Eurotrip, Part V: Berlin

April 15th

So, the overnight train was definitely an experience, to say the least. The seats reclined pretty nicely, but I was on the aisle so I had nowhere to lean. And there was a man that snored all night, and I wanted to smother him to death. Seriously. It was loud and obnoxious and kept me up for hours. I think he had sleep apnea; every so often he'd sort of huff and wake himself up. And this is what I was thinking about as I blasted music in my ears to block it out and tried to go to sleep.

I did end up sleeping fairly well, all things considered. We got to Berlin at a little after 9. The directions to the hostel from the station were basically non-existent, so it was an adventure to find it. We eventually did, and checked in before asking the guy at the desk for directions to Mauer Park. I'd found out via Google that on Sundays, there's a massive flea market and outdoor karaoke. The guy was very impressed at how in-the-know we were! :) It was close enough to walk to, so we did. It was really, really cool! Berlin is such a ridiculously hipster city. We spent hours browsing, and I got a ring and a magnet featuring JFK and a doughnut (because all I could think of in Berlin was ICK BIN EIN BERLINER!). This place was seriously ridiculous, though. There was food and everything from furniture to bikes to jewelry to old army paraphernalia. I've never seen anything like it!

We hung around for a bit and watched some street performances in a little ampitheater after that. Honestly, they weren't good. Maybe we just don't understand German humor, though, because they certainly made a nice little profit after their acts! Then we climbed a hill to play on the swings at the top. We found out a day or so later that... uh... we'd actually been swinging in front of the Berlin wall. How were we supposed to know that "mauer" means "wall" in German?!

We went back to the hostel after that to get our room -- we were the only girls in a room with five guys. Slightly awkward, especially after seeing empty beer bottles and a condom on the floor. But it ended up being fine. We planned out the rest of the night before leaving to get dinner at this little burger stand. It was so good! The food was amazing (and it was great to have a meat other than sausage), and the atmosphere was really cool. It was a little shack under the train tracks where you stand around tables to eat. I really felt like I was getting a true Berlin experience.

After that, we decided to go see the Reichstag. It turned out that you can't get in unless you book three days in advance (boo), but the outside of the building is beautiful.

From there we went to see bits of what's left of the wall. It's so hard to believe that that whole situation was real. Building a wall to separate and isolate people seems to archaic -- how could this possibly have existed until so recently? It was quite a powerful experience to get to see it.

April 16th

You know that awkward moment where you run into four of your friends in the train station of a foreign country?

Liz, Lorraine, Erin, and Angela arrived in Berlin that morning, and we'd planned on meeting up and taking the 11:00 Sandeman's tour of the city together. But on our way there, we happened to run into each other at the train station. After the initial shock of "wait, what are YOU doing here?!"we all hugged and rejoiced at seeing some new familiar faces. After all, it was the two week-iversary of Amanda, Jen and I beginning our trip!

The tour was really enjoyable, even though our guide (Captain Rob) was no Fred. It was cool to learn about Berlin a bit from a non-Nazi perspective. The history of the city isn't all swastikas, and it's actually really fascinating. My favorite part was the stop we made at the memorial to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust. It's basically a grid of giant cement blocks. Rob gave us a few minutes to walk around in there, so I went on my own. It's a completely abstract concept, so what I was surprised to find is that it felt like being in a ghetto. Or, rather, what I imagine being in a ghetto would've felt like. It's hard to explain. You're just surrounded by concrete, and you're not entirely sure how to get out, and it's kind of claustrophobic and scary. But then you just follow a path to the end, and I found myself thinking, "oh, well that wasn't so hard." It's like walking in there gives you this whole different mindset.

We finished at around three, and got pretzels from a stand on the street (YOLO) and went to the DDR museum. At first I thought it was a museum about dance dance revolution, until I realized that Germany in German is Deutschland. So there, the German Democratic Republic is the Deutschland Democratic Republic (or whatever those words are in German. You get the idea). Basically, it was a museum about life in Communist Germany. We hear so much about the wall, yet so little about life behind it, so this was really interesting. And it was really interactive and hands-on, which is always a plus!

After that, we headed to what we thought was a chocolate museum but was actually a chocolate store with a little how-we-make-chocolate exhibit. I bought myself two interestingly flavored bars, one of which was cherry ice cream (I know, right?), and they were both delicious. We hung out there for a bit before returning to the section of the wall that we'd found the night before. The exhibit by it was open now, so we spent some time there.

