Now that you’ve read some about the history of the city, I’ll tell you all about what we did while we visited. We drove from Bredenborn, Germany (4 hour drive), which started off perfectly with the song 500 Miles coming on just as we got going, so we had a great sing along and got pumped up for seeing the city. These are the small moments you tend to remember forever when you think about a special trip.
A big difference between Europe and America is the bathroom situation. In America there are bathrooms everywhere and they’re free, large, and accessible – in Europe that is definitely not the case. Even at the rest stops on the way along the highway we had to pay a whole euro just to use the bathroom, and this was a trend that remained the entire trip when it came to public restrooms or those in restaurants and stores.
So my first impression of Berlin – huge city, that in a way reminded me of Chicago with all the trains/trams high up stretching across the whole area, but not at all alike with regards to the architecture. The city has a different energy and people dress in wild clothes and have a unique attitude.
Our hotel was way better than we expected. We arrived at the L’Andels Hotel in the late afternoon and were blown away. It was huge and way fancier than we had anticipated and we were surprised because we had gotten the rooms so cheap when we reserved them a few months ago.
After jumping around on the sofa and bed a little, we decided to start off the visit by going straight to see the famous Berlin Wall. There were tons of tourists and it was a little overwhelming after the last three weeks in small town Sweden. It was difficult to find our way around because the tram system was crazy confusing and complicated.
Here you can see what I’m talking about:
Finding the Wall was easy because you just had to follow other tourists from the station – a good trick that often comes in handy when traveling: be aware of your surroundings, watch other people, listen to what they say and typically you’ll learn something new, find where you’re trying to go, or have a good laugh if nothing else. The Wall kind of snuck up on me because we were walking a while and then suddenly there it is – this extremely famous part of the world right in front of me. The paintings along the wall were inspiring and fascinating to look at.
On my last post you can see even more photos of the artwork and paintings that stretch along a vast portion of the remaining wall.
The weather wasn’t the greatest and started to drizzle while we looked around, so we decided to head to the tram and go to our next stop – the Topography of Terror Museum. This is a really moving outdoor/indoor exhibit that illustrates what happened in Berlin between 1933 and 1945. Outside is a long wall of photographs, displays, and articles that detail the historical events of that time period in the city in chronological order.
There is a larger indoor museum right next door with bigger displays and even more detailed information. My last post includes many photos of what was displayed throughout the exhibit.
It was truly moving to see this museum and the way its setup was something different and special. I’m always interested to see how places around the world represent such difficult topics because you can’t just plaster photos like that on a wall and be done with it. It takes skill to accurately capture the deeper meaning behind those photos and that kind of history.
We looked at both parts of the museum until closing and then waited under the ledge of a nearby building for the pouring rain to subside. I think it was good to have that moment to really reflect on all of what we had seen. I couldn’t help but wonder if my relatives had walked here once before their lives were destroyed and what they would think of the memorials and museums now. My grandmother and her family once lived in Berlin. My grandmother was sent to Sweden, which is how she survived the war. My great-grandmother was sent to Auschwitz where she was murdered. It’s hard to describe how I felt being in the city where they used to live before their lives were stolen from them, that this was the last place my great-grandmother called home.
Once the rain stopped we walked over to Checkpoint Charlie. I thought it was kind of amazing how casually it stands in the middle of this busy street full of traffic, shops, and people. The entire city is so full of history in ways deeper than most others.
After seeing this we finally went out to dinner around 9:00 at L’Osteria, a really great Italian restaurant.
We relaxed and enjoyed our meals before taking the long way back to the hotel by tram. The advantage of our hotel was how new and large it was, the disadvantage was how far it seemed to be from everything. After arriving back home we were all physically and mentally exhausted from the day’s journey and so we went straight to bed.