New Berlin – Historic and Hip

I arrived in Berlin on the 27th of December by the night bus. I figured taking the bus would save me money, but I ended up getting less than 3 hours of sleep and I had to sit next to a middle aged man who reeked of cigarette smoke. I got the most sleep that night when the police stopped the bus at the border to inspect our passports and ID and kicked my seat mate out because of suspicious ID. But at least I made it to Berlin safely!

I absolutely love Berlin! It’s a beautiful mixture of historic and hip. There are people who like to call this city New Berlin and say that Berlin is still becoming Berlin. The people are both hip and optimistic – I just love it!

At the flee market I visited on Sunday, I met an artist who created a poster of a woman wearing a classy red dress with sunglasses. The image of the woman as well as the words “Vintage City” drew my attention. I talked to the artist for the while and asked him if he really believed the Berlin was a vintage city. “Of course,” he agreed, and then proceeded to tell me about how a lot of the people are hipster and love shopping at thrift stores and going to antique stores. A lot of people want to wear the big framed glasses and men (gay or straight) will wear brightly colored skinny jeans. Yes, I am aware that people in North America do that too, but it is very common in Berlin. About half of the items sold in the market where secondhand and vintage. My Indonesian friend I met in the hostel spent a lot of time looking at vintage cameras that were refurbished. I’ll admit that it would be pretty cool to take Polaroids again, but I’d rather save my euros for future trips in Europe.

What I really enjoyed in Berlin was walking around the city and observing how much history and culture changed in this city. It’s hard to believe that present-day Berlin is considered to be one of the most liberal cities in Europe when only 25 years prior it had a very dark past. I took two walking tours in Berlin and learned about the history of Germany and how it has changed in just the last one hundred years. The two tour guides I had were working on their History PhD and one was working on a book about Berlin from 1910 to 2010. There is a lot I could say about Berlin’s history, but there are some sites that speak for themselves and demonstrate how far Germany has come.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was completed back in 2005. From the picture, it only looks like a collection of concert blocks of different sizes. What it is hard to see from the picture is that the ground is uneven. When you walk through the concert blocks, you get sick, dizzy, and disoriented because of the uneven blocks and ground. This is exactly what the architect wants the visitor to feel. This is supposed to make you feel a fraction of what the Jews felt as they were captured and placed into concentration camps.

This is a memorial to political leaders who opposed Hitler. As you might guess, they were killed for speaking up against Hitler. This put fear in everyone else, forcing them into silence as the horrible events unfolded.

This is the site of where Hitler’s bunk was found. It was in this location where Hitler committed suicide with his wife of one day. The bunker is not made into a memorial because the official stand that the government made was to not memorialize Hitler’s life. However, we cannot erase the memory. We must remember the dark past, but we should not honor his life.

This is the infamous Berlin wall. For some reason, I imagined it a lot bigger and thicker when I learned about it in my history classes. Despite the size, what the wall represented was the real threat. In summary, it separated Eastern Germany from Western Germany. No one can reach the other side of the wall without being shot by the guards, though there are some successful stories of people who did reach the other side. The barrier that the wall created not only separated Germany but a historical view of how we viewed Western civilization from the rest of the world. Westerners were supposedly “smarter, more intelligent, and more advanced” while the East wasn’t. Finally in 1989, the wall came tumbling down!

In front of this university, books were burned during WWII. What is sad is that there are books that are completely eliminated and with it, knowledge that we can never get back. In front of this building was an underground memorial, which was simply a room of empty bookshelves to memorialize knowledge and information that we can never hope to retrieve. I tried to take a picture of it, but it was too dark and cold. The frost on the window made it hard for me to get a good picture of it, which made me sad as a book lover.

Overall, I absolutely loved Berlin and I would definitely go back when given the chance. I didn’t give myself enough time in the city and there was so much history to explore. I did go to a history museum that displayed Germany’s history from the end the Roman Empire to present-day Germany. I spent four hours and it amazed me how much Germany has changed and it amazed me how much this city has progressed. As I mentioned before, Berlin is now considered a very liberal city, which explains why hipsters love Berlin. Personally, there is nothing wrong with Berlin being liberal. If anything, having a very oppressive past to people of difference races, sexes, religions, it is refreshing to see Berlin a city that firmly believes in equality for everyone. I think this is why I love Berlin so much. It gives hopes to others that someday other places in our world will learn to one day accept others who are different.

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