I'm Olivia. I'm a perpetually hungry redheaded girl from New York. I eat, sleep and breathe Korean pop music. I speak French and am studying Korean language and business in school. This fall, I'm setting forth on an exciting and terrifying (seriously I'm so nervous I might pee) solo journey across Europe. Hopefully this experience is full of bright, fun, and exciting as well as ridiculously stupid experiences that I can share with you!
I figured now would be a good time to write this since my laundry is going to take 2 and a half hours in the washer. Seriously, I've never heard of a wash cycle THAT long…anyway. Hi everybody! I'm finally going to write about Berlin so I can try to get caught up to where I am now!
So I've been in Amsterdam the past couple of days, but before that I went to Germany! I don't know any German at all, but pretty much everyone in Berlin speaks enough English.
I got to Berlin without much fuss or trouble. I took the train to my hostel and got there at around 7 pm. It was kind of far from the center of the city but wasn't that far from public transportation. The system in Berlin confused me a little. They have the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn, trams, and buses. The U-bahn is like the metro, but it sometimes goes above ground so I don't know what that's about? The S-bahn is like a normal train that goes in and aroundt as well as outside the city. Since I don't know any German, when I read it it all kind of mushed together in my brain, or I'd forget something the second after I looked at it. Luckily I got used to the system after the first two days, but enough about that.
My first full day in Berlin was cold and rainy, and of course being me, I didn't dress appropriately for the weather at all. My hair looked fine when I left the hostel, abotu an hour later it was stuffed into a hat to hide how messed up it was from the rain.
I feel like even since this picture, my hair has gotten even longer! But anyway, I read about a store in Schonhauser Allee called Fuck Fashion. Of course I had to go to this store, with a name like that, how could I not, seriously. It had pretty cool clothes but I was expecting them to be less expensive and a little bit more weird. They did have a whole rack of harem pants though which I HAVE BEEN DYING TO GET. So I maybe tried on 7 pairs until I found these babies. They are so comfortable!
I also planned to go on a free walking tour, but it didn't start for a couple hours so I decided to walk from the Brandenburg Gate to Museum Island and look around. At the gate there were tons of people dressed as bears and soldiers posing for pictures with people. I really wanted a picture with a bear, but I was alone and felt awkward asking people.
There was an outdoor installation about famous Berliners during World War Two and what happened to them. A lot of them died in camps or survived but the war destroyed their lives. A lot of them escaped and went on to live successful lives though.
So on the tour, I met a really cool girl from New Zealand named Hannah. She had the coolest hair, it was all kinds of pink, blue, and purple! On the tour, we viseted the Brandenburg Gate, saw the Bundestag (The German Parliament) and the Holocaust Memorial. The Holocaust Memorial, or Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, built in 2004 and designed by Peter Eisenman, is 2,711 slabs of concrete arranged in a grid on a sloping field. There is no symbolism whatsoever in this memorial. Each reaction to the memorial is different and people each explain it their own way. Walking through it, even though there were people around, everything just felt really quiet to me. As I went deeper in the slabs got taller and taller, to a point where I almost felt like I was being buried alive. It's a really intense memorial.
After that we saw sections of the Berlin Wall, and where Hitler's Bunker is. There isn't anything to mark its location, and on top of it is a modern, somewhat ugly apartment complex and a parking lot. You would never know you were standing on top of it unless someone told you. If they had marked it, it would have become a place of pilgrimage for Neo-Nazis. After that we walked over to Checkpoint Charlie. I was able to get some food there and had a doner, which is a lot like a kebab…but it was so delicious and exactly what I needed on this cold day!
We also went to Humboldt University and saw where Jewish book burnings had taken place. After that we went to the Concert House and saw the French and German churches opposite each other. I'm not sure which one this is.
After the tour, Hannah and I walked to Alexanderplatz so we could get back to our hostels. That night I had homework to do so I ate ramen noodles in the lobby. The next day Hannah and I went on a tour to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. I just want to say that I didn't take a lot of photos in there because it didn't feel right to me at all. It's one thing to sneak a picture of a Picasso in an art museum, but people were posing for photos with the actual ovens that were used to burn thousands of people. It made me really disgusted to see that because to me, you don't go to these places for a fun day out. It's not something to be excited about, but at the same time we need to go to places like these because it shows us the mistakes of the past and how important it is to learn from them.
Okay so, Sachsenhausen was built during the 1936 Olympics as a prison for political criminals. The camp itself was a work camp, not a death camp in the sense that people were immediately killed on arrival. They were sent there to be worked to death under horrible conditions. Only later did they add a crematorium and space for mass executions. Some 30,000 people died there, and out of a total of 200,000 prisoners, it seems like the rest survived right? Wrong. Most of them were sent to other camps or on death marches. I don't want to get into all of the horrible things that happened here. But one of the most heartwrenching things about it were the single gravestones marking the mass graves by the foundation of the crematorium. Each grave was covered with small rocks left by people visiting the camp. There was also a space with five or six large photographs of men of varying ages. Each of these photos was taken right before they were killed in mass executions. If you ever get a chance, you need to visit places like this. I think we all need to.
So Hannah and I took the train back, and at Gesunbrunnen station I had my first currywurst.
This is probably one of the best foods I've had on this trip, and I know I've said that a lot but this combination of flavors is just fantastic and so simple at the same time. It's a bratwurst covered in a sauce thats a mix of ketchup and curry powder. You can get it with a roll, bread or fries depending on where you get it.
Anyway, that night I still had homework to finish up. Again I was eating pasta in my hostel.
Hannah and I went on a free alternative city tour that took us to all of the graffiti and art squats in Berlin. Most of these are in the neighborhood of Kreutzberg, which is home to a lot of Turkish immigrants and starving young artists. It's full of graffiti, cool restaurants, and bars. I guess it's fallen victim to gentrification, however, because more and more people are moving there and pushing the locals out (Sounds familiar.) This area was beyond cool, though. Before this though, we went to an area in Mitte that had some of the most awesome graffiti I've ever seen. It was a small covered alleyway that also had a couple bars, a movie theatre, a comic shop, and a workshop that made moving sculptures.
After that we took the train to Kreutzburg and saw some huge murals. This one was really cool and up until recently a spotlight at the car dealership shone on a waving flag and the shadow was cast to look like the astronaut was holding it.
We went to the Bethanian Kunsthaus which is a free art center that holds classes and gallery exhibitions. This is the inside hallway.
After that we went to a treehouse built on the Berlin Wall. The whole house was made by objects discarded by people and the guy who built it still lives there now.
At the end of the tour we went to a Jamaican beach bar called YAAM. I ate some chicken wings there and then Hannah and I walked along the sections of the Berlin Wall that have huge murals painted on them.
That night Hannah and I went on an alternative pub crawl through the same company. I'll talk more about that in my next entry, I'm getting tired of writing. It's already 3 am and I'm waiting for my laundry to be done -_-. I think it's a good time to look at pictures of baby animals on the internet.