I am going to start off by saying that I absolutely loved Berlin. I met amazing people, saw some amazing things, and felt comfortable there in a way I can’t quite explain. Although I don’t speak more than 5 words of German, I was able to get around perfectly fine, mostly due to the fact that almost every German person I encountered spoke wonderful English. This also made me feel a bit guilty, but it is what it is!
We stayed at EastSeven hostel, and I cannot say enough good things about it. The staff was so friendly and helpful, it was impeccably clean, I met new friends, they made free vegetarian dinners twice a week for guests (plus one extra for Christmas), and the cost was amazing. I wish we could have stayed longer!
|Markers of an escape tunnel|
After checking in, we walked from our hostel to the Berlin Wall Memorial. The memorial spans across West Berlin and is dotted with plaques describing it’s history, what happened in each area, and personal stories of those who escaped, or who had been victims of the wall guards. In several areas, there were small rectangular paths showing where escape tunnels had been. It still blows my mind to imagine a wall being built so suddenly, keeping me from leaving my town or seeing family and friends. Seeing landmarks like these made our trip to Berlin so educational and inspiring.
Next, we went to one of what would be many Christmas Markets! We spent a lot of our time during the week going to different Christmas Markets, shopping for souvenirs, people watching, drinking hot chocolate and Glühwein, and eating delicious food. They were wonderful and beautiful, and helped our trip to feel more like Christmas, as we were all missing being home with our families.
We then visited the Reichstag, which houses the German Parliament. The building itself was topped with a cupola that is beautifully and thoughtfully constructed. It is incredibly energy-efficient and was accompanied by a free audio-guide explaining the history of the building, its construction, and describing the buildings one can view from the top of the cupola. Thanks to Marissa for setting up our visit!
|the Brandenburg Gate|
Next up was the Brandenburg gate, followed by the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe and its accompanying (free) museum. The latter was an incredible structure, and the museum was beautifully done, with heart-wrenching personal tales, letters, and images of families and individuals affected by the Holocaust. Some of what I read there will definitely stick with me, and I highly recommend going here if you ever find yourself in Berlin!
|the beautiful Berliner Dom|
On Christmas Eve, we went to a midnight mass at The Berliner Dom and enjoyed the beautiful views and music (while trying not to fall asleep… :-P).
Christmas was a bit bizarre because it did not feel at all like Christmas. Perhaps it was the sushi for lunch? Or the lack of snow? Regardless, it was wonderful, and included a trip to the Pergammon Museum, a delicious dinner out with our new friends from the hostel, as well as dancing well into the night – Argentinian style! It was a bit like salsa, and though I was told I was not too shabby, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have told me if I was horrendous! It was so much fun, and certainly a Christmas to remember.
|Our group at the hostel on Christmas!|
That’s enough for part 2, I’ll let you rest before my next installment of Berlin, part 3 J.