Berliner Schnauze

It’s finally here! My post about Berlin. After taking a class about Berlin since 1918 last semester, I’ve been looking forward to the day when I finally get to visit, see everything I learned about, and share a little bit about what I think of this historic city. Once I’m home, I’ll have more time to compile some new European city guides, and I’ll be making a really comprehensive Berlin one, so stay tuned for that. But for now, here are the highlights.

IMG_63141.) Memory sights–Berlin is a city where you can really see all of the different layers of history interacting with each other. From the depraved “sin” city of the Weimar Republic to a city bombed by one war and then divided by another and finally reunified twenty-five years ago. At the Topography of Terror, these layers of history are tactile. An original strip of the Berlin Wall remains and in the ground underneath are Nazi bunkers. Looking out from inside the sight, you see communist offices from East Berlin beyond the wall (pictured left).

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

There are other prominent memorial sights throughout the city. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is as much a memorial as an experience. The memorial is made up of stelae organized in a grid. Upon entering, you are instantly enveloped by narrow alleys and have a sense of submersion. When my friends and I went, I felt that I was very quickly overtaken by the stelae as they start out at waist height but were soon three times taller than me. The artist behind the sculpture, once he’d completed his work, wanted the memorial to be left and used however people pleased: to eat in, play tag, do whatever they would. While that may have been his preference, there are still guards at the memorial who remind visitors to get down from the tops of the stelae and to not jump from one to another.

I could, and probably will, dedicate an entire post to just the memory sights in the city, such as the Jewish Museum which talks about the history of Jews throughout time in an evocative structure built with voids and empty, distant spaces. The city’s different major sights, though, like the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and Potsdamer Platz can also tell a story if you look at them carefully and are observant. So, stay tuned for when I discuss that in the future.

Balloons commemorating the wall
Balloons commemorating the wall

2.) 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall–My friends and I visited the weekend of November 9th, when the Berlin Wall historically fell in 1989 and brought a lightning speed end to the Cold War. This year, to commemorate the wall’s fall, balloons marked the wall’s place in the city, creating a more open feeling between former East and West Berlin. Over the weekend, videos about the history of the divide played on Pariser Platz and next to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and there were numerous concerts, walking tours, and other events going on. On Sunday night, to finish off the weekend, the balloons were released into the air. My friends and I all headed back to our respective cities and didn’t get to see this part of the commemoration, but the balloons in general were really cool and served as a helpful and very visible reminder of the wall’s dominant placement in the city.

IMG_63383.) Currywurst–Another thing that I think my friends and I all agreed on in Berlin was the currywurst. It’s one of those foods that you really can’t think about and just have to eat as it’s sausage in this ketchup, curry sauce which becomes exceedingly weirder the more you think about it. My friends and I who took the class I mentioned last semester got some recommendations from our professor, and she suggested that we go to Curry 36, saying that a visit to Berlin wouldn’t be complete unless we’d tried this spot along with a couple of others. We waited for about twenty minutes in line with Berliners, bellied up to the counter, got currywurst and some German beers and ate it standing up at one of the tables outside the stand. It had a feel very similar to Pat’s in Philly in both the way you order and the way that the food weighs you down once you’ve finished.

4.) Film Museum–My Berlin professor also recommended that we check out the film museum in Potsdamer Platz, knowing that two of my friends are film minors. The museum is located right in the Sony Center, which is a super modern and cool place in and of itself, and shares some history of film (similar to the film museum in Turin) and then details German film and stars. There were rooms dedicated specifically to icons like Marlene Dietrich and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Following the thread of history that was central to our weekend visit, the museum also traces film through different periods in German history.

Sony Center
Sony Center

5.) Monuments & Trampolines–I’ve heard from others that Berlin is an ugly city, and I would disagree. No, it’s not a very classical, traditional European city. It’s overwhelmingly modern with some uglier industrial buildings, but looking at the city from a historical perspective really helps you appreciate its quirkiness. I’m not going to beat a dead horse and talk more about the course I took, etc. etc. but I will say that something that was very pleasurable was just walking the city and seeing all of the monuments we’d studied, walking through the colored leaves at the Tiergarten, and finding some random tiny trampolines in the ground outside of the TV Tower in Alexanderplatz (which we definitely monopolized for too long). Another big thing in Berlin is it’s nightlife, and my friends and I made an attempt at going out but got turned away at the door because we’re not all 21, and some clubs limit entry to only those older. We still had the experience of getting home from the club at 5:30 AM, but without actually ever stepping inside. At any rate, I was so captivated by all of the city’s monuments that I went for one last run Sunday morning (three hours after going to sleep) past the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag to see them one last time before catching my flight back to Bologna. IMG_6231

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