By then we were absolutely freezing and hungry, so we adventured towards one of the places on Amanda's list. I got half a hen and a salad, which was both delicious and made me feel less fat! lol. But seriously. All that wurst in Munich, man.

Liz was desperate for some apple strudel, so we stopped at a bakery after that before going back to their hostel for a little while. We ate our respective dessert purchases (what was that about feeling less fat?) and did a little bit of planning for the next day... that was still continuing after we'd returned to our hostel via Facebook at 1 am.

April 17th

You know your day is going to be intense when you feel that it's okay to have currywurst for breakfast because you think you'll need the protein.

This means... a bike tour.

I legitimately don't remember the last time I rode a bike other than the stationary ones at the gym, so this was quite an interesting adventure. Couple that with the fact that my bike was also too tall for me, and, well, the tour became a lesson in learning how to give up on not looking ridiculous. It was a good exercise in letting go of any kind of ego I may have. My one consolation is that I improved over the course of those four hours, and eventually learned how to compensate for my overly large bike. That being said, though, it is now May 6th, and my tailbone has finally stopped hurting as of today.

Aside from my own trials and tribulations, it was a pretty cool tour. Our guide was very speedy, and I would've appreciated her being a little more accommodating to those of us that don't ride bikes for a living. I definitely prefer walking tours, because they go at a slower pace and allow me to actually take in my surroundings as opposed to spend the entire time worrying about falling and/or running over anybody and/or being run over myself. But we got to bike basically along the path of the wall, which would not have been walkable. We ended up back at Mauer Park, at the first place where the wall was opened (where it actually snowed for a minute), and at the final remaining original watch tower. It's run by an old man whose brother was one of the first people to be shot and killed trying to escape.

By the end of the tour, I basically couldn't sit down. While the hills gave me more trouble than I care to admit, my legs were thankfully not sore the next day. My butt, on the other hand, was another story. So I stood up on the train ride out to Olympic Stadium. Woo! Getting to go there was really awesome. Munich was really cool and all, but the Olympics in 1936 were just so full of history. Jesse Owens, and the potential boycott, and Hitler and his white supremacy, and Nazi propaganda... SO interesting. And the stadium itself is ridiculously cool!

The area is really set up for visitors, with informative signs and monuments and such. I love how these stadiums are just open, and you're free to walk around them!

We were supposed to meet up with the others at a pub called MacLaren's, which is the name of the pub on How I Met Your Mother. Due to the U2 being partially closed, though, we took ages to get to the stadium, so we were almost an hour late... and they weren't there. Whoops! The food was really good, though. It's a cute little place.

We went back to the hostel after that only to find out that the lounge was closed so, because we'd checked out, we had nowhere to hang out. So we awkwardly sat on the floor in the hall for a bit, and then in the lobby. We got to the train station ridiculously early (because at least they have benches there!), and luckily it wasn't too freezing. Then it was time to board our final train!


I really, really love Berlin. It's not the most physically beautiful city because everything was basically destroyed in WWII, but there's just so much history there. It's really hard to explain, because I still feel like I don't know a ton about the city, yet there's still just something special about it. You could be walking down a very regular street, but when you see that narrow line of cobblestones, you know that that's where the Berlin wall once stood. If someone had been walking in the same path barely more than 20 years ago, they would've been shot. It's just bizarre, and gives everything a very significant feeling. "Oh, we're in East Berlin right now? Welp, couldn't be doing this 25 years ago."

And I gotta say, getting to see the Mauer Park market in all its glory added so much to those few days. It's one thing to learn about the history of a city, but it's quite another to experience its present-day culture firsthand. This was NOT a touristy thing to do, so we were literally surrounded by hipster German culture. I could've bought authentic Soviet-era pins bearing the hammer and sickle if I'd wanted to. We dug through a basket containing old photographs and official documents. We walked around drinking fresh squeezed orange juice that was more pulp than actual juice, and ate currywurst at a rickety little table. Hell, Amanda pushed me on a swing that was literally feet from the Berlin wall.

Honestly, I think Berlin had what Paris lacked: authenticity. Everything about Berlin is real. And it's awesome.

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