Berlin – Thursday – Day 28
Posted on 17th August 2012
Berlin is a bipolar, janus faced monkey, dancing on the stage of European history. It is the life of the party and the grim reaper, rolled into one cosmopolitan cocktail of finery.
In the morning Nicole, Koen and I walked to the local bakery to buy breakfast. I purchased an apfelkuchen, a berliner and a small loaf of bread.
Following that it was off to the Brandenburger Tor for a free three hour walking tour of Berlin.
The tour guide was a fantastic guy called Rob from Manchester and he had quite the flair for engaging and emotive story telling! He also displayed great sensitivity to the dark side of Berlin’s history and treated it in an appropriate manner. I was pleased to note as well, the entirety of our group was suitably solemn during our visit to the holocaust memorial and during discussions that followed.
Following that we visited the bunker while Hitler killed his dog, and entered into a suicide pact with his then wife Eva and shot himself. The contrast between persecuter and persecuted was stark in its treatment by modern Germany. The bunker was buried underneath a carpark, Hitler’s ashes scattered to the winds, to lie unseen eternally. The persecuter’s memories were to be blotted from the earth, while the victims would be eternally memorialized.
Next we saw an example of Nazi architecture, a cold stone building, large and phallic in structure, that originally was their headquarters. Following the defeat of Germany, it saw occupation by the communists, and watched over the rape of Berlin’s women. Finally, to this day it remains feared, the home of the tax bureau of Germany.
From there it was off to the Berlin wall, where our guide made us appreciate the magnitude of separation, emotional and physical that was wrought on the already traumatized city. He told us a love story about a man whose girlfriend lived on the opposite side of the wall and how he kidnapped a near identical individual to switch the two. He told us of the families that were separated, of the jobs lost and of the friends who were never to meet again. However, interestingly enough he told us that life in East Germany wasn’t nearly as bad as US cold war propaganda led many to believe, telling us of elderly Berliners who still reminisce about the sense of community forged in the communist block.
A quick break for lunch and I consumed an awful iced coffee and some terrible fruit. Lesson: never trust a free tour guide paid in sandwiches by a cafe.
Following that it was off to museum island and the squares designed by Frederick the Great with huge monuments to human ingenuity and ability.
Finally we came to the Berliner Dome, a huge 20th century structure ordered by the Kaiser to replicate the grand palaces of older European cities.
It was on the steps looking out over the plaza that we were told the story of Berlin’s greatest moment, the fall of the wall. It was told fantastically and is a story well worth hearing from someone who can tell it better than I.
After the end of the tour, us and a number of the others on the tour went to a local bar for a drink. Chatting with some Canadians for an hour, my first beer in Germany went down well. Additionally we had a great time convincing them of the existence of drop bears!
As we left the bar, it soon started raining and after getting me a German sim-karte, we rushing into the Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station to get back to Theresa.
After chilling there for a while it was off to dinner to try some traditional German food. Which, importantly is amazingly cheap.
After dinner I discovered the most amazing part of Europe. The prices on icecream. For one euro, yes, one euro, you can buy a scoop of gelati in a cone. Additional scoops are also priced at, yes, one euro!
We wandered the streets for a bit then thinking what to do next when Theresa decided that in honor of ISSI (the Weizmann program) we should buy a few drinks and head back home to look through photos and videos.
Two bottles of wine, one of vodka, one of Jagermeifter and one of Feigling later, we were happily content with reminiscing to the early hours of the morning, and to wish Nicole a safe trip as she told us she had to leave for the airport at 5AM. At 3AM I phoned home to talk to my parents and to see how the family was and by the time I was ready for sleep Theresa and Nicole were curled up on the same bed, without an alarm set. Thus I set one for 4:45 and settled in for an hours sleep.
Nicole woke up crazily ten minutes after the alarm, madly packing her belonging that were in disarray on the floor. After an hour of madly rushing about she received an email about her hostel booking in Rome, to where she was heading next. This prompted her to check her boarding pass when, she noticed that she had in fact decided to leave one day before her flight. Much laughter ensued and we went back to bed for a well deserved sleep in.