I am so far behind on this blog, by five countries actually… I will work to catch up, but abbreviate some of the unnecessarily verbose recaps. So, from Prague I entered into a brand new country, Deutchland. This trip did start with another train voyage and in my cabin there just happened to be a Japanese girl from Shikoku. She was kind enough to give me an Ehime mikan, but I couldn’t help but think the was horribly misguided about what makes a good trip. She listed off about 10 different countries that she was going to visit, by train, within the span of three weeks. Almost all of her time would be spent sleeping, on the train, and generally seeing nothing at all.
I arrived in the evening to Berlin, and though I didn’t have time to do any tourism, I did enjoy the company of the hostel. That night they were doing a dinner that was free to anyone staying there, and would be prepped by one of the other guests. The deal at this place was that if someone cooked something nice for everyone, they would get the ingredients and a bed for free. Of course my bread and cheese would not likely earn me the room and board, but the Aussie’s vegetarian risotto was really good, warm and filling. Strangely, most of the people sitting around my table were from Denmark, or were otherwise linked to it somehow. Good company, no picture.
That night a Belgian guy rallied the troops and managed to get a few of us to go with him to a nearby bar. He was going on and on about how Belgian beer was the best in the world (it would be unfair to expect him to have been to Michigan) and here we would be able to get a couple. I figured that I could spoil my actual visit to that country just a little, and together with several of the dinner faces sat down for a round. I went with a dark, red Chimay, which was strong and fullbodied. What I do like about Belgian beers is that each is served in its respective chalice.
The next morning I went over to get some breakfast at a nearby supermarket. I wanted my usual 500g of yogurt, but instead grabbed the same size cup of strawberry milk. Sure, I could have l looked really closely to determine what I was actually buying, but the way it shared shelf space with the rest of the yogurts really bamboozled me. I realized my mistake just as soon as I tossed my head back, and rather than the slow creep of fruity goodness I was instead doused with something of a very different viscosity. I felt pretty cool at that one…
Shortly after that, a few of us were collected and marched over to Museum Island for another walking tour. The guide this time around was from the UK, but had been living here long enough to teach us everything we needed to know. There were several interesting stops along the way, and he did a good job of explaining them. This was an uncharacteristically glitzy protestant church located at the square.
One of the early stops was to a memorial for all those who are oppressed. The guide described the statue of a woman with her dead child in an otherwise empty room in a very poetic way. The only other distinctive feature was on open hole in the ceiling above them that exposed it the sculpture to the elements. Encased below are ashes of the cremated Jews and also soil from various battlefields. It was a different sort of monument but nonetheless powerful.
He pointed out where some book burning happened and a couple other buildings that had once housed some of the Nazi government. One of the big touristy stops is to ‘Checkpoint Charlie’, though this is nothing more than a place for people to take photos. The soldiers are of course fake, and the location has been shifted from its original spot to accommodate the evolving needs of the city. The Church of Capitalism amuses me.
Right nearby this spot is a section of the Berlin Wall. Despite its status as a symbol of a divided Europe and oppression, I did take a victorious ‘Murika photo in front of it. Yeah.
The next big stop we made was to the memorial built just a few years ago in honor of the Jews killed during the war. This memorial located right in the town took up an entire city block and was certainly unlike any other. It was a bunch of blocks, each a different size, placed in an array across an undulating surface. There is no official explanation for what it actually means, and as such each person is supposed to navigate their own path through it and determine the significance for themselves. They have plans to build a monument for each of the people groups that were persecuted during that regime.
Nearby was the place where Adolf Hitler and his wife of one day took their own lives in a bunker. The area hasn’t been made into anything special though, with only a car park sitting in the space above. Mr. Hitler was located, ironically enough, about 6 feet below that Skoda there when it happened. Our guide joked that to his knowledge, this was the most visited car park in the world.
The last stop of the tour was to admire the new Ameircan Embassy, where they have been eavesdropping on the all the German phone calls. The Brandenburg Gate was located right next door to that as well, so we popped over to check it out. It is one of the few monuments to survive both wars and is considered one of the greatest in the country. It dates back to the late 18th century, and was pretty impressive.
After that I just went back to the hostel to get myself ready for another big move. Without cutting things too closely this time, I had to get myself to the station for another overnight train. Good thing I was responsible though, since the directions of my hostel took me to the wrong train station. I was able to hop aboard the S-Bahn to get over the correct one. I had about 10 minutes to spare, and as soon as I was on the train was able to let out a sigh and get some good sleep.
Here were a few edgy posters from an art museum. There were lots more too, but I thought that they were pretty nifty.