The Botts Travel: Berlin

Man and I behind on blogging! I still haven’t gotten to Ireland and here I am writing about Berlin already.

To be honest I really don’t know where to start. Berlin wasn’t exactly on my lit of must-see places in Europe. To me, it was just another big city. I didn’t know much about it except for what everyone else knew about the wall and the division of the city between east and west.

It was Seth who defiantly had to go before we moved back to the states. So off to check off his bucket list we went!

And I was pleasantly surprised. We went over the July 4 holiday weekend (which isn’t a holiday in Germany of course!) and the weather was perfect - cool but sunny. And the city was more welcoming that I expected it to be. It wasn’t an obvious welcoming in that the people embraced us and made us feel at home. It was the relaxed vibe that just made you feel comfortable, even in an unfamiliar and huge!, city.

Berlin is progressively urban but very laid-back. Vegan options on almost every street and people who enjoy your kids in their restaurants. The streets were crowded but not aggressive and public transportation was very easy to navigate.

And of course there is the obvious history of the town. It is scattered among the present so that it all blends together seamlessly. It’s as if they never stopped embracing their past but refuse to let it hold it back. Pieces of the wall stand for people to pass on the way to work or church. Reminders of their city’s division still define who they are. That silly looking green man in the pedestrian stoplights - that is a symbol from East Berlin! And he’s marching all over the city!

The people were kind and proud of their city. The food was delicious and catered to a global pallet.

I’m glad we went. It’s now tied with Rome as one of my favorite European cities that we have visited!

Enjoy my photo story of Berlin below and I hope you get a chance to visit!

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was a very powerful place to be. It is a very unique memorial as you actual enter the sculpture. The interpretation of the design is subjective and each visitor is encouraged to decide what it means to them personally. Each stone block is the same shape and size on the top. But the height varies throughout. But no matter what direction you look, the exit always looks up. To me, it was a maze. It was confusing and familiar at each turn. Each obstacle presented was different in intensity and difficulty. Could I see over it to the light? Was it blocking my view? Have I been here before? But if we choose to look at the survival stories of the holocaust, we cane choose to see endurance and love and the power of the human spirit. And in this maze we can be confronted by demons that look familiar and large but once you see around them or over them or get to know them, you can see the light. And the light is always up!

At the DDR museum we took a peek into life as it was in West Berlin. The kids touched a rotary phone and a typewriter for the first time! They had a mock home set up and you could walk through bedrooms, the kitchen and living room and see what life was like as an east Berliner.

And of course the wall. What it must have been to wake up one morning and not be able to see your neighbors across the street. Families were separated. Train stations were walled up. And lives changed dramatically. It was incredible to actually touch this piece of history. So much of this piece of Berlin’s story shapes who they are today and how they live. I remember learning about the wall coming down in middle school and now to see it in person is truly remarkable.

Art on the Eastern stretch of the wall. The art was created after the wall came down. This stretch was preserved for artists to create a memorial site.

We also visited Alexanderplatz which was once the bustling commerce section of East Berlin. There is a vintage clock built in 1969 which tells the time of all the time zones in the world. There is also the DDR radio tower which is the tallest man-made structure in Germany and third tallest in Europe.

IMG_3223.jpg

Checkpoint Charlie.

The Topography of Terror is an outdoor museum built on top of the grounds which once held the Gestapo Headquarters. It narrates the reign of the Nazis in Europe. To read the history on top of the grounds is a pretty powerful experience.

And of course we visited Rausch Schokoladenhaus - the largest chocolate store in Europe!