Before parting from writing on Berlin, I did want to bring up a potentially controversial opinion of mine… During the tour the guide spoke about some history back in the 1910’s and 20’s when Berlin was The PLACE to be in Europe. Rock Stars, politicians, celebrities and generally anyone who wanted to live to party flocked to Berlin.
Germany at one point in the 1910’s and 20’s was having financial troubles however , even though the party went on in Berlin! To help the country out of trouble Germany borrowed or was given money from the U.S. and then it really became good times in Berlin. But then the Stock market crashed in the U.S. beginning the depression and it also directly affected life in Berlin. Times got really tough and hard there as well. No one knew where to look or what to do. The life that people had become accustomed to was in grave danger.
Then along came a young man who made promises that he could fix the economy and get Berlin and Germany back to greatness once again. And with that promise in hand everyone followed. And Hitler came to power.
Now all of that is history. What I wonder is whether we have really learned anything from that to prevent it from happening again. Or are we still trapped by ourselves, in a way, of being so used to life being great that the minute it goes sideways we look to someone to fix things for us, then end up giving our power and lives away to the hands of those whose intentions are not right or good ones?
Some of my German friends have mentioned before that in their opinion Germans in general aren’t proud of their history involving one Adolf Hitler, and I feel the same in that I’m ashamed of parts of the history in the U.S… What I guess I’m getting at is that even though hindsight is 20/20 so much of the World’s negative history was preventable. And as we are currently living in the present, creating history for the years to come, I just hope that we can look to empower ourselves or others based on what is good or right and not on what is “good enough” and “right now”.
The wrongs in our histories are there to teach us lessons. I hope we learn from them. And I’m not speaking here just about the history in Germany. I’m using it as an example of things going on right now especially in the States with the “powers that be” allowing so many disgusting events to occur (GMO’s in food, scare tactics in the media, vaccinations becoming more mandatory, drones, the governments right to search and seize or even kill without just cause). How much have we really learned from history and how much of our freedom and the freedom of others are we willing to give away to feel “warm and safe” in our own little lives?
I know the above is very off topic from my regular posts on just traveling and good times, but since it was something I thought of a lot after visiting Berlin and taking the tour, I just had to share it- whether for better or worse.
Ah, Berlin!! So many things to say about Berlin!! What an awesome energy!! Hip, cool, a strange mix of modern and older history. This city is just busting at the seams with a young vibe. Of course, while it does have a history that extends hundreds of years, in a way (due to being completely destroyed during WWII) it is a new city. Graffiti can be found on just about every surface throughout the city and there’s a wildness in the air that speaks to a freedom of “come as you are and you will be accepted”. Such a paradox given the very recent history of the city basically being imprisoned- either during the War or the Wall. Maybe it is only due to all the turbulence in its recent history, but Berlin also seems confused as to which direction it wants to go. There has been so much upheaval there relatively recently and I’m curious how it will continue to grow.
I stayed in a super sketchy looking section of town in a hostel called Jetpak Alternative. To their credit, they advertised that they are in a sketchy area complete with dog sh*t and lots and lots of graffiti. Across the street is a park that anyone who isn’t looking for trouble or drugs should just stay out of. The hostel itself was wonderful! It was a little nerve-wracking walking around the neighborhood after dark at times since people would often come up to you asking if you wanted drugs. But I felt safe enough and would stay in that hostel again. The people were nice and informative and it once again had that fun and inviting vibe that I had recalled of hostels while traveling in Central America yet didn’t encounter at all at the hostel in England. I really wanted to stay another night but wasn’t able to since they were fully booked. So I took that as a sign to keep on moving!
In the time I did spend there I joined in for a “free” walking tour:) The morning before the tour walked from the hostel to the meeting point (Parizer Platz) just taking in the sights and stopping along the way for pictures. I took a quick tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (quick because I didn’t realize I was running out of time before the tour!) which was very impressive and quite moving! The ways in which people came up with to escape Berlin while the Wall was up was amazing!
Under the Arches of Brandenburg Gates
Checkpoint Charlie Museum
We started (as mentioned above) at Parizer Platz, then headed to the Holocaust museum, the Berlin Wall, the now parking lot where Hitler’s underground bunker was located, the real Checkpoint Charlie location, to some churches, a theater and ended in the square where Hitler ordered all books be burned (across from the University). As I’ve done before I will share my favorite stories of the tour but not all the information below:)
At the end of the tour I took the train back with a guy that was also staying in my hostel (he was also in the tour) since I had been walking about 7 hours at this point! This does remind me though of the train situation in Germany… It really is on the honor system as to whether or not you buy tickets!! They don’t have any gates stopping you from getting onto the train without a ticket, so while technically one could gamble by hopping on a train for free to get to their destination, I wouldn’t recommend it simply because plain-clothed cops are apparently always present and randomly checking for people aboard without tickets. And there is a hefty fine for those who do try to ride for free… Just sayin’ 🙂
Highlights of the tour:
Hotel Adlon: this hotel is THE MOST expensive hotel to stay in Berlin. It is famous for 2 reasons… the first and most recent event, it is the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony railing. The second (and more historical) is that it is only one of two buildings that was not bombed and was still standing after the war!! Everything else was destroyed!! However, years later a group of Russians (as part of an army if memory serves) stayed in the hotel and proceeded to engage in a pastime that is quite popular among many: drink!! They drank and drank and drank and at some point someone, somehow started a fire that caught and burned down part of the hotel!! So there is a joke now where the hotel was able to survive a war, but NOT a Russian party, lol!!!! 😉
Holocaust Memorial: it was just so moving. There is a museum that is part of the memorial that I unfortunately was not able to make it to but certainly plan to when I make it back there! The artist who designed the memorial did a fabulous job with it for sure! It was thought-provoking, moving, inspiring and emotional!! A must see for anyone who visits! And I may add that it was probably one of the few areas that did not have any graffiti on it at all:)
Hitler’s Underground Bunker: Interesting information here that I’d never heard before about Hitler. First that he had Parkinson’s Disease and was taking numerous drugs (LSD, liquid cocaine eye drops, etc) to try to keep even keel, so to speak. It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he was on drugs given how absolutely loony tunes he was, but it did. The second thing was that he got married! Eva, his bride married him and agreed to a suicide pact with him. She ended up killing herself before he did himself in. Good riddance! Oh and the underground bunker isn’t marked in any way because the government doesn’t want the crazies out there setting up some sort of memorial in his honor on the site. Good idea!!
Berlin Wall: this whole idea just fascinated me… Why would a government build a wall then FORCE people to stay on one side or the other in order to build a “stronger” government???? I just don’t get it!! Anyway, my favorite bit about this part was the clever escape one family succeeded in fleeing East Berlin. The father worked in a building nearby and managed to smuggle his family in the building before it closed. They hid in the building until everyone left for the night then changed in all black clothing and went to the roof. They flung a line from the roof over the wall to the other side where a friend of theirs was waiting and basically zip-lined from the roof to the other side of the wall!! What’s even funnier is that a guard of the wall saw this activity taking place but didn’t sound any alarm because he thought for sure it was an undercover op going on, lol!!!
Escape Over the Wall
Prophecy from 1820: the below plaque basically translates to “wherever they burn books they burn only people at the end”. That isn’t an exact translation but I did find it interesting that it was a statement made in 1820 by Heinrich Heine, a German poet, and it was justly posted at the site where Hitler had ordered all books to be burned, just before he really started to come into his power. And as we all know his reign sadly and very unfortunately did end with the burning of people.