So after a very odd journey of changing trains and almost forgetting my cell phone on my first train I arrive in Berlin at about 5:30 pm, when it was already pitch black out, a theme through the rest of my travels. After asking the police how on earth to find the u-bahn, and figuring out how to buy my ticket, I give up on trying to find the right direction and just hop on the one train that I knew it didn't matter because either way it would take me to a train transfer I wanted and luckily for me it ended up being the shortest route. You see if you ever travel to Berlin and get off at the Ostbanhauf station in east Berlin remember that there are two different sections for the local transport for the same lines so one side goes in one direction and the other side of the station, the other, very confusing if you don't know that
. So like I said after about ½ an hour of going back and forth between the map and the stairways I just get on one and then find out what direction I'm really going, and luckily the transport is so modern that it was easy to tell and I made it to the hostel in one piece. After checking in with Eva, a really nice German girl, I picked my bed and headed off to Wal-mart with a bright hope of finding a new pair of jeans to replace the ones that have huge wholes in them back in Paris. Unfortunately that hope soon died when I realized the organization of these pants was horrendous, they had the guys and girls together and all the hanger sizes were wrong and so all I found were pants either way to small or way too big. All well just less stuff for me to carry I guess. When I got back to the Meininger hostel at Hallasches Strasse (number 30) I ended up just talking with Eva about all manners of things including school and the differences between school in the states and the schools in Germany. For example, schools all over Germany are traveling during school sessions for days at a time to go to different places in Europe and to actually experience all these historic and cultural sights that they learn about in school, which is amazing in itself. But not only that they all stay in hostels, which American schools would cringe at and find all the 'safety' problems involved, and the teachers here are so well thought of in Europe that they are given each a bottle of wine (remember this is Europe and wine is a normal family drink) in recognition of hard it is to manage such a large group of students all day long, morning to morning for at least three days
. Then came some Aussies, and they invited me to go to this bar with them that was supposed to have some Spanish music and Flamenco dancing (I know so German right?) so I decided to go since there was nothing else I had to do. When we get there and after I met everyone else in the group (Alex-California, JC, Danielle, Steph- Australia, Ilkka, Kari- Finland) we learn that there was a concert going on, but we were about ½ an hour late, so we asked where a cool place was just to hang out and talk and was directed to this place up two flight of stairs called, I think, the Cinema because it played movies, had tables and couches, and out the back window was some odd movies playing like a drive-in movie theatre, except no one drove in ?. At the end of the night, after talking to everyone and learning so much, we head back to the hostel and figure out some of the night time transportation of Berlin, not to bad I must say. When we get back I quickly and as quietly as possible make my bed with the sheets provided and had a sleep like a rock session before waking up at about 8am so I could through on some clothes and meet some of my group for breakfast at 8:30 to eat and do some homework. Then we went out and saw the Jewish memorial before continuing to the parliament and the panorama view on top and what we though would take us about an hour ended up taking about an two hours (including walking there) because they only let in a small room full of people at a time and then they all have to go through security, so it takes a while, but it's well worth it, especially since it's free, an oddity in Europe
Then we headed to try and meet our other half of the group at the outdoor topography of horror, but ended up missing them by about 10 minutes. So we walked through and I got to see a part of the original Berlin Wall. I was quite surprised by how thin the wall actually was (though the estimated measurement differs depending on who you talk to), it didn't look the foreboding obstacle everyone thinks of, and looked more likely to fall over if I tried to climb it then keep me on one side. But then you learn that the Berlin wall was more than just one wall. In fact it was built literally overnight, people went to bed one day and when they woke up they were divided from their family and friends who could live just across the street. The wall actually had two walls and in between under the ground was sharp glass and other hazardous materials meant to harm those who tried to dig under them, there was also barbed wire on like all sides of the wall and guards monitored in between the walls. It was horrifying to learn how many people died trying to escape, and to know that it only came down AFTER I was born; yet in school I barely ever learned about it. I also read all about the Nazi trials and took pictures of most of the wall to remember it for future reference for when I eventually teach (don't worry I didn't include those pictures in my albums ?). Afterwards we started to get hungry so we walked along Check Point Charlie, basically just a tourist area, but has some interesting history behind it, and all we kept finding was places like Subway to eat at
