Reflections of Berlin
Monday 1st July…
Danke, I said to my taxi driver after he dropped me off at my new home for the next 3 nights…I checked into my hotel and collapsed on my bed…This is it…I sighed with triumph, I had just endured a 24 hour flight from Melbourne to Berlin, the sun was shining in the middle of European summer and although I was tired, a sense of adventure and curiosity propelled me to explore this bustling and historical city.
I met some friendly Australians in the hotel reception area and as coincidence would have it, we found out we were all on the same coach tour which was starting tomorrow. We had all arrived a day before the tour, with a shared thought – that it might be pleasant to stroll around Berlin and get lost in a new city – that’s exactly what we did!
The sky was clear and blue, the sun was beaming its rays down on us, and I was surrounded by Berlin with its gothic structures and gorgeous parks. My new friends and I were happily wandering and getting to know each other. Our first stop of the day didn’t have much success, we came across a beautiful castle with a jaw dropping courtyard, only to see a sign stating that it was closed on Mondays – which was of course – the day we were walking around. Charlottenburg Palace looked incredible on the outside – I cannot even imagine what it would have looked like on the inside! – Something to look forward to next time.
We weren’t too disappointed with the closed palace – it just gave us more time to explore other areas of Berlin!
Not brave enough to ride the S Bahn (yet), we kept to the streets and wandered through a gorgeous park, which was framed with giant weeping willow trees, whose branches curved to and brushed the large glittering lake, stone foot bridges that looked like they were straight out of the 18th century, and green manicured grounds bright with orange and pink flowers.
After taking in the beauty of the gardens and walking up an appetite, we went in search for some local German food. I decided on a much-loved German take away – Currywurst; as I was eating it, I could understand why every second restaurant sold this delicious meal.
After lunch the jet lag started to kick in, so we all made our way back to our hotel and had some R and R before the coach tour was to begin the next day.
Tuesday 2nd July…
Today my coach tour commenced. After a meet and greet in the hotel reception, we all set off on a ‘familiarization’ walking tour of Berlin. We were accompanied by a local guide who was extremely informative. Boy was this day full on! We were shown so many historical landmarks and buildings – it really gave World War II a whole new and real dimension.
Even iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate were on our itinerary and being able to stand in front of this masterpiece was so thrilling and exciting! We continued our tour and it became quite somber; we were taken to Bebelplatz an infamous location of Jewish book burning. Standing in this massive square it was hard to believe that beautiful books were thrown in fires and masses of crowds gathered to see this spectacle.
There is a memorial here dedicated to the book burning and it consists of a bookshelf with no books on it, underground within the square, with a clear glass viewing platform over it. The memorial is jarring and powerful – I took in my surroundings and looked around the square where the books were burned and then I looked down into the ‘empty library’ and a series of emotions flooded through me. Everyone was silent as we all had a moment of imagining how terrible, powerful and symbolic this book burning was.
There is a plaque next to the memorial, translated from German it reads ‘That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people’ which is a line from the German poet and writer Heinrich Heine, and his play Almansor. One thing our guide kept telling us, was; Germany are saving memorials like this, so that people from all around the world can come and visit, experience the shock of these historical events, and learn from the horror so it won’t ever be repeated.
Our guide was saving the biggest historical landmark for last – the remnants of the Berlin Wall. I didn’t know much about the wall and was shocked to hear that it was only pulled down in 1989 – so recent! The way the Berlin Wall is preserved is fantastic – all along the wall there are written and photographic timelines of events leading to the historical day of when it was pulled down. I was able to get a sense of the past politics of Germany and how ruthless and cruel Adolf Hitler was – even to his own people that didn’t fit his ideal of the ‘master race’.
There is a museum next to the wall which is very eye opening and at sometimes upsetting – as everything is on show relating to Germany’s moves during WWII and the tearing down of the wall.
Seeing the Berlin Wall and the other historical sights of Berlin was a very enlightening experience that I will not soon forget.
Wednesday 3 July…
We are leaving Berlin tomorrow, I have just come back from a night of drinking, dining, dancing and laughing with my holiday friends. The main topic of conversation was how intense Germany’s history is, how lucky we are that we have grown up when and where we did, and how important it is for us to learn and spread what we have experienced on this trip so that history is not to be repeated. I have enjoyed my time in Berlin and would come back in a heat beat as I believe I have only just scratched the surface.
Berlin, until we meet again… or should I say Auf Wiedersehen?
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