Berlin: recent history and beautiful sight seen
January 1, 1970
by Nathália Carvalho
Arriving at Berlin and at writing a blog
Hi, guys! For my first text, debuting on writing a blog, I chose the incredible city of Berlin. I’ve been there on 2012 and I still fill it when I think about that great trip. It’s was my first trip truly backpacking so everything had this great profound meaning to me.
History that you can feel
So… Berlin is an amazing city! That city made me fall in love for Germany. The history is so alive there. It’s, sometimes, so recent that you can feel it in your skin. The city exudes that. It was such a big privilege simply being able to walk there and hear about things I studied in history books and that I, at least, never thought I would see that close. To step on some of the places you only heard about. To look at BERLIN WALL, and touch it! I’ve done a lot of that, actually… 😀 Touching walls and buildings to experience not only with eyes but to fill it. Little crazy, hum? o.O Anyway, I saw that wall that I watched coming down on the TV news when I was just too young to understand what it meant!
Sandman’s Free Walking Tour
After few days at the city, I decided to do the Sandman’s New Europe Free Walking Tour. Great decision, and after that I did it in every city I’ve been to. When the city didn’t have Sandman’s I’d try to find the best ratted one at Trip Advisor. The tour started at Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate), in front of Starbucks. Again, I was amazed by the Gate’s grandiosity. I felt a lot of that in that city. We walked through lots of places but some of them were somehow unforgettable to me.
A simple Parkin Lot
At some point, we suddenly got to a parking lot, apparently in the middle of nowhere special. I was paying attention to the guide words (great guide, by the way!) and looking to all sides trying to figure out why we were there. Then he told us that, yes, there, on that parking lot where we were standing, meters below ground, there was the famous bunker were Adolf Hitler hid during the final moments of World War 2 and where he shoot himself in the head. Can you believe that?! I was like “Oh my God! Entrance! Where is it?!” (Just thought that, of course…) But the guide read minds (or, most likely, already heard that question thousands of times) and told us that the exact entrance location is unknown and that it is kept that way to prevent, for example, Hitler’s admirers to gather there nowadays.
The Jewish Memorial
We also walked by the Jewish Memorial and I remember seeing on the face of my German guide, better said, not on his face, but in his eyes, while he explained the meaning of that place, how much the Holocaust still really matters and, in a certain way, makes many Germans ashamed nowadays. I could catch a glimpse, for the first time in my life, of what that really was and realize how seriously they still take the situation. As I walked into the Memorial I started to feel a little colder and sadder… There I really had tears in my eyes. Only four years later, when I went to Poland, I had other big, and even more meaningful, encounters with this subject.
Another great stop was at Checkpoint Charlie. On that street I was standing, not many years ago there was a border between the United States and Soviet Union (it’s crazy to imagine that nowadays), with tanks from both countries standing, facing each other, just waiting for a slip to happen to start World War Three.
After the tour ended I was tired but extremely happy. Already in love with the city. A love that still remains today.
Couchsurfing in Berlin
I spent my first days there on a “couch” that I found at Couchsurfing website. Not sure if everybody is aware of Couchsurfing, or CS for the initiates. The basics is that people will open their house to welcome you and offer their couch (or floor, or bed, or whatever) for you to sleep on so you guys can exchange experiences, culture, nice chats, food (if you know how to cook, which I don’t…) and all that stuff that makes people from different places so interesting. Anyway, I stood at Mitte neighborhood, which is the city center. My host was a great guy and I felt welcome and at home.
Mitte Neighborhood is where most of the life in Berlin happens. You will have everything around and if like long walkings, from there you can get to many interesting places by foot.
Walking around Mitte with my CS host, he took me to a little park nearby and showed me an incredibly moving artwork. It represented a Jewish house right after Gestapo broke in and toke the whole family. Simple and meaningful. I felt touched by it. And, it also provoked a rich discussion about art, it’s meanings, and the relations and interactions between the “observer” and the art. I reviewed some concepts.
The Circus Hostel
After some days I moved to Circus Hostel, which is also at Mitte. I loved that hostel! Totally recommend it. Very well located, nice rooms, toilets, and bathrooms, nice staff, nice guests, great atmosphere. Metro Station at the doorstep. And they usually promoted events. On one day they had this “Olympics competition” on a park at the city. That was a lot of fun.
Other great places in Berlin
I walked a lot in the city, went to the TV Tower at Alexanderplatz (great view of the city), went to Watergate Night Club twice and watched the sun rise with its reflects at the river… Walked admiring East Side Gallery (go see that!), did a beautiful boat trip on the Spree River, passing by the Museum Island and did almost the same path on foot because it was too beautiful. I walked by the streets of Neukölln neighborhood. It seemed like another city, with another population, with different foods and clothing stores (I bought a marvelous skirt at an Indian clothing store). Very interesting and full of life at that time. I also went to a pub crawl that was totally worth because I met great people there. Including a couple that, days later gave me a ride to the next city: Hamburg. Actually, that was not on the list, but was half way to Amsterdam so, why not?
When I finally left Berlin, after a week there, I cried like a baby. Didn’t want to go, but could not stay there forever. There was still lots do see and do during my five weeks backpacking. But that city will remain forever like one of my favorites.