Well, here it is: The last installment in the story of The Grand European Adventure. No worries, though- There are about to be a lot of exciting things going on around here.
So, I’m a little mad about Berlin- and this is for two reasons. First, we weren’t even there for two full days which is just not enough as it turns out, and second because it was the last not-quite-two-days of the trip, and all involved parties were exhausted and just really wanted to sleep a lot. I would like to go back to Berlin. I would like to absorb its beauty, and marvel at the oldness and the newness and the general uniqueness of its situation. I would like to experience the culture because in the 1.75 days that I was there it was apparent that theirs is a culture worth experiencing. I would like to go to the nightclubs and raves, and be alternative and punk, and I want to spend more time in that strange world where my colorful hair is more normal than your natural hair. Berlin questions everything, and takes nothing at face value simply because it is or has been that way. I want to do that with them.
The first thing I saw when I stepped off the train in Berlin was a girl with green hair. The second thing I saw was a boy with orange hair. There is a punk culture here like you wouldn’t even believe. I fit in less for the touristy American clothes I was wearing than I did for my hair- which, let me tell you, is a new thing for me. I spent a bit of time wishing I’d brought some of my [vast] collection of snarky t shirts…
The weather was beautiful for most of the two days we spent there, so we walked all over the place and saw a great many things. Here’s an older style bridge surrounded by an entirely modern city. It’s all like that- a combination of new wedged in between old. Our hostel was actually a beautiful old hotel that’s being slowly restored. There are places where new windows lean up against walls in hallways, waiting to be put up, and the grand marble staircases are dusty with disuse but ever beautiful just the same. Someday, it will be beautiful and I would like to see it when it’s finished. Meanwhile, there’s a rabbit hutch in the courtyard- if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat. I was fond of the fluffy bunnies. It was also very close to a still standing section of the Berlin Wall, so that was our first stop.
The wall runs along a road, and has been covered in paint and graffiti, some of which is sectioned off murals done by artists from all over the world:
Graffiti means something different in Germany than it does in the States- Here, it’s something you try to scrub off or cover up, but in Berlin graffiti is something desirable- you’re sort of more considered more authentic if your building is colored. The entire city is covered and just so very colorful. The wall is something they’re generally trying to forget about- the city is moving on, as well it should, but this section stands as a monument to prove that not all bad things have to end up that way.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the ‘many small people’ one, especially since the Berlin Wall makes you feel so very small indeed. It sort of gives me hope that maybe the way I choose to live my life will in turn make someone else’s life change for the better as well. We as individuals sometimes feel insignificant in the Great Void of the universe, but we can move mountains.
Mostly, it’s just really cool that they’ve turned this into a colorful monument to hope and change, even though a lot of people want to hide and forget that particular slice of history.
After we walked down the longest still standing section of the Berlin Wall (which isn’t actually all that long, maybe a few blocks) we field tripped up a ways to see some very cool government buildings, and the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor). If you’re planning a trip, this is an excellent spot for people-watching, because it’s right on a big open space, it’s touristy but also with a lot of local types walking around too. Also the American Embassy is conveniently located immediately to my right in this photo (Just off frame)
We ended up here twice, mostly because it was on our way, and we spent a lot of time because there was a surprise concert that we hung around at for a while. The lead singer had purple hair!- but there were too many people for pictures. Also riot police? Berlin has this thing going on with lots of enforcement-types with big guns. Machine guns for airport security guards, anyone? Don’t think I didn’t notice. Nothing eventful happened with that, though.
The Brandenburg gate is right up the street from a new and very interesting Holocaust memorial. It’s large, imposing, and its job is to make you think. Right in a busy part of the city, only a few blocks from the embassies and the government buildings, it takes up an entire block.
There’s Lill in the center for scale purposes.
The interesting thing about this place is that there’s no documentation- you can read about it on the internet, sure, but if you’re there standing in front of it there’s no sign or explanation for its presence. it just is. And it is big. There’s a small plaque with a year and the name of the artist, but that’s only if you know where to look. The general idea is that you draw your own conclusions from it if you know why it’s there, and if you don’t then you’re just mildly discomforted with its presence. That’s what art, is about, right? Disturbing the comfortable? This memorial combines Berlin’s desire to be modern with a need to remember its past.
We also visited the Jewish Museum, which was thoroughly interesting, although really deserved to have been split up over a series of two or three days. There’s just a lot to take in. It’s beautifully organized and curated, but it’s also massive and four stories and packed with stuff to look at.
One of the things that the internet told us to do in Berlin was visit the Charlottenburg palace, so we made a special trip out (Okay, so the public transit system in Berlin is fabulous and it really wasn’t that difficult to get to the other end of the city at all, so it’s not like it was all that hard…) to see it- even though it got cold and rainy as soon as we got off the train and had to walk 6 blocks to see it…. We took cover under a building to eat lunch somewhere in there, but our attempt to wait out the rain was nonetheless successful.
The photos we took may have been a little drab, but we had a lot of fun despite the cold and rain.
Berlin was beautiful. This post probably seems all over the place and disjointed because all I have to work with are these little flashes from that part of the trip- we were so exhausted and so incredibly ready to go home and I think that colored the experience a little, but it was nonetheless one of my favorite parts of the trip. Lies, it was all my favorite. If I ever have an opportunity again to go back to any of these places, I would take it in a heartbeat- especially if I could spend even just a few more days in Berlin.
Just when we thought the trip was over- we were on out way home, sitting in the airport…we encountered one last adventure. Our plane was delayed overnight due to some kind of engine failure, so the airline put us up in a hotel (we were bussed there along with the 1 or 2 hundred other people who were also on the flight), and finally flew us out the next day. There was much confusion about this, and I have never experienced a concentration of unhappy people as high as that in the reticketing line the morning of the flight. (Seriously, dude- you huffing and pacing behind me is not actually going to make this line move any faster. )
On the bright side, over the two days that we were delayed, I finished an amount of baby blanket equal to that which I had finished over the two weeks preceding. I would have finished the blanket on the way home if I hadn’t (been stupid) forgotten to get the last ball of yarn out of my checked bag.
So I modeled it in progress and took loads of selfies instead:
It was 67 degrees and 86% humidity when we stepped off the plane in St. Louis again, and the first thing I said when I got off the plane was “Nope! Take me back! I want to go back!” The weather is just so much more agreeable there…I didn’t even mind the rain.
I finished the last section of blanket and bound off at camp a month or two later, but we’re getting to that. Meanwhile I reentered the States with a load of passport stamps, souvenirs, and lots of worldly experience (Still not actually sure if I gained any worldly knowledge though) . I’m only sorry I couldn’t blog on the go, because I would have been able to share daily instead of in only four installments with over three months between when it happened and when I wrote about it. I’ll arrange something for my next big trip, though. Stick around and we’ll get to that part of the story too- My world traveling adventures are far from over.