Today I wanted to get a vibe on Berlin's past to better understand its current state. Berlin has been very interesting to learn about because so much has happened here from communists to Hitler to gay pride to world wars to so much more. There is too much history here to learn all about it in one day, but since some of this happened while I have been alive, it is quite interesting to hear about.
Rather than aimlessly walking around the city trying to figure out what is what, I decided to take a 4 hour walking tour. Our guide Jessica was fantastic and was very passionate about the history here. We saw parts of the Berlin wall, learned about the former death strip, went to Checkpoint Charlie, saw Reichstag, walked through the memorial to the murdered Jews, went to Museum Island, and so much more. Some of the highlights for me were learning more about the wall and the death strip. I remember learning about the wall and it coming down when I was in school, but seeing it in real life and hearing about the families split by it was quite moving.
Another highlight of the tour was the memorial to the murdered Jews. It is sobering to listen to stories about the Holocaust and this memorial, while controversial, is chilling yet beautiful.
After the 4 hour tour, I decided to learn more about the darkest period in German history and headed to the exhibition: Topography of Terror. It is a timeline of eyewitness accounts and photographs from 1933 to 1945. And while parts can be quite graphic, it tells the horrific crimes of the Holocaust. Even though my life wasn't personally affected by this time in history, it's hard not to be somewhat emotionally affected when seeing the torture and mass killings during this era.
On my way back towards my stay, I stopped by a mall and window shopped a bit. Berlin has a vintage modern style here and I wanted to get a feel for their culture. While walking back and during the walking tour, I noticed that most of this city is under construction. There is no direction you can look without seeing a crane. Some projects are rebuilding some landmarks removed by Hitlers regime. Other projects are still reuniting the east with the west. It is a bit sad that with all the rich history here, most of what you can see is fairly modern. With the city being reduced to rubble during the world wars, most has had to be rebuilt and it is fairly obvious where things have been patched and redone. In some buildings, the bullet holes still remain. I can't imagine living in quite an environment like the Berliners did of their time.