Friday: We boarded the bus at 7 AM to drive to Berlin. We had a personal driver to drive us to all the sights and tour guide to tell us about them. We arrived in Berlin around noon and checked into our hotel. The hotel was actually pretty nice. After we dropped our staff off in the room we got back on the bus for a tour. For this tour we had a German tour guide, who I think was actually British and he showed us a bunch of sights and told us about the history of them. Then, we went on a walking tour. We went to the sight of the Nazi book burning, bebelplatz, which is a square across from the university where Albert Einstein taught. At the square there is a monument which is underground. There is a clear piece of plastic that you look in and underground there are empty bookshelves with enough room for the thousands of books that were burned. Across the street there is a constant book sale of copies of the books as a memorial. After we went to the memorial we went to one of the large parts of the Berlin wall that is still standing. We also saw checkpoint Charlie. Based on where we were standing by the wall we would have been standing in no man's land and would have been shot. I didn't realize that there were actually two walls and no man's land in between. It was also put up in three parts, at first just barbed wire, then bricks and then the concrete wall. Now there is a line of two bricks with the words "Berliner Mauer" that shows how the city used to be divided. The traffic lights are also different in what used to be east and west Berlin. After we went there we saw the Holocaust Memorial for Jewish people that were killed. This is controversial because people want it to be for all people who died rather than just Jewish people. The memorial is rectangles of conrete that dip down in the middle, it is really cool looking. Then we went to what is now a parking lot, but used to be where Hitler's bunker was and where he lived in the last weeks of his life and eventually died. After that we went and saw the Brandenburg Gate. Then our tour was over. After the tour we were all really hungry so we went to a German restaurant for lunch. At this restaurant some people got sausage because it is German food but I got chicken schnitzel and it was very good. Once we ate, we went back to Checkpoint Charlie and went into the museum. This was extremely interesting and talked about life under communism and the ways that people would escape from east Germany to west Germany. People used hot air balloons, hid in suitcases, hid in car engines, built tunnels and even used zip lines to get across. After the museum we went out for dessert and I got an apple and nut cake that was very good. Then we were all tired so we went back to the hotel to go to bed.
Saturday: First thing on Saturday morning we had breakfast at the hotel. The breakfast was great, there different kinds of bread, rolls, cheeses, yogurt, cereal, waffles, toppings, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Then we went to Potsdam. Potsdam is where the big three, Truman, Stalin and Churchill met to decide what to do with Germany after World War II. We did a tour of where the conference was. The palace it was in was gorgeous and based off an English country mansion. Outside of it there is a soviet star made of red flowers. After this tour we headed back to Berlin and Joanna and I split a nutella crepe for lunch. There is a ton of street food in Berlin, so Howard and Joe would love it. There are sausages everywhere and their specialty is curry wurst which is sausage in some sort of curry tomato suace. There are also crepes, Asian food, pretzels and other snacks everywhere. Then we walked around for a little while and went to the Story of Berlin Museum. This museum had the entire history of Berlin in all sorts of exhibits. It was sa really interesting museum but the best part was that in the basement of its parking garage there is a nuclear fallout shelter that was built during the Cold War. We did a tour of it and it was really interesting. It was completely full of beds, but there were only a few bathrooms, then there was a kitchen. If it was full then people would get less air than they were used to and would most likely be very tired and sleep most of the time. It was also not stocked with food because the belief was that if the Russians were sending a bomb then there would be time to prepare. The shelter has a steel wall that cuts it in two parts and cannot be opened because if one side is contaminated or people are sick they did not want people on the other side to get hurt as well. People could survive in the shelter for two weeks but after that the air and water would not filter and it would be no different from being outside. After we did the museum we walked around the city for a while and then went to dinner. Berlin has the third largest Turkish population outside of Turkey so we went to Middle Eastern food. We had falafel, hummus and pita bread for dinner and it was the best meal I think I've had since being in Europe. It was this little hole in the wall place by our hotel. Our hotel waws not in a tourist area so everyone in the restaurant was speaking German or another language. The table was in the ground and we sat on cushions around it. After dinner we went to the German Parliament, the Reichstag, which is the most visited parliament in the world. The entire top is glass and mirrors and you climb up and around in a circle with views of the entire city. The idea is for transparency because since the goverment has been corrupt in the past they want the people to be able to see everything that is going on so it won't happen again. The Reichstag is a beautiful building, from the outside and the inside.
Sunday: Sunday morning we were dropped off in the center of town, by the Museum Island. Some of us decided to go to the DDR museum, which is not about dance dance revolution but is about what life was like in East Germany. It was really interesting and had a recreation of what a house looked like. The bathroom looked exactly like the bathroom here at the kolej. After the museum we were going to go to another but the line was too long and we did not want to wait in the cold so we decided to walk around an outdoor market for a little while. Then we went to...Dunkin Donuts! We were soo excited to see Dunkin Donuts all over Berlin that we had to go a couple of times. Seeing as how America runs on dunkin we were surprised to see it in Germany. After lunch we got on the bus and headed to Dresden. Dresden was bombed heavily during World War II and much of the city was destroyed and rebuilt. It is actually very pretty, with a castle and churches but it was freezing and windy so we did our tour kind of quickly and then had dinner. Luckily the city is pretty small so we got to see a lot in a short time. Then we got on the bus to go the rest of the way to Prague. On the way back we were stopped by the German police at the border. Apparently they stop people often but it was still kind of scary because we had to show our passports to the German police. But we passed whatever test it was and made it the rest of the way back to Prague.
Fun facts about Berlin:
It is the third gayest city in the world, after San Franciso and Sydney, Australia.
It is also the third Bridgeiest city.
Germans like to give their buildings funny and inappropriate nicknames.
Maurer means bricklayer in German. I discovered this at the DDR Museum
- ▼ March (12)