*This blog was written on the 14th of April*
I spent the first half of this week completing assignments and preparing for my spring break, which commenced on Thursday. My plan for spring break was and is to visit Berlin, then Amsterdam, and then Paris. I have been waiting a long time for this trip; I felt very excited. In fact, my friends from University of Portland who are studying abroad in Salzburg and I had planned to meet in and explore Berlin! We had been looking forward to this trip since it had been months since we last saw each other and it was all our first time in Berlin.
Fast-forward to Friday, and a friend from my study abroad program and I had made it to Berlin around midday. I felt a bit nervous in traveling to a country I had never been in and being unable to speak German. This was the first time in my life where I was unable to understand the official language in the country I was in, which would cause some challenges throughout the trip. Thankfully, many of their public services had translations in English, but there was still room for trouble. The first of these challenges was understanding the public transportations signs, which we first experienced at the Berlin airport. Thanks to Google Maps, we knew what buses/metros/trains to take; however, often times, we had trouble depicting if the buses/metros/trains we boarded were heading the correct direction since their signs were in German. We were able to overcome this challenge by looking at the maps provided in detail and, if we still felt unsure, asking people for help, hoping they spoke English.
We then made it to the hostel and met my friends. It was great to finally see them! Since we knew that time was of essence, we immediately left the hostel to see more of the city. My friends from Salzburg insisted that I must go to a beer house while in Germany, so we went to Hofbrau Berlin. The beer house had traditional music playing, an exciting atmosphere, liters of beer, and Currywurst, all of which provided a good time for my friends and me.
The following day, we woke early as we had a long day of exploring ahead of us. Among the things we did that day included the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag Building, the East Side Gallery, the Oberbaum Bridge, Checkpoint Charlie, the Victory Column, and Olympiastadion Berlin. By visiting all of these places, it was quickly emphasized that Berlin is filled with history. Even more so, when, on Sunday, we visited the Topography of Terror, the Memorial of Murdered Jews of Europe, and Hitler’s Bunker. The Topography of Terror, a center documenting Nazi atrocities, specifically, left me speechless as I walked through the museum and read the exhibitions. The same uneasiness I felt goes to the Memorial of Murdered Jews in Europe. It amazes how, even after Nazi Germany and The Holocaust are discussed in schools, the extent of these atrocities is still commonly overlooked. It is extremely difficult to grasp the magnitude of these acts. Although it is a heavy topic to discuss, I I am glad that the city of Berlin chooses to remember these tragic events by hosting such museums and memorials, as it is a method to disallow history from repeating itself.