ginger: (my take on the world)
[personal profile] ginger
Trip recap part 4: BERLIN:

Author's note: I know two Maggies, [ profile] missysedai and [ profile] missingkeys. Both have ties to Berlin. Fun, right? :)

Sunday 6/2 continued: I spent 7 hours on a train. Then when I got to Berlin, a young tourist waiting for the bus decided it was a great idea to lean around me and start grilling the 60-something Berlin fellow on the other side of me about how Germans feel about the Shoah. Awkward. Still, if that's the worst thing a fellow tourist does to me in Berlin, I'll take it and be grateful. Any rate, I got to the hostel, checked in, and found that they gave me my own room! There was a bit of planning -- not a lot -- and bed.

Monday 6/3: leisurely breakfast, then wandered down to the Brandenburg Gate to do a free walking tour. Three and a half hours of Berlin history later... We saw the Gate, the Reichstag, the outside bit of the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe, Checkpoint Charlie, Neue Wache, Bebelplatz and the book-burning memorial** (whoa, just whoa), the German and French Cathedrals and Gendarmenmarkt, stood on the unpaved car park located over Hitler's bunker, the former Luftwaffe HQ (now home to the tax ministry), a chunk of the Berlin Wall still standing in place. Then I went on to the German Resistance Museum (housed in the former Bendlerblock, where the July 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler was originated and where the four ringleaders were executed, see also the movie Valkyrie, Tom Cruise actually does a decent job) except I went the long way around and saw a very large military institution bedecked with angry-looking signs full of exclamation points behind very tall fences with cameras, as well as embassies for Slovenia, Turkey, India, Egypt, and Austria before I managed to get to the museum. None of the museum exhibits were captioned in English and my German isn't good enough to read most of it, so I was dependent on the audio guide which only covered about half the (fairly small) museum. Still, it was very cool. Then I went down to Kurfürstendamm to meet Maggie (all of the "Maggie" sightings in Berlin were [ profile] missingkeys-Maggie) for dinner at Hard Rock (8!), and we chatted for several hours over dinner and dessert and a walk. She saw me back onto my bus, and I went back to the hostel to organize my plans for the next couple of days and go to bed.

**The memorial at Bebelplatz was, unexpectedly, the memorial that hit me the hardest outside of a concentration camp. It's done in two parts - first, a plaque with a quote by a Jewish author from over 100 years before the burning that translates in English, roughly, as "When you begin by burning books, you end by burning people." Then, a few feet over, there's a glass pane set in the ground, and if you look down, it's just a sealed room under the platz that's full of empty bookcases -- enough shelves to hold all 20,000 of the books that were burned by the Nazis that night.

Tuesday 6/4: breakfast. Bus down to Hbf, U-Bahn up to Brandenburger Tor (the bus was supposed to go past it, but didn't), over to the Memorial for Murdered Jews of Europe for the interior exhibit. After that, bus over to Alexanderplatz and walk back a bit to go to the Deutsches Historisches Museum for 2000 years of German history. From there I went to the Pergamon (aka shit we stole from Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon and various Islamic cultures) which was 2/3 closed, boo. But they stole the Ishtar Gate from Babylon and a dome from Alhambra and a giant fromping temple to Zeus and Athena, so what there was to see was really cool. After that I popped over to the DDR museum (about life in communist East Germany, aka the Deutsches Democratisches Republik, not the bouncy game). After that I walked down to the Memorial for Murdered Homosexuals of Europe. From there, back to the hostel to eat some dinner and do some laundry and read a bit and go to bed.

Wednesday 6/5: breakfast. Bus over to the Mauermuseum. Walked through Checkpoint Charlie, but did not pay to have a pass stamped. Walked over to the Topography of Terror, where a remaining section of the Berlin Wall stands over the remaining foundations of the former buildings that housed the SS and the Gestapo - it's an exhibition about the histories of those two organizations and how they terrorized pretty much everybody they came in contact with. From there, I walked over to the Jewish Museum, where the exhibits are about 2000 years of Jewish history, both as a people in Europe and culturally, and the building is a commentary on the role the Jewish culture has played in Berlin in particular. After that, I walked around a bit and ended up back at Brandenburger Tor to borrow wifi from the Starbucks on the corner before heading out to Maggie's for the evening. After I turned the wrong way out of the station, she and her littles came to rescue me, and we passed an evening in good conversation and excellent cupcakes. Then we walked her pup and I headed back to the hostel to go to bed.

Thursday 6/6: up until about 9:30, I was still debating whether I wanted to go to the zoo or to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Of all the weird things to ponder. I opted for the zoo, as Dachau is on the docket for Munich and a girl can only handle so many concentration camps in a week. (I swear, I'm not trying to be flip about the Shoah.) There were, luckily, no awkwardly amorous animal encounters while I was there, though I never did figure out how to get to where the eisbären were :( lots of terribly cute baby critters, including month-old hippo and giraffe and two month old wolf cubs. After the zoo, I went and wandered Alexanderplatz for a bit, including a department store where the t-shirts started at 60 euro, then I went up to the Museum fur Naturkunde. They have the Guinness awarded tallest mounted dinosaur skeleton in their first hall. I was kind of squicked by the bug room and way squicked by the wet collections, but on the whole it was quite neat. I keep dinosaur-ing my way through Europe. :-P from there, I went down to Ku'damm for some more window shopping and some dinner, then back to the hostel. I think I have been largely successful at cramming everything into my suitcase -- all that's left is my towel, which is still drying, and my pyjamas, which I am wearing. Yay Ari tomorrow!!

Friday 6/7: got up, packed up, headed out. Met Maggie at Charlottenburg bahnhof, we did some brief yarn shopping, then popped back to the Hbf for lunch, ice cream and my train. Which was 20 min late arriving, 40 min late leaving, and ended up 85 minutes behind at one point.

Next edition: Munich and Salzburg!
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