oct. 9, 2000
Well, this weekend was my first experience in a big German city and i loved it! Berlin is an amazing city....7 times the size of Paris and over 750 years old! It is seemingly endless and it's system of U-Bahn (subway) S-Bahn (trains just within the city) and buses are all amazingly efficient. We made use of all of them, and were pros by the end of the weekend.
I traveled with 10 other people (6 guys and 3 girls), which was much different then 2 or 3 other people! For the first time, i wasn't the one figuring out everything, where to go, how to get there, etc. although i still helped. we took a night train that left around 8:30 on thursday night. didn't get much sleep but i managed a couple hours before we got there around 6:30AM. We spent awhile wandering around trying to find breakfest, then split up. The guys went to the zoo, and the girls and Peter and i headed to the brandenburg gate, where napoleon marched through, then hitler, then the wall was first built and then torn down there! then we saw bebenplatz where hitler had the first book-burning. ironically it's outside the university! next, we went to the Pergamon Museum. My favorite thing there was the Ishtar Gate from Babylon. it was amazing because i didn't even think that anything from babylon even still existed, and here was this huge reconstructed gate and parts of the walls of nebuchadnezzars palace, stuff i'd read about in the Bible....2500 years old!!!! it was truly amazing!
then we had lunch in the museum cafe and headed to the natural history museum where we saw the largest put together dinosaur skeleton in the world! pretty cool! then, an art museum where a Picasso exhibit was on display, a collection of his artwork titled "The Embrace"....they were basically a bunch of paintings and drawings of people kissing and worse. let's just say that as picasso got older he got more and more perverted. he was basically a dirty old man who could paint.
after that, we met up with the other guys and checked into our hostel and rested for awhile before going to dinner, which we didn't end up eating till like 10:15! i had really wanted to go clubbing but everyone else was too tired and didn't want to spend the money, so i was bummed!
the next day, we got a semi-late start as we slept in some. first off, we went to the egyptian museum and saw the bust of Queen Nerfititi which is like 3,000 years old and truly beautiful. then it was on to the reichstag, (their version of the white house, which was just finished like last year!) we went to the top of this glass dome on the roof, from where we had a neat view of the city!
next, we tried to go to the holocaust museum which was in our travel books and was supposed to be finished this year...well, we found the site and they haven't even started yet, now they're looking at 2003! so, it was on to the topography of terror exhibit which is located on the site of the former gestapo, S.S., and S.D. headquarters. the jewish extermination and much more was all planned here. and the torture of so-called criminals of the Reich took place in the upstairs offices of the buildings. the exhibit was a series of pictures and captions chronicling the nazi regime there and their crimes. for a buck, i bought a book that translated everything, and it was absolutely fascinating.
a block away was the checkpoint charlie which was also incredible. we were in there like an hour and a half, and i could've spent so much more time there. they had so much to read about the many escape attempts. plus, stuff about human rights movements all over the world, including the story of prague's peaceful rise against communism, and a guy who burned himself alive to the death, to prove a point...incredible! it was also very weird to be reading so much about this most famous checkpoint of the wall and see the pictures and watch the movies, then look out the window at the very spot where the checkpoint stood, and where an 18-year old boy died trying to escape, as the world watched.
next, it was on to the East Side gallery, the largest remaining portion of the Berlin Wall (1.6 km i think) there are 28 murals on the wall, 1 for each year the wall was in existence. many of them are greatly decayed, but there were some neat ones still in existence! it was a very surreal thing to walk along the wall, and think that only a little over 10 years ago, people couldn't even see over the wall to the other side, let alone walk the few feet to the other side. i mean, i can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to have a wall down the middle of my city, complete with guards and all, that people died trying to cross! anyway, walking along it was quite an experience.
we then had dinner around 11:30 and went to bed.
the next morning, i decided to split off from the group as i wanted to go to wittenberg where martin luther lived and first nailed his 95 thesis to the door of the town church. everyone else went to potsdam. so, i'm on the train by myself and it's an hour and a half ride and i'm about 20 minutes away when i decided to go look at the map to see how many stops away it was. when looking i discovered that there were 2 Wittenbergs and i was going to the wrong town! and the right town was totally in the other direction! so, once i got to the wrong wittenberg, i hopped off looking for a train going back where i'd come from, realized i was at the end of the line and the train i was on was turning around and going back, so i got back on the same train and went all the way back through berlin (wasting 3 hours!!!) on to another city where i switched trains, had a half-hour layover, then finally got to wittenberg around 4:30. i then had to figure out when a train would be leaving for the general direction of home, so i went to the info desk but the lady didn't speak english. i managed to find a train going to manheim (which is near heidelberg) but it was leaving at 5:33. so, i had now less than an hour in wittenberg after everything i'd been through! all, i had was a paper that said the name of the street that the church was on, the lady pointed the direction i should go and i took off. along the way, i asked an elderly couple for better directions...they didn't speak any english either but i was able to communicate! i actually found the street and took off, speedracing down it. along the way, i stopped for ice cream real quick...the best mokka i've ever had! the paper said that the church had an enormous baroque dome and sure enough, way off in the distance i saw a huge dome. i finally made it to the church, found the famous doors, took a couple pictures, turned around and started back. stopped for ice cream again real quick...green apple....if you had the ice cream here you'd understand! plus it's 50 cents for a cone! anyway, i ended up running the last part so i'd make the train...i looked ridiculous with my big backpack bouncing up and down and some guy on a train going by yelled something at me, laughing! but i made the train! later, on another train that i'd switched to, there were a ton of guys my age on it, a lot of cute ones! anyway, there was one guy who kept looking at me, and he was pretty cute. anyway, his stop comes and he's getting off when he stops at my seat and hands me a little slip of paper, but doesn't say a word, just walks away after i take it. i open it up and it's his phone #! but no name, or anything else, just his digits! how funny is that!
i finally made it back to heidelberg just before midnight, then walked the 3 miles back to moore haus in the rain!
it was quite an adventure, and now i can say i've traveled in europe by myself and conquered the trains! :)
this weekend and also today, when telling people about my weekend, i had an epiphane. i love history. i know that it was always one of the classes i liked better then others (like science) but i realized this weekend that i might have a passion (sort of) when at some of the museums (esp. checkpoint charlie and the topography of terror and east side gallery) i was always the last one done, always the one who looked the longest, and even then, i could've spent more time but didn't want everyone waiting on me. anyway, i am just fascinated with learning about history, particularly european history. on the train i read a book about the irish and how they saved civilization and culture as we know it, back in the 5th and 6th century. here was this whole time period and life-altering event that i'd known nothing about, done by my own ancestors! anyway, to sum up, people always say that you discover things about yourself when traveling or being overseas, and i'd always thought that rather cliche, but it really is true. i'm learning all kinds of things about myself and what kind of a person i am. and i think i'm going to maybe look into a history minor, or at least some classes! i just wanted to share my discovery with you all. this literally just occurred to me today!