Monday, 9 September 2013


So... I went on a mini euro trip with my girlfriends and then went home to spend the summer with my boyfriend, family and friends. I have now moved to South Korea but felt the need to come back and complete my Euro trip posts before I get into my South Korean experiences.

Soon after I finished working in France, I packed up, shed some tears and said good bye to Clermont L'herault and Marianne. I was now onto a 13 hour train (three trains actually) ride to Berlin to meet up with my longtime hetero life partner Miss Lauren Greig. My train ride was quite easy, I traveled from Montpellier, to the North East city, Strasbourg, then took a 10 minute train through the German border to a city I have now forgotten the name of, and then a third train to Berlin. When I arrived in Berlin, it was quite late but thanks to some good hostel directions, I got to my hostel and my friend quite quickly.

We both had arrived that day, Lauren a little earlier than me. It was hello, hug, shower, and then into bed. We only had two full days in berlin and there was no time to waste.

The next morning we woke up early to get to our walking tour. I can't say it enough, but walking tours are the best way to see a city in a short amount of time. We had a great guide who, I think, is a historian or studied history and has written a few books on the history of Berlin and possibly Germany. She began the tour by explaining that she came to Berlin because where else would a historian like to be than Berlin?

 The walking tour started at the super iconic Brandenburg Gate. Almost as impressive as the gate itself is the hotel balcony that faces it, the location of the infamous Michael Jackson baby dangling. The gate was originally erected with the name "the gate of peace" with Eirene, the goddess of peace driving the chariot, holding an olive wreath on the top. That particular type of statue is actually called a Quadriga which originates in ancient Rome. It is a figure of any horse drawn charriot.
During Napoleon's occupation of Berlin, he decided that the Quadriga would look better in Paris. He relocated it to one of the Arc's facing the Louvre. It was recovered eight years later but Eirene was replaced with Victoria the goddess of victory, and the olive wreath was replaced by a staff. It was obvious at this point Berlin was taking on a new personality.

Just a short walk away from the Brandenburg Gate is the Memorial for Jews Murdered in Europe. Designed by New York designer Peter Eisenman.  At first it reminded me of a jewish cemetery and although Eisenman says he was inspired by a cemetery he would like for everyone to take it as whatever it means to them. Eidenman also said he wanted it to be a place where children play, people sit for lunch and just hang out. His goal was to create a place where people will have a constant reminder of the Jews that lost their lives. He didn't want it to be place of reflection you visit once a year or once in a lifetime. He really wanted it to be integrated into everyday life, just as the memory of those lost should be a regular thought.

In addition to being a city soaking with history, you will quickly notice that Berlin is also a city covered by memorials. They are all beautiful, touching, and often get you thinking. It's nice to see that Germany has taken responsibility for its past and shows it all through the country, it's cities and their streets. I believe the memorial to the right is to remember victims of war and tyranny. I really like it. The room is huge, hollow, cold and grey with just a statue of a mother holding her children. It gives you a feeling of lonesome sadness, much like what victims of war must feel.

On a happier note. I finally found some good fresh pretzels. Since my failure to have an authentic German pretzel in Hamburg, I've been even more motivated to get my hands on one. Lauren and I saw this guy on his bike selling pretzels in the corner of our eyes. We slid away for an impromptu pretzel break. The Pretzel was more than perfect!

Right in the middle of Berlin you will come across Museum Island. Museum Island is called that because it is an island housing five of the world's most internationally significant museums. I was so lucky to squeeze in a visit to the Pergamon Museum, which is home to a, to scale restoration of the Pergamon alter from Greece. This alter has carvings of Zeus, and other Olympic gods battling with the Giants - the New York Giants that is. In addition to the alter this museum also has a to scale restoration of the gate of babylon! Chant down to Babylon as Bob Marley would say.

After all the old stuff we decided to get a taste of some new stuff! We went a walking down the the famous East Side Gallery. This is a portion of the Berlin wall that has been reserved and painted, and graffitied all over by international artists. Most of the message have to do with peace and unity, while others are just beautiful, corky, or just plane weird!

I basically loved every single mural. Some, more than others but over all I think it is such a good way to preserve history while looking forward with optimism. One thing I realized about Berlin, is that it embraces its youth culture. It doesn't try to shut it up, something that is still being learned in North America. I loved how everything revolved around evolution, or reinventing one's self. After a horrifying history; World War I, then the Holocaust, then World War II and then East and West Germany, you can tell that Berlin is trying eagerly to redefine itself. I commend them for remembering their past and changing their future. 

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