Sunday, June 14, 2015

Berlin, Day 2: I walked across the entire city.....twice

Hallo!  Apparently that's how you say hi in German. Of course it's totally adorable-sounding.

Berlin, man. Today I took this 6-hour walking tour of the city, and I have so many fascinating facts and history tidbits that I'm going to try my hardest to keep my "fun facts" and "cliffnotes" sections a manageable length.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • 6-hour walking tour, obvs. We visited all the Berlin highlights, which included the Brandenburg gate, Reichstag building, Museum Island, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler's Bunker, etc. Berlin history is cray.  It's especially insane because so much of its history was so recent (i.e. the World Wars, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall), and therefore some topics are still a little bit touchy.
  • This is the Berliner Dom, an incredibly pretty Cathedral. It was super damaged after WWII as the entire thing was set on fire and they had to do massive restorations to the dome. Even still, you can see the facade is still black from all the fires.
Charred towers
  • You can also see all the bullet holes around numerous monuments/pillars around the city from the war
    Cement like swiss cheese
  • Brandenburg Gate, below, is a symbolic part of Berlin. It was originally constructed as the gate that led to the royal palaces way back when Germany was Prussia, and during the Cold War/Berlin Wall era, it was right on the border between the two sections and inaccessible to East Berlin-ers. Huge. That is all I have to say.
Lis, a hostel friend, and I at the Brandenburg Gate
  • Checkpoint Charlie - the most famous checkpoint between East and West Berlin. They have all these crazy stories of people trying to sneak across the border, as East Berliners (the Soviet side) were constantly trying to flee into West Berlin (the Allied side - US, France, and Britain) after the Berlin Wall was constructed.  Does everyone else find it crazy that we were alive when the wall was torn down??
The checkpoint. With people dressed up as American soldiers to charge $ from tourists for photo ops, obvs
From East Berlin, you see the photo of an American soldier (who's watching you) and a warning sign
From West Berlin, you see a photo of a Soviet soldier, who is also always watching you
  • The Jewish Monument, whose official name is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." No confusion as to what that's commemorating. It involves all these stone slabs of various shapes and height and there's thousands of them that ebb and flow randomly.  The idea is to wander through them and reflect as you zig and zag through the passageways.

Huuuge stones in the middle

  • One of the girls on the tour invited me to have dinner with her and some other hostel friends, so we went to this Thai place down the street. I think one of my favorite things is getting to meet all these wildly different people and getting to hear all their stories about their lives and why they’re traveling. It's a big world out there.
Dinner crew! I may or may not have been singing the praises of my selfie stick...

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • Berlin has, hands down, the craziest history of rises and falls ever. First it was this super cosmopolitan, sexy, progressive city in the 1920’s.  Then WWII, which was obviously terrible and resulted in the city being completely ravaged and most of the buildings destroyed. Then came the construction of the Berlin Wall (I can't believe this ever happened in history. Seriously. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction).  Then after the wall came down and East/West Berlin were reunified, the Eastern side was super run-down, but all the artists, young people, etc. started moving into the East side because the rent was so much cheaper, resulting in a super happening, cool, hip scene. 
  • Now both sides of Berlin are incredibly vibrant (in fact, one could argue that East Berlin is almost more hip), and you can barely tell what side you’re on half the time, except for some small differences including a different crossing man at the stoplights (he wears a super-fly hat on the East side!), as well as only the East side having trams, etc.
  • Crossing men in Berlin. I LOVE THE HAT, EAST SIDE
  • We got caught in a torrential downpour on the tour. It was only like, 15 minutes but it was the fattest, most aggressive rain I’ve ever been in. People were totally soaked through in like, a minute.

Aggressive downpour

  • They started putting these small gold memorial cobblestones in the streets outside the former homes of Jews that were sent to concentration camps - each one has the occupant’s name, and date they were sent away.  There are thousands and thousands of these around the city: small enough that they aren’t immediately evident, but there for those paying attention.
Gold cobblestones

Anyway, Auf Wiedersehen to Berlin! You were the best.


  1. This looks fun! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/12/led-waterslide_n_7570240.html