To jumpstart the trip, we started in Berlin, exploring it for only a day.
Oh, Berlin, where to begin. Well, Berlin is ugly. There are large above ground pipes, the metro is grimy (no air freshener can squash that stink), and gang graffiti is sprayed on the majority of buildings, but there is a subtle beauty behind the filth. If you take the time to explore the streets and push through the dirt, Berlin is truly fascinating. It’s also really pretty at night when the darkness blankets the grime.
We began our day by walking along the East Side Gallery, a muralled section of the Berlin Wall. The outdoor gallery was intriguing. Artists from all over have left their marks, making statements about world peace, war, walls, and human nature. The ironic part of the East Side Gallery is that authorities have put up a chain link fence to protect most murals from being graffitied. A wall separating us from a wall.
We then made our way to the morning Sandeman Free Walking Tour. Rob McCracken (Cool name, right?), the tour guide, filled us in on the tragic history of Berlin while keeping the mood light with his witty stories and interesting facts during the two hour tour. On the tour, we walked through the Holocaust Memorial, a plot of rectangular blocks resembling a cemetery. As I wandered through the memorial, I found myself feeling disconnected from the group, almost claustrophobic when the cement reached its highest points. Since the artist of the memorial never gave an explanation for his design, one can speculate that he wanted visitors to feel some of the depressed emotions that the Jewish victims must have felt during the war. Alone. Separated. Lost. Also on the tour, we stopped in a gravel parking lot. Because there were lots of potholes and dog poop piles, I did not think this spot of the city was significant; however, the gravel lot is directly over the sealed bunker where Hitler married and committed suicide. The fact that the Germans have large pieces of land set aside to remember the victims yet they give no recognition to this bunker or murderer makes me like Berlin even more. They know what is important. They understand respect, especially since this history is still so fresh. I would highly recommend the free Sandeman Walking Tour; it was truly an educational and enjoyable way to spend the morning and you get to see all the tourist highlights like the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie as well.
After the tour, we made our way to some Christmas markets. One of the cool things about German Christmas markets that I did not know is each one has a special mug. Some are in the shape of boots, some are old-fashioned, and some are colorful. When you buy a cup of mulled wine or hot cocoa, you get your beverage in a decorated mug. Needless to say, I now have a nice size Christmas market mug collection that I accumulated over the past two weeks. At the markets, there were all kinds of yummy food. I tried currywurst and various types of German sausages. So good and filling! 🙂
As we moved from market to market, I couldn’t help but notice the interesting crosswalk signs. The majority of the symbols on the East side of Berlin are cartoonish and named Ample Man while the West side is the traditional walking figure. There are even Ample Man stores, so if you’re looking for an interesting souvenir, check out those places. I got myself a button! 🙂
Last but not least, I couldn’t forget about the Berlin Bears. This post about my day in Berlin just wouldn’t have been complete. Scattered around the city, you will find life-size decorated bears of various designs. I found four while we roamed around the city. If I ever return to Berlin, my goal will be to hunt down more and document them with silly pictures just as I have done below.
If I ever get the chance, I will definitely visit Berlin again; hopefully for longer than one day. Do you have any suggestions? Feel free to comment with any ideas, questions, or feedback. Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back soon to read about my Christmas Eve and Day in Dresden, Germany! 🙂 Cheers!