When morning came, I could finally see the splendor that was the capital of Germany; Berlin. Draped in history, from hundred year old churches and cobblestone roads to remnants of the Third Reich and the fallout of post war Europe, everything came to life.
Eastener Hostel https://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Eastener-Hostel/Berlin/4827 is located in the heart of the city. A few days into my time there, I decided to do the free walking tour (mostly because it was free) which started at the Brandenburg Gate. On the way, I walked passed a marching protest of some kind that trained down many blocks. I couldn’t understand what they were screaming and shouting about, but as with the train police I ran into a week before, something about a mob of angry Germans feels a little… stereotypical.
The walk lasted just under two and a half hours and veined through the streets of former east and west Berlin. From the gate, we walked to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which is an amazingly simple yet emotional cemetery like formation. Nearly two thousand not engraved slabs of stone are situated there with some short enough to sit on and some rising high overhead. Further on was a parking lot, just a simple parking lot where we stopped. Our guide told us that directly under our feet was a bunker that had been buried and sealed off, and in this bunker, the war in Europe ended.
Further on we passed another imposing building cut with harsh angles and was a drab grey; the last imposing structure of the fascist regime. In Germany, denazification aimed to clear the county of any and all nationalist socialist ideology. This one building still stood, as it was necessary at the time. It’s seen today as an eyesore and is one of the most hated buildings in Berlin. Not because it used to be the headquarters of a fascist leader, but because it’s now the tax office.
What remains of the Berlin Wall is less imposing than it once was. With scribbles of graffiti, holes in the concrete and a scraggly mess of rebar, it’s now no more than a relic of the days of separation. Families picnic in the park adjacent to masonry of malice and political fears. We passed Check Point Charlie, but didn’t stay for long. The last thing to see was the square; the plaza where the book burnings of 1933 took place. There was an underground memorial beneath a plane of glass for the books themselves that could be seen from city level; empty bookshelves. Across the road, the university holds a daily book sale, in honour and remembrance of when its former students destroyed their own library.
So some things to note: Firstly, have I mentioned how cheap food is here? If you’re smart and shop local, you can eat for less than $7 a day (or under $200 a month) German windows open as normal from the side but can also pop open from the top. Some toilets here DO have ‘examination plates’ (I’ll let you look that up) Children run around unsupervised here. I stood at a crosswalk with a boy, no older than 10, with backpack on and snacking on treats. He made his way down the road more confidently than I did. A pack of six blonde girls sat and played on the sidewalk in the middle of downtown, with hurrying cars and trains only a few steps away.
Amongst the people I’ve met in my hostel of course include the manager who gave me the tip about the previously mentioned walking tour; a cool Polish dude who suggested some excellent places to see in Poland, and some to avoid, if I ever go that far east; and an older generation British guy who snored like a chainsaw, told me about all his previous travels around the world and who was only casually racist. There was even a night were the other three beds were empty and I had the room to myself.
I’ve seen the Reichstag and taken walks in parks. I’ve been around town, been to a museum or two with fantastic and historical exhibits and spent a full day curled up in my room with work, music and audio books. Over the last two weeks I’ve finished 3 chapters of Acazia: SoC and plan to keep up with at least one chapter per week. If I can do that, my second book may be done by the end of the year.
Berlin’s been fun, so I think I’ll stay another week. I’ll go to another hostel just a few km down the street. At least the bag-o-bruises doesn’t have far to go this time.