Monday, August 20, 2012


This weekend I went to Berlin using a Mitfahrgelegenheit(carpool/ride-share) and CouchSurfed while I was there and I didn't get kidnapped! glory.

Friday I left work around 5:15 and walked over to the Hauptbahnhof(Central Station) to meet up with my Mitfahr person. We were supposed to meet in front of a little coffee place with a giant advertising pillar out front. I was lingering around in front of that pillar looking like a freak for a little while, but we found each other and everyone was super nice and not creepy so I didn't have to run away. I rode with 3 other girls and the ride took about 2.5/3 hours. Two of the girls were staying in the same area of Berlin as I was, so I got dropped off closer than I thought! I walked to the CouchSurfing apartment, relying heavily on my iPhone. I am so glad I brought a smartphone with me. I use the maps app and google translate app multiple times each day. I also Shazam a lot of the hilarious German songs on the radio.

Back to Berlin,
I found the apartment and my host was super nice! I had my own room, with a larger bed than in Hamburg! The apartment is actually her parent's vacation flat in Berlin, they are from Norway, so it is pretty large and nice! We went out and grabbed a few beers and then made stuffed peppers with her Hungarian boyfriend. So multi-cultural. We went to a few bars in the area that night, one of them looked sooooo much like a 70s lounge, plus there was a girl with the most amazing afro sitting next to us, so that helped with the vibe. Then we got some cheap late night pizza and headed back to her place.

Saturday I went on a free walking tour and saw a lot of the important Berlin things. The first half of the tour was full of memorials and Nazi buildings and the wall, the second half had some more modern things and a few places that weren't as sad. The tour guide reminded us that Berlin has been called 'Poor, but sexy' and that although a lot of terrible things have happened there, they are always changing and growing and remembering their history. The memorials were really impressive. They have a separate memorial for each group of people who were targeted in the Holocaust. The first one we saw was the 'Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.' There were multiple rounds of design competitions for the memorial and this version was the winner of the third competition. It was basically a huge number of cement blocks of varying heights covering a city block. The ground was hilly and the middle part of the memorial seemed to just start sinking into the ground. There was some debate in the government about the best way to spend the money allotted for the memorial and ultimately they chose a giant memorial in the middle of the city so that no one could ever forget what happened. The memorial is in the middle of everything, near the trains, political buildings, tourist sites, shopping, hotels, parks, everything... you literally cannot miss the memorial. Job well done. It was also nice to hear about the Architect's perspective on the memorial:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people say it looks like a cemetery.
Eisenman: I can't think about it. If one person says it looks like a graveyard and the next says it looks like a ruined city and then someone says it looks like it is from Mars -- everybody needs to make it look like something they know. There was an aerial shot in the paper on Saturday -- a beautiful photo. I have never seen a graveyard that looks like that. And when you walk in, it certainly doesn't feel like one. But if people see it like that, you can't stop them. It's fine.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there a feeling or an emotion that you wanted to generate in the people who visit the monument?
Eisenman: I said all along that I wanted people to have a feeling of being in the present and an experience that they had never had before. And one that was different and slightly unsettling. The world is too full of information and here is a place without information. That is what I wanted.

more here.

I think the memorial accomplished his goal of being unsettling, you really start to feel lost and small in the middle. Of course there were some tourists running around and smiling and posing inside, which really did not seem appropriate, and others standing on top of the pillars which also seemed wrong. Over all a very good memorial. Here is a photo from online, still waiting for internet so I can upload my own.

After that we walked to the site of Hitler's bunker. Now it is just a parking lot. There is small sign in the corner, but other than that no real markers to tell you where you are standing. It is just used as a parking lot/place for the nearby residents to take their dogs out to do their business. Berlin does a good job with memorials. The last place Hitler was alive is getting crapped on every day.
We then visited the Berlin wall, which didn't look that tall or imposing, but it had a circular tube running across the top which apparently is designed to be just wide enough that you can't get your arms over it to climb to the other side. Also the other side used to be full of booby traps and danger and was called the Death Strip, so I guess the wall didn't have to be that tall. We also saw a memorial at the site where roughly 20,000 books were burned. I couldn't get a good look at it because of the sunlight and the crowds, but I found a picture online. It is basically a little room under ground with empty bookshelves with enough space to hold the number of books burned. Apparently it is really great at night and lights up. There was a plaque on the ground with a quote from Heinrich Heine that translates to English as "Where they burn books, they ultimately burn people." The quote was from his 1821 play. It was a really eerie statement because his prediction was so true. Like I said, Berlin really does great memorials. Photo from online:

After the tour I wandered around for a little bit and ran into a Vegetarian/Vegan Summer Festival. Crunchiest place ever. There were some cool booths with people making spray paint art featuring images of children and animals being friends, and then some booths with intense books about Feminism and Vegan lifestyles and other things about the man bringin' us down. Cool to see, but I think I am a more casual vegetarian, maybe I should buy a t-shirt or something...

I headed back to my bed and took a little nap before having homemade sushi with my host, her bf and her friend. Started to get in to some philosophical conversations, and BF and I realized we were not smart enough for that, so we looked a pictures of elaborate cakes online. Perfekt.
We were heading out to grab a few drinks and got down to the front door of the building when we opened it and discovered that one of her crazy neighbors was passed out against the door. Apparently she has done this before and can get fairly physically aggressive, so host wanted to file a police report to help find a way to get the crazy lady kicked out of the building. After that unexpected drama, we made it to the bar. Host and BF were tired so they headed home and I went out with their friend Laura. We went to a bar/club and I realized that I am definitely NOT cool enough for Berlin. I need to get a super edgy haircut. These people were a few steps past half-hair, this was shave off random sections of hair, braid a few other sections, dread some sections, dye a few pieces pink, and color a few spots of scalp blue. Plus multiple face piercings. I have never felt so bland in my whole life. At least I was wearing a black shirt, and my Converse were appropriate footwear. We left that club and were preparing to go home when we ran into Benny on the street! It was truly magical. We had been trying to meet up since I arrived in Berlin and just couldn't seem to make it happen. Since Berlin had brought us back together Laura and I went with Benny and his friends to some dark weird bar on the corner. Really interesting atmosphere in there haha. Made plans to go visit Benny in his hometown in Germany, which is... somewhere... I'll find out. Laura and I left and went and looked at the River/Spree thing and then went home around 6.

Sunday I woke up around 12 and lounged around for a little bit before going to the Mauerpark Market. It was massive and full of antiques, clothes, junk, jewelry, junk and sweaty people. I lasted about a half hour before I thought I was going to melt into a puddle.

I headed back to the apartment to pack up and leave. Got to the train station about a half hour later, Berlin is huge. I bought my ticket from a machine, the ticket was €30(is that supposed to be written 30€ ?) I put in a 50 and it spit back out all coins as my change. I looked like such a dumbass. The train I was supposed to take back to Hamburg couldn't handle the heat wave and stopped working in Berlin so we all had to cram into the next train going to Hamburg. Two trains full of people on one train. In a heat wave. MELTING. I pushed past all the people and threw myself into a seat. Couldn't stand for the 2 hour ride back to Hamburg. I made it home and all was well.

Tonight I am going to another Sneak Preview movie showing. I have seen Brave and Hope Springs so far. Wonder what tonight's movie will be.

Thursday morning I am heading off to Dublin for the weekend! So excited to meet up with my friends, speak fast English(essentially a whole different language than the English I have been speaking here), drink some Guinness and sing some pub songs. THRILLED.

Have a good week everyone!

Liebe Grüße,

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