Monday, February 19, 2018

A Long Weekend in Berlin, Germany

If January moved at the pace of a sloth, then February is like a cheetah.  The month is almost over, and I haven't written anything because my schedule has been absolutely crazy.

The study abroad program I am studying through sent an email way back in November with a list of excursions that I could sign up for at an additional cost to my program.  This isn't uncommon for study abroad programs because it gives you the opportunity to explore new things without having to plan it out yourself.  One of those excursions was to spend a long weekend in Berlin, Germany and not only see the city but also learn more about World War II from Germany's point of view.

Thursday, February 8th:
I worked a half day before taking the tube to Heathrow Airport.  We didn't get to our hostel until about 9:00pm, so we were free to just do our own thing.  My roommate came with me and then we met some other girls in our program who don't live in the same building as we do.  Situations like these are funny because you get close to people really fast and just stick with them for the weekend.  It's like freshman orientation.  That night we stayed in the Hostel bar and ate and got to know each other.

Friday, February 9th:
We spent the entire morning doing a walking tour of Berlin.  We walked to the museums and looked at their architecture, saw memorials for the people affected and killed during the Holocaust, the Berlin Wall, and bullet marks that are still in the buildings.  Berlin (and Germany) is such an interesting place because they've entirely owned up to their atrocious acts and they want people to learn from their mistakes.  Anything that is related to that part of their history is free so that people can educate themselves on it.  But anything that is related to Hitler himself has pretty much been destroyed so that no one can make a shrine to him.
After our tour, we had free time, so my friends and I went to a chocolate shop that had chocolate sculptures of different monuments in Berlin and things like an airplane and the Titanic and a chocolate volcano.  We also walked through the Topography of Terror which was a museum about the  Nazi's and SS Officers.
That night we had a meet & mingle event in the hostel bar to get to know some of the kids on the trip with us, but everyone had kind of done that the night before.  It was still fun though to all sit together.  We thought about going out that night, but the hostel was cheap and didn't involve going out in the cold, so we ended up staying there.

Saturday, February 10th:
For most of the day, we went to Sachsenhausen which was an internment camp for prisoners during the Holocaust.  This camp's largest population was the gypsie people, but there was still Jewish prisoners as well.  This camp was also right next to the headquarters for the supervisor of all of the camps throughout Europe, so it was where they did a lot of testing different ways to efficiently kill people.
We then went to the East Side gallery, which is the longest intact piece of the Berlin Wall.  It's covered in artwork from artists all over the world.  Afterwards, we ate authentic German food for dinner at a really lively restaurant.  I ordered meatballs, but they were closer to two hamburger patties.  Experiencing the culture through its food was nice.
That night we agreed to try and find a club, but we never did.  We ended up walking around Berlin until about 2 in the morning in the freezing cold.  Needless to say, no one was pretty happy towards the end.  We did meet some really kind kids our age from Germany and ended up walking around with them and just talking about the differences between Germany and America.

Sunday, February 11th:  
Before we left for the airport, we were given a couple of hours to explore the Mauerpark Market.  It was a typical market with people trying to sell handmade things, but there was also food and a whole section that was just people trying to have a yard sale.  I bought some postcards that I'm going to frame when I get home in April.

I have always found the Holocaust such a fascinating topic.  The how and the why of it could happen in the modern era.  The Nazi's were smart; they understood psychological effects killing people could have, they were working to be the most efficient as they could be, and they were interested in trying new medical experiments.  However, the way they went about it was absolutely horrendous and if they had only focused all that effort on something else Germany would have such a different history.  It was a little hard to be in the city because it's one thing to learn all these things in a classroom somewhere, but to be in the actual place and to walk around and see memorial after memorial for all that the city has done wrong is a weird, emotional experience.  But I am glad I went on this trip because I don't think you can ever learn too much about a topic and like I said learning about it in the actual place it entirely different.

1 comment

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