Berlin, day and night

26 June 2010

Day 18: Berlin - Saturday, June 19th
The train ride to Berlin was great except for the delay. We were about an hour late arriving in Berlin. But no worries, we got 10 EUR and a free drink for the inconvenience! We'll take that.

We took the night off to catch up on sleep, and made full use of the next day.

Day 19: Berlin - Saturday, June 20th
The four of us trekked into Berlin's city center bright and early for our Sandeman's New Europe Tour. The tour guide was bursting with interesting history. And trust us when we say Berlin has plenty of history. We saw so many sites and viewed a number of memorials, including Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin wall. After the tour we backtracked through the city and spent a few hours in the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe.

It was a very emotional memorial, as you can imagine. There were pictures of families who were separated, images of the concentration camps, postcards sent before and during the Holocaust, audio pieces telling stories of the terrible conditions, and personal recordings of prisoners who truly lived through hell. Being in Berlin and learning the effects WWII had on the city taught us so much more than any textbook from our past schooling.

Berlin is still a relatively young city, continuing to build from the unity of the east and west in the early '90s. The city is very spread out, but contains a great deal of modern and historical architecture and sites. We enjoyed our leisure walk and were pretty worn out by the end of it. We grabbed a pretzel on the road to refuel for the trek back to the hostel. Yum!

Day 20: Berlin - Monday, June 21st
On Monday we caught a train to Sachsenhausen to view the concentration camp. Again, it was a very emotional experience. We peered through the windows of the barracks, still containing the beds, wash basins and communal areas that were there in the past. An audio piece guided us through the camp and explained how horrific the experience truly was. Many of the stories were relayed from the small number of prisoners who made it out of the camp alive. It was awful.

The barracks were slightly burned from Nazis and their supporters that attempted to eliminate the evidence of the acts. A crematorium was added to the camp in the early '30s in an effort to hide the actual number of Jews killed in the camp.

We spent nearly three hours at the camp and by the time we got back to Berlin, we were exhausted. The history is somewhat overwhelming. We were thankful we had another day to enjoy the modern-day city of Berlin and German culture. The history can be quite distracting and can keep you from really enjoying the city for what it is today and the progress it has made since the war.

After a little nap, we freshened up and headed to Zapata. Zapata is a bar in downtown Berlin. There are actually about five bars within the bar. One was a salsa bar, one had a live band, another had an old Volkswagen tie-dye bus, another was a traditional bar and the interior housed thrashers. In Germany, they have one of the most wonderful kinds of beers: grapefruit beer! Talk about a great idea. Its formal name is Grapefruit Hefeweizen, but it's honestly the very best beer I've ever had. It neeeeeds to come to the states. It's such a nice, light summer beer. We met a group of British guys that made good company for the evening, entertaining us with jokes and their Manchester accents.

Day 21: Berlin - Tuesday, June 22nd
The final day in Berlin was enjoyed by touring the outer neighborhoods of the city. We headed to the cutest area of Berlin, Hackescher Markt. We loved it!

We went to a little German cafe and fell in love with some crazy cheese sausage and soft pretzels. (Okay, we actually snacked on German pretzels and pastries all week but these ones hit the spot that day.)

We took a nap in a park nearby and finished our journey through Berlin neighborhoods with a lengthy walk to the old water tower. The area was lovely, and we traveled about it snacking on goodies and enjoying the beautiful German scenery before departing to Prague via our OrangeWays bus. And don't worry, we didn't leave without buying boots for our friends!

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