Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bear-lin

Alright, so school is officially over and I have been let loose into the wind to travel wherever whenever. Right now I am sitting on a bus driving through Hungary, listening to Cold Play, and feeling like everything is right with the world. 

But enough about this moment, let me tell you about my unexpected good day in Berlin. We arrived on Tuesday and were picked up from the airport by Marie's adopted brother, Duc, who grew up in Berlin. The weirdest thing happened when we entered the city . . . FIREWORKS STARTED GOING OFF! Duc told us that they were for us, and I am choosing to believe it. It was a very warm welcome. 




We didn't have wifi in our AirBNB apartment and Marie had homework to finish, so I decided to do some good old fashioned traveling (no internet, no planning, no google mapping). It’s what John Steinbeck would call "vacilando," but I call it going with the flow. It's a very wandering-to-find-cool-things approach.

Marie and I picked a station that looked like it was in the center of the city. Because of construction, the line ended one stop before my random guess, but when we came up out of the ground we saw Starbucks and felt grounded. Marie went to Starbucks to do her homework and I went into the first Souvenir shop I saw. A Vietnamese man around my age was running the store. I asked him for a map. He spoke flawless English and pulled out a map with me to help me find all of the things I wanted to see. And when the map was four Euros and I only had three, he just gave it to me for that price. I walked out of the shop with the biggest smile on my face. I could feel it was going to be a good day!

I realized I forgot to ask him where the Holocaust Memorial was, but as I turned my head to the right, I SAW IT! It was literally right there. It is a plot of land with gray square boulders arranged in different heights. There are no names. No words on the plaques. But many people chasing each other through the maze like structure and taking hard core selfies. After I went down into the museum underneath, I couldn’t help but feel how disrespectful that was.






I went into the museum starving. I hadn’t eaten anything yet. As I walked through and saw pictures of the slaughtering of the Jews, I was grateful that I was a little uncomfortable. It reminded me of fasting. And for some reason it felt like going without was showing respect. The museum did an amazing job at making each person killed in the Holocaust feel like a real person. They had pictures of families that told you what happened to each member of the family. I read the stories and I wanted to cry. 



They had huge pictures of individual people just staring you in the face. Most of the time, they just didn’t know what had happened to them. It was heart wrenching. The whole place was dead silent. All you could hear were small sniffles from people holding back tears. I wanted to bawl, and bawl, and bawl.

This is the quote on the wall when you walk in:



As I exited, I couldn’t help but judge and feel angry at all the cutesy tourists doing their classic pose and running through such a hallowed place. But I was also sad and starving. I walked straight into the city and passed the famous Bradenburg Gate. It felt like a walk of desperation to find a place to eat. 



I saw another Starbucks and almost broke down and ate there, but there was a German place right next door. (I have this goal to not eat anywhere I can eat in America). When I ordered my daily Coke, the name on the back of the bottle was “Tulum.” Just go with me on this, okay. I knew it was the universe speaking right to me. Right to me. I had been joking about how I have never seen my name in any stores or any item. Marie has the most common French name ever and it is everywhere in France, but then BOOM, there was my name. I just laughed and smiled. And I saved it. I think that’s the closest Germany will ever come to knowing my name. I sat in this cafĂ©, drank my Coke, ate my panini and wrote down all my thoughts and feelings. It was a good “Tulum” moment, that’s for sure.



After I ate, I took my map of wonder and wandered around Berlin. I didn’t know I could have so much fun by myself. No time limits. No places I needed to be. Just taking in the moment. Berlin is so clean. So open. The streets feel wide. Everyone speaks English. It is
also super liberal. There are so many pictures of guys kissing everywhere.




It was also so quiet. A very peaceful, even keel city. They also have these bears all over the city. Each of them are designed differently, and when I asked Duc why that was, he said it was the symbol of Berlin. Get it, Bear-lin! So there you have it.




I eventually found  the Berlin Protestant Cathedral--the Berliner Dom. It is gorgeous and there is a fun park in front of it. Because of my obsession with churches, I decided to go in and take a look around. I had an amazing time! I learned that it was the head of the Protestant church in Germany and a lot of their kings are buried there. They had these movies to watch in English to learn about the church and so I just went around soaking up all the information just for fun! It was wild because the church was bombed during World War II, and it wasn’t completely repaired until 2002! It was fascinating to see a place so effected by the war. I got to go up to the church dome and see a view of the city. 




















I was on cloud nine, though. I don’t know where all the tourists were, or the even workers. I just felt like I was wandering around alone and having my own moment in this church, taking in the quiet and peaceful vibe. The Berliner Dom was build as a Protestant counterweight to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. I loved having a protestant experience because I have been in dominantly Catholic countries this entire trip.

Around 2:00 p.m., Marie and I met up so that we could do something before Duc took us to his brother’s house for dinner. I had waited for her to see the Victory Statue that I thought looked cool, but she decided not to come and so boom . . . there I was on my own again. Surprisingly, I LOVED IT! It reminded me of when I went to New York, as an 18 year old and traveled around the city by myself for three days and how accomplished/liberated I felt. 

The Victory Statue was on the opposite side of the city. I wandered on some different roads and found the main road that leads down to this monument. It has like Arc de Triomphe status, where all the roads connect around it. It was a good hour walk at least. I only have one song that I can get to play on Apple Music without wifi, so needless to say, it’s been months without music. But I decided to pull out my phone and jam out to my one song. It’s called, “Young” by Chainsmokers. I just listened to it OVER AND OVER again ha. It was like my own personal concert and reflection time as I walked down to the statue. I needed that day. I couldn’t believe how much I liked Berlin. Almost convinced to learn German. 

Walking up the monument, I got to see the entire city from that side. There is a huge park that encircles all of the roads leading up to the monument. I saw a motorcade of important cars and I told myself it was the President of Germany. Yet again, I choose to believe in this fantasy!













Came down on a complete high before meeting up with Marie and Duc for dinner. It was a great experience to meet his Vietnamese family and have dinner with them. His mother spoke no German or English. So it was this hilarious transition from Vietnamese to English, sprinkled with some German every now and then. I had pig heart for the first time, and might I say, not too bad.



We finished our day in Berlin eating Dunas and exploring the Berlin Wall and the river. The Berlin Wall is painted with so many pictures. It was mind blowing and made me claustrophobic just thinking about being trapped behind a wall. I cannot even imagine. The most famous picture is below:


By the end of the day, we were so tired and happy, that we were slap happy.














Needless to say, I had a great experience wandering around Berlin and learning more about WWII. So much of the city was destroyed and rebuilt. It wasn’t too long ago and it is something that impacted the whole world. I hope I can remember that, so that I can do my part to prevent things like from happening again. 

P.S. I was in such a GOOD MOOD today that I became the awkward selfie taker to prove I was there (which just goes against my grain, but there it is).





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