Berlin, Germany

Be prepared for a very long explanation of my Berlin adventures :) After a very cozy 6 hour train ride on Friday across pretty much the whole country of Germany, we arrived in Berlin at around 9:30 PM. We caught another train towards our hostel and got lost at the other end of it.  After circling the station more than once, someone finally pointed us in the right direction (Google maps just didn't want to work for us in Germany). We started off down this big, glitzy main street in the city. Every building had cool lights and designs on it. I know I'm not very up to date on my history, but I had no idea Berlin was such an urbanized, industrial city. I guess when a city gets destroyed fairly often throughout history, it makes it easier to rebuild it with a modern aesthetic. I was expecting cobblestone streets and brick buildings like I've seen in the Netherlands so far, but that was not the case.

We headed down this main road admiring all the beautiful buildings until we found the street that our hostel was on. We walked down a side street, getting farther and farther away from all the big lights, nice buildings, and any people. We found ourselves (3 other girls and myself) walking down an eerie side street with no lights and tons of graffiti. I was not feeling very confident that our hostel was going to be safe or clean. We spot the only neon sign on the whole street and it says Heart of Gold Hostel which is where we were going. Greattttttt. We walk inside this shady looking building into the lobby of our hostel and it was so cool! It's like this secret little paradise blending into all the drab buildings around it. There was a bar and a lounge area in the lobby with really unique wall art and interesting international people.

Half of our group flew to Berlin, so we waited for them to get to the hostel and then went out to eat. The guys working the front desk at the hostel recommended an Indian restaurant down the street, so we decided to check it out. I think it may have been the most amazing restaurant I had ever been in. It was covered in colorful clothes and umbrellas and statues. I had the weirdest hot and sour soup that night. I am trying to explore new foods while I am here instead of being picky like I usually am. We spent the rest of that night taking it easy at the bar in the lobby, played some pool, and called it a night. 

We had an early day Saturday. We grabbed some pastries on our way to the meeting place of our free walking tour. There was just enough time to grab some Starbucks and to buy a warmer scarf. I have literally never felt as much pain from the cold as I did on this 4 hour walking tour through Berlin. I wasn't sure my toes were still attached to my feet anymore after 20 minutes outside. We started this tour in Pariser Platz talking about the Brandenburg Gate and hearing a really brief synopsis of German history. 

The first stop on our tour was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. At first sight, I was quite unimpressed by what we were looking at, and a little confused as well. The tour guide described how many artists sought after the task of building this memorial and I thought to myself and they chose this guy? This memorial was like a full city block of weird grey cement rectangles. They were set up in a grid formation, but some of them were crooked even and I did not find it very visually appealing. A book should never be judged by its cover though. I took a walk down one of the aisles in between the rows of cement blocks and realized that as I walked along the aisles, the ground got deeper and deeper and it was as though I was being swallowed by a sea of cement. It is supposed to represent the rise of Nazism and how it bubbled up in the beginning but ended up swallowing up so many people in its path. 

The second stop was a parking lot. An unmarked,undistinguishable parking lot. The thing that made this parking lot different from any other is that 50 meters underneath it, there was a military bunker where Hitler committed suicide. It's so weird to me that this parking lot is not marked in any way. I never would have known that it was significant if I hadn't been with a guide.

From the parking lot, we went to a small part of the Berlin wall that is still intact and to see the most well-preserved Nazi building still in Berlin. A building that the German government actually uses currently. 

From here, we saw a bunch of big beautiful buildings. There were so many that it was hard to keep track, but several were churches, museums, memorials, and government buildings. The one that stood out to me most was a memorial to war victims all over the world. In this really large building, all there was inside was a statue of a mother holding her son and a hole in the ceiling to shed light just on them. It was such a minimalistic way to use this place, but it conveyed a lot.  

There were a few more stopping points on our tour, but my neurons were so frozen that I did not retain any of the information. We parted ways with our tour guide and headed to the East Side Gallery, the longest strip of Berlin wall left (1.5 miles). I will make a whole separate post about this, because it deserves its own. We went back to the hostel for a much needed nap before the long night ahead of me.
After wandering around the streets of Berlin, we settled on trying Mexican food for the first time since we've been here. I ended up getting noodles. Not very Mexican, but delicious nonetheless. 

After hanging out in the lobby of our hotel for a bit, we made new friends and ended up going with them to a club where we spent the rest of the night and some hours of the morning. Even though there were a good number of creepy guys in the club, I had such a fun night dancing with all my friends in an underground club in Berlin. It was a great way to end the night.

Sunday, we flew back to Amsterdam and I made an impromptu trip to the Van Gogh museum. There was fresh snow on the ground and there was beautiful art inside the Hermitage Museum. Pieces by Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, and Monet as well as the many by Van Gogh. I snuck some photos of my favorite pieces. I had no idea Van Gogh took so much inspiration from Japanese artists, but it just made me like him that much more. 


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