man serenaded the square with his guitar, singing covers of Ed Sheeran and The Lumineers. There was a small park where children jumped on little trampolines, and ran around with their friends. Older adolescents relaxed on the sidelines, appearing too cool to play. Of course, my friends and I took full opportunity of the small public trampolines. There was a lot of graffiti. For the most part it was not vandalism, but rather true art. Later at night we witnessed a German rap concert. It was fascinating to see the audience sing along to the lyrics as we would at a Kanye West show.
There was a wide range of cuisine in the city. We feasted on doner kebabs, baklava, bratwurst, Korean barbecue, sushi, pizza and hot pretzels. My favorite dish, which we ate up to three times in one day, was Turkish pizza. The gyro-esque meal used a flat pizza as a wrap, adding lamb, feta, vegetables and tzatziki sauce. Our days often started and ended with this.
There is no ignoring the intense and prevalent past of Berlin. After visiting multiple areas showcasing the Berlin Wall, we went on a walking tour throughout the city. Our tour guide was British, yet considered Berlin to be his favorite city. He recognized that the city is not particularly beautiful, as it is still being rebuilt. He was in awe of the city’s deep rooted history, and the people’s carefree attitude.
We stood on Hitler’s bunker. It was located under a parking lot, and has been demolished inside. No one has access to it. The question was raised as to why there is no indicator stating that his bunker is indeed under the lot. That is because this is not a man to be memorialized. He does not deserve that type of public recognition. The tour guide did say, Germany does not turn away from their past. Berlin’s center contains the Memorial to the murdered Jews in Europe. Walking through it was a cold and chilling experience. You begin to feel alone and overwhelmed as you make your way to the center. Large grey pillars are blocking your sunlight. You simply feel alone. A talking point on the tour was discussing what this memorial means, as the Jewish architect, Peter Eisenman, built it without answering questions. He left it up to interpretation.
Berlin is a fun and relaxed city filled with open people and rich history. The food is great. The music is vibrant. The epitome of the trip was speaking with a man who had guarded the Berlin wall for a year at 23. He is now 72. The man barely spoke any English; and communicated with my friend and I by writing words and numbers on the wall. He then took a picture with us. Out of respect for the man, I won’t post the photo. He voiced to us how much he despised the job. Speaking with him reminded me that the Cold War was not long ago. Our grandparents were alive during the second World War. The world is still healing from the damages caused during these time periods.