03.23.2010 - 03.27.2010
Hey there!! Audrey and I apologize for the huge delay in our blog!!! We haven't had free internet since we left Berlin and our last hostel in France charged €2 for 30 minutes. Anyways, let's see if I can still do Berlin justice even though its been over a week.
Our hostel was very different from the other places we stayed at before. It was basically a three bedroom/two bathroom apartment that was converted to a hostel with a plethora of Ikea bunkbeds. When we first arrived we gave each other the "Uh oh" look. But after chatting with the staff and getting checked in, we felt quite comfortable. The people who run the hostel (Esther, Lynus & Gray) have assigned it an African theme and send their profits to Zambia. Pretty awesome if you ask me! They tried to plan different activities each night to bring all the guests together. By this point, Aud and I had put ourselves on a strict budget and therefore did not participate in the nighttime endevours. But we made sure to get to know the others over breakfast every morning.
The first day in Berlin we decided to....you guessed it....join the free walking tour!!! These tours are fabulous and just happen to be in most of the major cities we've stopped in. Berlin was interesting to me because there was not only the WWII history of Berlin, but the East/West/Communist history as well. They took us to the area where Hitler committed suicide. Parts of his bunker still remain underground. It's actually a parking lot in the middle of a bunch of buildings. It's not marked and you would never know what it was unless someone told you....reason being....they don't want to remember Hitler and what he stood for. We walked through the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. That was especially interesting to us because we saw and learned about a cemetary in Prague which was the inspiration for the memorial in Berlin. We also saw the most expensive hotel in Berlin, which also happens to be the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony. Not quite important or inspiring, but I found it a good chuckle in the midst of all the history we've been emersed in for the past month. Also on the tour, we saw the book burning memorial, Brandenburg Gate, Wall Victims Memorial (commemorating the 191 people who died trying to cross from East to West), Checkpoint Charlie (where the sign still stands saying "You are now leaving the American sector"), and Museums Island. After the tour, we found our way to a church that still shows the damage of being bombed in WWII. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. I loved it. It's one thing to hear stories from over 70 years ago, but it's a whole other thing to actually see it. Only one of it's towers are still standing with the portion of the roof that didn't burn down. After this long day of walking, we headed back to the hostel to make din and lay low for the night.
Our second day we decided to start with a leisurely stroll along the Eastside Gallery ( it is the longest strectch of the Berlin wall still standing and it is covered in Murals). It was about 70 degrees outside and after our delightful walk, we opted to find a park to people watch. For anyone planning on visiting Berlin, it's very easy to confuse a park and a cemetary on the maps. And that's exactly what we did.... wandered into a gigantic cemetary. After stopping to pay our respects for the approaching funeral procession, we made our way to the nearest exit. We eventually made it to a lovely park where we ate our home made sandwhiches, watched some people play volleyball and took a siesta in the sun. It felt amazing to have a slow and lazy day in the middle of all our sightseeing. Once again, we headed back to our hostel to whip up one of our amazing budget friendly meals and turn in early.
The next day, we set out to find some things that weren't included in our walking tour. Audrey's friend Pete was our own personal google while in Berlin and among the many things he told us to do was to eat a Doner Kebap. We didn't get what the big deal was, but made sure the Doner Kebap was on the to do list. First, we took in the sights and smells of the Turkish Market where there was everything from fresh fish to fancy handpainted doorknobs. Upon leaving the Turkish Market we spotted a walkup Kebap vendor. Let me tell you that this is one of the most amazing food creations I've ever had the pleasure to wolf down. We watched the Kebap man shave the lamb from this huge chunk of rotating meat on a stick with a freshly sharpened sword. The fresh warm pita was smeared with a 100% offensive but equally as delicious garlic sauce. Kebap man then piled on the meat mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes and equally offensive onions.
- *On a side note....You may have noticed that I've used the word Kebap alot.....and no, it's not a typo. They are spelled K-e-b-a-p. Aud and I found it very amusing that it was not called a Kebob. So for the rest of our stay in Berlin (and the duration of the trip) we try to use the word as much as possible. Say it a couple times in a row and tell me you don't chuckle. Ke-bap, Ke-bap, Ke-bap.**
After devouring our first Kebap, we visited the Death Strip (the only area where both sides of the wall are still standing) and the artist squats. That was interesting. The art scene in Berlin is amazing. When the Berlin Wall came down, any other kind of demolition was put on hold and some forgotten about. In turn, that left all of these abandoned buildings around Berlin. Many of them have been turned into huge galleries by various artists and hippies who decided to take up residence. Apparently, they are about to get kicked out. Because of all these artists, the area is very popular and now the property is worth ALOT. That evening we met up with Armin. He is a German native who grew up with a close family friend of mine. We had an interesting Friday night drinking the best German beer around and trying to learn German words with Armin, his friend Manfred and Manfred's dog Julia. On the way to the Metro, we spotted a late night Kebap stand. They were messy, delicious and just what we needed at midnight on a Friday night after consuming a few too many pints. I'm not sure if more wound up in my stomach or on the floor of the metro.
Our fourth day in Berlin was pretty low key. We had to catch the night train to Paris that evening so we didn't have much planned for the day. We slept in, caught up on our laundry and went to purchase our train tickets. With some extra time to spare, we decided to return to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and see the exhibit that is underneath it. Out of all of the Holocost Memorials we've seen, including Dachou concentration camp, this one was the most powerful to me. On this trip, we've learned alot about the horiffic brutality of WWII. But this exhibit was the first time I got choked up. Of the items on display were biographies on individuals and entire families, as well as various letters and journal entries. These are all very rare findings because when the SS took people away, any of their possesions not of monetary value were destroyed. The piece that affected me the most was a post card. It affected me so much I'd like to share it with you all. I will include it at the end of this blog. Just to warn you, it's very hard to read but extremely moving and a realistic depiction of the times.
We had some extra time to kill so we made one last run for our favorite Kebap stand outside the Turkish Market (and a 45 minute metro ride away), then headed back to the hostel to pick up our bags and set off to catch our night train.
Over all, we had a fantastic time in Berlin. Not only did we see and learn some incredible things, it was great for our bellies as well as our budget. Next stop.....Paris!!!
Cat (and Aud)
The translated post card from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe exhibit:
"My Dear, don't separate from Michel. Don't let yourself be taken to the children's home. Write to Papa, maybe he can help you, and write to Paulette. Ask the furrier across the way for his advice. Maybe God will pity you. We are leaving tomorrow, for who knows where. I'm hugging you, in tears. I would so much have loved to hold you in my arms again, my poor children, I will never see you again."