May 28, 2014

Berlin & a Night Train

On our last day in Berlin my sister and I retraced a lot of our steps. We went first to the memorial for the Berlin Wall. Again, I was left feeling a sense of unease and sadness for people who I never knew. I also finally was able to understand that the Berlin Wall was much more than just a divide, it was a heartbreaking split for families and friends who no longer could visit each other. I never understood that until I was standing in front of the remaining wall.
Germany has done an excellent job of maintaining the Berlin wall at this particular memorial. They have a section that they never tore down or moved, instead they left it there, completely untouched to help tourists like my sister and myself to better understand how much hurt this wall represented. They have memorials for the numerous amount of people who tried to climb the walls and failed. There were people from 60 years old to 6 years old. I couldn't fathom having a young child climb a wall, more importantly someone shooting a child for climbing a wall. The last photo they have of the final attempt of a climber was a man in his twenties who was killed a few months before the wall was torn down. I guess I was naive but I had no idea people were shot and killed for trying to climb the wall in "no man's land".
There was also a church that stood in the way of the wall so instead of building the wall around the church they decided to blow up the parts of the church that would be in the way of the wall. All that stands now of the church is a tiny church and an outline in iron of where the church used to stand.
The last part of the memorial was a recreation of the "no man's land", it was gloomy looking too. You could only peer through these tiny slats in the concrete walls to see what it may have looked like. There is a look out tower, a bunch of street lights, and an open area between the two walls where many people would have tried to escape from East Berlin to West Berlin and failed. It is bleak and it made me think about what it must have felt like to be trapped in your own country.

Leaving the Berlin Wall memorial with heavy hearts, my sister and I went to visit the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. Over 35,000 stones that resemble large tombs are placed in this lot to commemorate those murdered during Nazi Germany. Another place that makes the heart heavy. Once inside the museum you are able to read stories of those who survived concentration camps, those who did not but instead left notes for their loved ones, and you are able to read about the time during Nazi Germany.
The museum takes you through these dimly lit rooms with words, love letters, and other notes from those who were taken away. I read about families of 10 and only 1 member survived, they even had a voice read out names of people who were murdered. The rooms were quiet, everyone was respectful and it just feels surreal to learn about these people who were just like you and me but because of their religious beliefs they were disposable to society. I remember staring at a black and white photograph of this massive group of men on top of a hill side sitting down in front of a dug out bank, behind them  were Nazi soldiers with guns pointed, the photo following was of bodies upon bodies of men, dead. It was shocking to look at. Especially because as you go from room to room you read about these people stripped from their homes, families, friends and taken to their death. They weren't naive either, they knew what would happen to them.
There were even photos of women who had relationships with men of different backgrounds, these women were given a massive board put around their neck saying what a shameful person they were, they were told to march through the streets where they were led to a stage upon which they had their heads shaven. How utterly humiliating. It makes me sick to think about the amount of entertainment these Nazis had at the humiliation and sadness of others.

In the last room of the memorial you can listen to personal stories told by authors. You sit in a tiny section of the room that is somewhat isolated and pick up a phone and hear these heart wrenching stories. One of which was a mother who gave up her sons thinking she was protecting them in the concentration camps, but she only found out they were sent into the gas chamber along with their grandmother. I couldn't even imagine.
Bratwurst man. Magic.
When we left the memorial we had a fair few art museums to see. We headed to the museum district and waited in line for almost an hour to go inside one of the museums...weeeew. Long time. We saw some pretty exciting artifacts that were older than dirt. The coolest artifact would have to be the bust of Nefertiti, wow. It was unreal. Since we weren't allowed to take photos inside I have these two from internet images.
 More Museums!
This is what I stand like when I find clothing in history museums. HEAVEN.
 After those few bits of history, we ended our time in Berlin with a visit to the Berlin Dome for evening worship. Inside the church you are completely overwhelmed by the space of the room and the beauty of it. My sister and I joined with many other tourists and germans in worship and we loved it. We could actually sing the hymns in German as well as understand some of the lesson. It was so cool!
Once service let out it was about 7 o'clock, we had exactly 2 hours before our train would arrive to take us to Munich...what did we do do you ask? Well we bought more chocolate, snacks and ate Bratwurst for the 800th time. YUM.
We got to our platform after Annie had panicked many a times about not finding the train. This was a reoccurring event for the trip, my sister had planned things and became very overly paranoid about scheduled times and correct platforms. I somehow became the calm cool and collected one. It was either in relation to me traveling alone and realizing that the whole trip is an adventure or maybe I wasn't stressed and she was. I do not know. The important thing is we made it on to our night train and I got aboard with out purchasing donuts. I almost did...about 5 times.

We were in a room with 4 other people, we were on the top bunks. Three bunk beds on both wall one right on top of the other. Annie was excited to sleep, I was just trying not to get motion sickness, so I think I stayed up later than I should have but I eventually fell asleep and woke up multiple times. Good news is I did not get sick, I actually slept and we arrived in Munich about 7 am.
Crying from laughter because train bathrooms are clearly for 1 person and not two.....
I highly recommend night trains to those who are trying to travel through Europe. You get to your next destination, and you get a place to stay all in one ticket. Cheaper, and travel smart. We enjoyed it. Except our tea was overpriced and not the greatest...HELLO MUNICH!

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