Who: Entire Castle crew.
When: EARLY 11/2 to noon 11/5
Where: Berlin, Germany
Most used phrases:
Guten tag: hello [This is basically all I used in Germany – I was with a school group for so much that I hardly had time to learn any local tidbits.]
Stasi: For those who don’t know, Stasi was the East German Secret Police who quickly became the largest intelligence agency in the world during the sixties and seventies. I was lucky enough to watch The Lives of Others before I left for Berlin – excellent movie, I highly recommend it – and that filled me in on a lot of the fascinating techniques they used to acquire information during the Cold War. Thus, I signed up for an entire tour of their main complex. Though the tour seemed to focus more on the injustices of how they held the prisoners (while I wanted to know more about the intelligence side of things), I thought it was really informative and interesting. A lot of people seem to assume that all violence ceased once WWII came to a close, but the after effects are staggering.
German Historical Museum: I’ll be honest: I’m sure this museum would have been a lot more interesting if I wasn’t as exhausted. But even then, still a pretty interesting place. I’m always stunned when I see how many artifacts can be captured and put on a display for a museum, but this place blew my mind. They had SO many things from WWII – propaganda posters, original photographs, even Hitler’s desk! I was much more interested about reading each different plaque, so I missed a lot of the tour guide’s commentary, but still: very worth a visit.
Jewish Memorial: Berlin is full of rich history and the way they paid tribute to the Jews that suffered in WWII is one of the most beautiful memorials I’ve ever been able to see. From the initial angle you walk up, it appears as though there are a several platforms of varying sizes, up to about three feet. However, if you start to walk between them, the ground dips and lowers until you reach the very middle – looking up to see a fifteen foot high platform. Kids bounce across the top of them, couples chase each other through, and I, of course, got very lost. Either way, it’s an extremely cathartic experience that you simply have to have in person.
Pieces of the Wall: This was probably my favorite part of Berlin. Several chunks of wall have been preserved – some to be used as a project for commissioned artists, some to have gum stuck to them, some in their original state. Even in places that didn’t have wall chunks, there was still the outlined memorial for where it once stood, shown by only a few bricks. The artwork itself was amazing, whether it was done by an approved painter or just some kid doodling on the hunk down by the movie theatre. Sometimes it’s just nice to see history invested everywhere in a city.
Giant ski slide: I’ll preface this by saying I know it’s just ridiculous, but we did it anyway. In the middle of the city there’s this mini-mountain they construct out of snow, and for a small fee you can TUBE. So, of course we did it. We even gave off my camera to a sketchy-looking worker so he could take pictures of us screaming like maniacs (you even get a peek of Henry!). Worth it, I’d say.
Nurenburg Gate, seeing movies, one of the many art history museums,
End result: Berlin has loads of history and even though I was a zombie for a large majority of my time there, I’d say it was both educational and even a bit fun. Though next time I don’t know if I’d do six museums in three days.