. And then, right as we were about to give up looking for some local grub, we found this little whole in the wall that was sooo cheap (Germany is like the cheapest country in the EU, and has some of the best people, food, and everything else, oh yeah did I mention the pastries, yumm), and it was all locals inside so you knew the food was good, and oh boy was it, I had roasted pig with potatoes, a whole plate filled to the point where I found it hard to finish, all for 3 euros 50. Afterwards we continued walking, or maybe I was being rolled down the street, to our next and final destination of the day (we didn't expect to be as long as we were), the Jewish museum. As a student it cost about 5 euros to get in, pretty typical for a museum of this extent, and after checking our coats and using the FREE restrooms and checking our e-mails quickly we headed into the labyrinth that is this museum. We learned about the history of Judaism and their lives through history, and even personal belongings of people who either escaped from Germany or were smart to entrust there belongings to their Gentile friends, so the Nazis didn't get a hold of them. There were also a few artistic type memorials that were all about feeling. Their was one that was this triangular shaped room that was mostly dark, concrete, and cold, then another one had concrete tall boxes in rows, like the Jewish memorial I saw before the parliament, and there were, I believe, Oaks growing out of them. This was the only area in the whole building that was a perfect square, as all the other walls were not parallel to each other
. Also the ground was made of large uneven stones and were laid at an angle which made it very difficult to walk on and at one point my friend said I looked drunk because I'm just trying to stand there and I couldn't. The last room that had a creepy feeling was the void. This was the spookiest of all; it was a very dark, cold, blue room that was very tall, but narrowed. On the floor were all these iron faces in all different shapes and sizes, and you're meant to walk across them, but it's impossible to walk across them quietly and every little noise is intensified by the concrete. The Void well deserves its name. One great thing about this museum is that it's not all about WWII, but is a history of a people, through good and bad and they don't stretch out how they have been persecuted at every turn (at least not to much ?). They also had movies, interactive stations, and tunnels and stuff for kids (which I was very tempted to crawl through myself). Afterwards we went back to the hostel for a little bit to take some showers, finish my homework, and get ready for dinner. Dinner was AWESOME!!! We went to a steakhouse right around the corner form the hostel and I got 5 smaller pieces of lamb, French fries, and a plate of green beans all for 6 euros, I also got my souvenir, a coaster ?. Then we went out again and this time I met some more Aussies from our hostel, and two Swedish girls who were there on a little break before returning to their studies to become a librarian and a teacher. So we get back about 4am and we had decided to take a taxi, which ended up being cheaper per person than a bus ticket
. The next morning I sent in my homework at breakfast, met a couple of my roommates (Derek- Miami, and Helen-NZ, but works in London), and JC and I decided our feet couldn't handle too much and wanted to take it easy that day (my boots are worthless and are good just for keeping them wet in the rain) so we decided to visit a chocolate shop which had huge Berlin buildings, and for some reason the Titanic, made entirely out of Chocolate (sorry no pics, to personal ?. Then we wanted to go to this tearoom, but when we got there it was closed and didn't open for another hour and a half, so we decided to split up and meet each other back at the hostel later for dinner. JC, Helen, and I ended up warning ourselves in this German starbucks type store where I had white, hot chocolate, the best hot chocolate I've ever had. When we get back to the hostel Derek came back from his day about 5 minutes later and CNN was on so Helen, Derek, and I got into many conversations ranging from where we lived to politics (normal conversation for any American traveling abroad, even though you don't even bring it up). Then he said he was going to try this vegetarian place in town, and since I haven't exactly been getting my veggies in I asked if he wouldn't mind if we tagged along, and of course he didn't and of we go; JC, Steph, Helen, Derek, and myself. We had a wonderful time and the food was great. Afterwards most of us decided to visit a brewery and sit down and have a glass of true German beer (something very difficult for me, I can tell you, though wheat beer isn't bad) then when it closed at about one and we went to find out how to get home, Helen found another small pub where we sat down and actually met some Welsh guys, lots of fun. A couple of hours later we finally leave (I was exhausted) and again take a cab back for less than the local transport, even though we had less people this time. By the time we got back it was about 3:30am and I knew I still had to pack my backpacks and I needed to leave to catch my train and make a seat reservation by 6am, so I just stayed up all night (makes you wonder why I paid for a bed ?). Well this time I got to the station with plenty of time to spare, unlike in Paris, but learned that the train I wanted from Malmo to Stockholm was completely booked as well as the next one, so I had to wait another two hours to take another train, but that's all in the next entry.