Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Berlin ~ The Capital of Cool



On a recent break from school our family decided to go to Germany to visit Berlin. Many of my friends had been there and couldn’t say enough positive things about the city.
On the way we stopped at the concentration camp, Bergen Belsen. This would be our first trip to a concentration camp. As we wound our way through the German country side, we enjoyed the beautiful little villages dotted into the landscape that still show signs of yesterday. We came upon the camp site knowing that there would be a museum, memorials, and very little else.
Leading into Bergen Belsen
 The camp had been burned to the ground to get rid of diseases that ran rampid during the war. Bergen Belsen was first a prisoner of war camp and then a concentration camp. It is estimated that around 50,000 people died at Bergen Belsen.
Inside one of the women's barracks. No where to move the dead they were usually just right there among them.

 We walked through the museum silent, stunned and horrified as we watched film documents, read letters, and looked at artifacts left or donated to the museum. Outside we walked along the barren area of what remained of the camp. New trees and signs of life were among the memorials.

Walking out in the barren camp. Signs of new life.

 
 Bergen Belsen... life is destroyed

Massive mounds like small hills scattered throughout the camp. Upon closer inspection~ mass graves each holding thousands and thousands of innocent people. Among them somewhere.. Anne Frank.

 Just a marker... She's sadly buried in mass grave with close to 5,000 other people.

We then drove on to Berlin, the capital of Germany or as our walking guide called it “The Capital of Cool”. And cool it was! Our hotel was located right by tons of shopping and restaurants. Our first stop…

Hard Rock ~ Berlin Style!

 Hard Rock Café~ Berlin! I’ve made it my goal to visit these restaurants when traveling because I enjoy an American tasting hamburger (not meatloaf style) and I love picking up a new t shirt from their store.
 Shopping at my favorite Christmas store


We spent a few days just shopping and enjoying the city. But our real joy came on a recommended walking tour of Berlin.
Taking the U2 at Zoo Station
 Catching the U2 train at Zoo Station (yes.. loving the connection of the train station and the band U2) we took the train from the west to the east. This formally was not possible to do as it was blocked by the Berlin Wall. The barrier of the Berlin Wall was thrown up overnight but the complexity of a barren death zone grew over time.
Looking through The Wall
Graffiti on The Wall
Part of the Berlin Wall that remains 
Our tour guide gave a wonderful view of the history of the city of Berlin from the beginning, through the mess of World War II, The Berlin Wall and up to today. We stood over the ruins of Hitler’s bunker, and even against the warning of our tour guide as being an absolute tourist trap, we had our picture taken at Checkpoint Charlie.
Checkpoint Charlie 
Heading to the East side 
Checkpoint Charlie
(Hey.. I am a tourist!)  
We read heart wrenching stories of people trapped on one side or the other of the wall, away from family and loved ones and the attempts that were made to get through to see each other. We walked along the streets of Berlin that wound around historical buildings and eventually through the Brandenburg Gate.
Brandenburg Gate
 After the war and the separation of East and West Berlin, the gate was right at the border just inside the Russian side. After the wall came down, the people of Berlin flocked to the gate to celebrate.
The Brandenburg Gate lit up during a light show

Later, as I stood in the dark in the center of the Jewish Holocaust Memorial lost in thought, lost from our group and lost from my family; I couldn’t help but think of the 6,000,000 Jewish people murdered. Disoriented and feeling a bit helpless I felt a small sense of the turmoil that has divided this city in the past.   
In the Jewish memorial

I really enjoyed my visit to Berlin even with  the wide range of emotions that I experienced.

Berlin…. You’ve come a long way baby!


2 comments:

  1. Fantastic story!!!! Well done!!!!

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    1. Thank you so much Rich! I'm so glad you enjoyed... especially the U2 part :)

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