When we told people we picked Berlin to visit, out of all the cities we could have ever picked in all of Europe, we were met with one universal question: why?
Our reasons were that:
- It's close enough to Cardiff to be realistic.
- There is a lot to do.
- My main reason of being wildly excited for Berlin was because of the history.
- One of my favorite types of documentaries is about Nazism.
While that sounds morbid and weird, I simply cannot fathom that happening in such modern history in such a developed country. It fascinates me. Anyways.
Now that all my travel is said and done, bar none, Berlin was my favorite stop.
It did nothing, but pique my interest more for the city and country. I'm probably going to write several hundred blog posts (slight exaggeration) about all the learning I did in Berlin, but for this one post, all I really want to write about is the incredible culture of Berlin.
When you get off the plane and onto the train in Berlin, the most noticeable facet of the grey-skied countryside is the graffiti. It's everywhere. On the actual train. On the abandoned buildings. On bridges. Tunnels. Everything. It added to my intrigue of the city immediately.
Once we got to our hotel, we had a pleasant receptionist help us and we settled into our room. After a minor break, we headed back out into the city to try to find the Topography of Terror (jumping in with both feet here, really) and then went to a local brewery in Sony Center. Our waiter was also supremely nice (he was also hitting on my friend, but that's neither here nor there).
My perception of Germans was that they are serious, cold people. Both of the people we met on day one were neither. Plus, there was a stranger at the train station who volunteered to help us. They were all very direct and didn't seem to care for pleasantries. But I must admit, I found that heartwarming. It's not like most people care how a strangers day is going anyway. So why bother. But they did show you respect and were open to talking.
One of the saddest characteristic that we found out about on our tour was the lack of Germany's nationalism. Coming from America, where I couldn't be prouder of where I grew up, it's a shame that Germans feel they can't flaunt their country's colors. When I was leaving the city, I thought about how many times I saw their flag, and it was once on the parliament building and once on a souvenir I bought someone.
Part of me 100% understands why this cloud exists. I mean, to sum it up: their government killed over half the Jewish population in Europe (as well as many, many other segments of the population) in a decade and then right after that they fell into a horribly oppressive communism trap. It would be tough to get behind a system that wrecked all that havoc.
But park of me thinks Germans deserve to feel like they can be proud of their homeland too. Yes, what happened was horrible. Absolutely vile. But that's not a sin that most people directly enacted at this point, yet it glooms over everyone just like the steely clouded sky that met us every day in Germany. As much as I love and appreciate the monuments, memorials and museums to the victims of the tragedies, that's the first thing people think of when they think of Germany-- myself included. But once getting there, there are other, more positive things going on, too, which deserve to be celebrated.
The city is still rebuilding itself, it's in a powerful growth trajectory, they are super friendly to foreigners, and the currywurst is incredible.
When I think about coming back to Europe, Germany is more on my list than ever. There's something about being immersed in a country that's still rebuilding and going through so much of a cultural shift that is way more exciting than countries that only offer old buildings and ancient history.
Germany is living history.
They're still in a moment. And I am so excited to see what Berlin becomes now that it's not longer divided into fours, tearing at the seams.