I didn’t get round to writing my blog whilst in Berlin so this a bit of a shorter summary of my five days there.
I got to the hostel which was themed in a 1920s German cabaret style and had huge black and white photos on the walls. There was also a cosy pub downstairs that was really dark and had candles on each table.
In Berlin, the first thing I did was checked out the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s amazing that parts of it are still standing and one of watch towers near the cemetery is still there ominously looking over people.
It’s also amazing that it only came down so recently, two years after I was born. I think growing up and learning about history, it’s easy to think that everything horrible was so long ago and the world has changed since then. But as recent events, and ongoing events in many parts of the world, have shown us – history is not so historical after all. In my hostel a man who looked in his 60s told me that he lived here in the 80s while the wall was up. He had papers as he was from England so was allowed to cross the border and observe the stark differences between the two divisions.
The next day I took the train to Potsdam which is a beautiful little town. I enjoyed the shops down quaint streets. Unfortunately the huge Sansoucci garden was rather empty with statues boarded up for Winter. It felt strange walking around such a huge Park like this with no one around. I think it will be much prettier in Spring and Summer.
I also went to the Jewish Museum and it was a real eye opener to read about their ongoing persecution for the last couple of thousand years. It explains a heck of a lot including how they weren’t allowed to go into academia so a lot of them started their own businesses such as manufacturing. It reminds me of the quakers’ own career limitations in England and how a lot of them started successful food companies. God forbid if you weren’t a Christian back then or even in many cultures now. All sorts of reasons were found to persecute you. Even in Lisbon in Portugal where I am now, the New Christians (the name given to non Christians) were killed in the church for suggesting that a light shining on Jesus was a reflection from the stained glass window as opposed to a miracle. Now that same church promotes religious tolerance and has peace plaques and an olive tree planted to signify this.
Travelling Europe you can’t avoid stories like this. I think that’s what travelling Europe is – one big immersive history lesson.
I also did an Alternative Berlin tour which was a great look at modern graffiti with stories about the groups behind the city’s infamous tags. We also checked out the art centre where “squatters” (but you don’t call them that) are now allowed to live in the houses next to them. It’s all gated off so you have to know someone to be allowed in and move in yourself. You get power and water provided so a lot of the creative community live there apparently.
My new hostel friends and I went to a bar for cocktails near Alexanderplatz which was really nice. Although people were allowed to smoke so my clothes and hair smelt awful afterwards. I had to wash them in the sink!
I had a great week in Berlin learning loads about the history of the city. Next up is Budapest!