Berlin, a city contrasted

We stayed a week in Berlin–and wished it could have been longer. Berlin is a huge city filled with history, art and nightlife. I didn’t know too much about the capital of Germany before we arrived, but after multiple tours and wandering around, I have a better grasp of it. Everyone is so hip here–they dress well, listen to music that we’ve never heard of and go to clubs we can’t get in to. There are countless parks, flea markets and farmers markets, an abundance of street art. The contrast of old and new architecture accompanied with the street art is really what makes the city so unique.

The Berlin Bear

The Berlin Bear

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Catherine at the Berlin Wall

Catherine at the Berlin Wall

Hannah at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

Hannah at the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

We went on a free Sandeman’s tour the first day with our new Canadian friend Paige. I highly recommend this three-hour tour–filled with history and cool stories, it was well worth the 5 euro I tipped our guide at the end. We saw the Holocaust Memorial, the place where Hitler killed himself (which is now an understated parking lot), The Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie and The Berlin Wall. Realizing that the wall came down only 25 years ago and seeing the actual thing–touching it even–was shocking and thought-provoking. The city was divided for so long; the wall was up for 28 years. The most frightening thought is that if the Holocaust happened, it could happen again. In the Holocaust Museum there is a quote from Primo Levi, a Jewish chemist and survivor of Auschwitz:

“It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say.”

After seeing the sights in Berlin on a quite chilly day, we decided to get some pizza. We found this little Italian place close to our hostel (The Generator) and ordered the largest pizza on the menu and told the chef to put whatever he wanted on it. We ended up with three variations: blue cheese and red onion, salami and margherita on a big wooden board that barely fit on the table. All I can say is: if this dream of a meal is Italian in Germany, I can’t imagine how good the pizza will be in Italy. It was a perfect end to a long day of walking.

The next day, we went on a day tour of Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp outside of Berlin. Seeing a concentration camp is something everyone should experience. I felt as if I could barf at any moment, but that was the point. People were tortured here, crammed into the smallest imaginable housing, starved, killed and burned just because of their beliefs and religion. It’s a horrifying thing to see, but it definitely puts life into perspective.

The gate to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: it means work will set you free.

The gate to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp: it means work will set you free.

 

That night we went out with our new Canadian and Australian friends and tried to hop on a pub crawl for free–to no avail. We ended up in a tiny Asian restaurant to pregame because the alcohol was so cheap there. We were the only ones there and it was a hoot. We followed the pub crawl to Matrix, a touristy club with pricey drinks. In Berlin, the party really never stops. Clubs stay open to 5 a.m. or later and somehow no one gets tired of dancing and drinking and sweating until then. And of course when you walk out of the club, the sun is shining in your face. No one judges you though, because it is a normal thing here.

Canadians and Australians and Americans: a great mix for partying in Berlin!

Canadians and Australians and Americans: a great mix for partying in Berlin!

 

We went on an alternative city tour the next day, which was our favorite tour of the trip. It focused on Berlin’s street art and music scene. Street art in Berlin is plentiful, and most of the art is done on posters and glued to the walls because it does not permanent damage to the buildings. After having a beer and a kebob, we headed to East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall that is dedicated to street art and symbolizes freedom.

Victor Ash's astronaut: iconic stencil street art in Berlin

Victor Ash’s astronaut: iconic stencil street art in Berlin

East Side Gallery art

East Side Gallery art

We rented bikes the next day–which is a must in Berlin–and rode all around the city. The city is so huge that it isn’t a walking city, so the bikes helped us to explore more places more quickly. That night we went up the Television Tower to see the entire city by night. We caught the end of the sunset, which was stunning, and got a 360 degree view of the coolest city in Europe.

Sunset atop the Television Tower

Sunset atop the Television Tower

Af wiedersehen, Berlin, we loved you and all your hip vibes. We will definitely be back someday soon.

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