Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Berlin, Germany: Berlin & I

It's been tough to stay on top of this blog. I often lay awake at night thinking about it in bed, imagining what I'd write the next day. I think "this is going to be brilliant", "it's going to sound like eloquent thought; like I'm a born writer". Then of course, the next day comes. It's morning, I've downed my second cup of coffee, my work email is open, FB is up, my manuscript is hanging over my head, and the weariness of the weekend's travels clouds my thoughts. The memory of the previous night's ideas come out choppy, the sentences sloppy and unfocused. Usually, this is what causes me to discontinue the blog entry and move on to something more productive, thinking that I'll get to it on another day.

Writing does NOT come easy for me. If you think so, then I'm doing a better job than I thought. I've read over and over again that the best writing is often the most difficult, and that writer's who appear to seamlessly string together a storyline have in fact poured hundreds of hours, with the help of a whole team of editors to get it to the perfection your eyes and mind are unknowingly deeply appreciating.

But I'm determined to write today, mainly because of this past weekend's experience. The previous weekend was spent in Paris, which although would've been an interesting story, considering that I got pick-pocketed (right under my nose, 2 seconds after stepping into a Paris train), shoved into a closet sized hotel, with loud Italians for neighbors, and breathed in both Romance and cigarette filled air of sweet Paris, I didn't find enough motivation to write about it. If you ever find yourself traveling to the beautiful City of Light, feel free to give me a call for travel tid-bits. Otherwise, read on to discover the experience I had in Berlin.

There's a lot of disturbing history in Berlin, the capital of Germany. Chris and I made an effort to experience and learn as much of the history as possible, and visit the key historical sites. To name a few: we walked the Berlin Wall--that had completely cut off West Berlin from East Berlin; the Jewish Museum; the Holocaust Memorial; Check-point Charlie; the Olympic Stadium; and Museum Island. There was so much more, but these were the sites that stood out above the rest. The nearest concentration camp was 45 minutes away by car, which didn't leave us much time for the rest of the sites we wanted to visit--so we decided to forgo it.

To be honest, a part of me was thankful. In Paris, that had it's share of WWII and the Nazi reign, we'd gone to the Historical Museum and in a hallway, photographs were lined up all along the wall, blown up to enormous sizes--and I swear they're burned into the back of my eyelids. Images of men, women, children, wasting away in starvation, naked, and stacked up in heaps after being gassed to death. They were incredibly disturbing and I feared stepping foot on a concentration camp and feeling the presence of so much death, murder, torture, and...ultimately, evil. It's incredible to think that millions, literally 11 to 17 million people, were victims of the Holocaust.

We purposefully picked out a documentary on Auschwitz, located in Poland, that shouldn't be noted as a concentration camp but rather an extermination camp. Because that's exactly what it was. It's available for instant play on Netflix; watch it if you're interested in learning more. But what I wanted to note was the discussion after the first episode. A Professor spoke about how the act (the Holocaust) was so horrible, that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to learn from it. He explains that by trying to find an explanation for why it happened, we bring ourselves one step closer to justifying it, and that "is very dangerous", he says. I guess I agree. But it's human nature to try and understand the "why" of things.

Anyhow, I'm thankful to have gotten this opportunity to get an up-close lesson on history. All of these things weren't so long ago, you know? The Berlin Wall only came down in 1990, and the Holocaust--well, there are survivors still living among us. We learn of these things in school of course, but it's so much more impactful being able to see the history of it, walk on it, and learn from the source. We even got to experience May day (1st of May) which is a big day for labor rallies (I mean REALLY big). Lots of shops close down, cover their windows, lots of police presence, etc. There are of course lots of other, less somber parts of the trip. The culture is incredible. We went to see the most breath-taking works of art, sculptures so detailed, they were life-like.

This was an absolutely memorable trip.

Getting our passports stamped at Potsdamn. This are what you'd have needed in order to get through Checkpoint-Charlie.
Berlin Dom--basillica

Palace, Schloss Charlottenburg

Berlin, Olympic Stadium

One example of the magnificent sculptures in Berlin's museums

In memory of the victims of the Berlin Wall

May Day Labor Rally

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