beyond the wall

Awoken early in Lübeck to an already sweltering morning sneaking in through the cracked windows, we headed down to breakfast in our hotel to find deviled eggs, oatmeal, cold cuts, and **drumroll** a TOASTER.  Yep.  Lübeck spoiled us, ice water for dinner and a toaster for breakfast.  Calming down now…

After breakfast, we trekked back through the now-familiar streets to the Marzipan store, stopping at the post office (yellow here, not blue) to mail a letter to Justin, and REWE to grab an iced coffee for me.  When the store finally opened at 9:00 our senses were overwhelmed.  The detail in the store was extraordinary, the pastries were tiny, delicate works of art, and the chocolate shaped into various fruits and veggies were unbelievably realistic.  Dad got some chocolate, Cameron got a Marzipan glass and we were on our way to the sprawling city of Berlin!

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We were aiming for a 1:00 walking tour but the construction throughout the city streets of Berlin took more time than we bargained for (the amount of construction in this city is absurd!!  They must be taking advantage of their summer months because truly every other street is closed).  Just a few minutes late, we were able to sprit along the river to easily catch up with our tour but after stopping for a few moments we decided a Tim Graham memory, Rick Steves book, and iPad with data could handle our own Berlin tour (we were right 🙂 ).  We spent the afternoon exploring Berlin:  the Berlin Dom on Museum Island, the Lust Garden, views of the East Berlin TV tower, adding a Berlin Starbucks mug to our collection, and walking on the River Spree.

DSC_0927{the dom at lustgarten}DSC_0928DSC_0930DSC_0932SAM_0797{spelled my name correctly WITHOUT BEING ASKED}

As late afternoon arrived, we set out to find our apartment where we would be staying the next three nights in Berlin.  Ten minutes north of downtown Berlin, it was a bit difficult to find (even with three GPS and four sign readers) as we figured out there are multiple streets with the same name – on opposite sides of the city.  However, the apartment was well worth the trouble!  Easily able to sleep seven, we had two bathrooms, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a family room all to ourselves.  The rustic wood floors, ancient windows (that OPENED ALL THE WAY – we’ve had a few hot nights with windows that only cracked), beautiful views of the city, and just a lot of character in general, the apartment reminded Cameron and I of one that you would see in the movies.  We sorted out some laundry and hauled it back downstairs to the Laundromat ½ block down the street.  After getting the laundry all started in the washers, Mom, Cameron, and I crossed the street (dodging bikes, pedestrians, trains, and cars…in one intersection) to the grocery store where we picked up some things for dinner and breakfast the next day.  Cameron and I went up to the apartment to begin cooking while Mom went back to help Dad finish up the laundry. We didn’t hear the parents screaming at us to let them from the streets (oops…) but we did make a lovely meal of pasta, veggies, and chicken that tasted remarkably like pork (hey, it’s tough to shop with just pictures and Germans…your pig looks like a chicken, folks!!).  Regardless it was delicious and served as necessary fuel for our 14-mile stroll through Berlin the next day.

SAM_0804SAM_0802{our beautiful home cooked meal in the apartment with the streets of Berlin below}

SAM_0808{solid attempt at a mirror selfie}

The following morning we ate a traditional American breakfast in our apartment and made our way down to the train station directly below our apartment to catch the train into downtown.  We confirmed our route with a fellow train-goer – and it was lucky we did!  The construction we had battled through the day before also effected the trains meaning we would have to make several transfers.  We drove 🙂 Arriving into downtown Berlin, we found a parking lot next to Starbucks (theme, perhaps? 🙂 ).  We all got a coffee and utilized their wi-fi for a bit to plan our day, check on pictures of Justin, and answer some emails.

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Then we were off!  Beginning the tour at Checkpoint Charlie, we walked down by the old SS and then walked through the Charlie museum they had set up.  Charlie wasn’t named after a specific person but rather signified this was the third checkpoint (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie) on the border of East and West Berlin.  We were able to read about the how to get in and out of East Berlin and thus the checkpoint severed as the beginning of our sobering historical tour through Berlin’s turbulent history.  There were moments that I still can’t fully comprehend my own feelings of how humans could act like that; there’s just no logic anywhere and impossible to understand how some of the events of WW2 and the aftermath could have even happened.

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DSC_0959{check out the row of segways!}

DSC_0961DSC_0965{there are pipes like this painted a variety of colors throughout the city – we googled it and I guess they run water away from constructions sites because Berlin is only 7 feet above sea level the sites would flood otherwise}

{such interesting street art}

{east germany’s tv tower}

Next we walked to Babelplatz, the infamous square where the Nazi’s burned books written by Jewish authors or otherwise deemed to carry an unfit message.  In the midst of the busy square is an opaque glass window, set into the cobblestones.  Below you are just able to make our the shelves of the underground university library, expansively empty as far as you can see, serving as a unsettling, symbolic representation of the books that were lost to history forever.  German poet Heinrich Heine wrote in 1820 “where they burn books, they also burn humans” – a quote that becomes eerily upsetting when starting in this square because we all know the Nazi’s burned the books of Jewish authors and soon were cremating the Jews themselves.  The emotion and incredible weight of history that you feel when starting in this square – I just cannot describe it.

Continuing our journey through Berlin, we next saw the Brandenburg Tor.  Built in 1791, the gate is the last surviving of the original 14 that led into the walled city of Berlin and was a symbol of peace, however the Nazi’s misused it as a triumphant arch through which to return to their capital after conquering somewhere.  It sat unused throughout the life of the Berlin Wall as it was in the dangerous ground close to the wall.  Now there is a room of silence dedicated to thinking about all the gate has witnessed.
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We crossed through the gate and next saw the Reichstag – the German capital.  The building has a glass dome, symbolic of the transparent government after WW2 – glass (and thus clear) it means the German people can keep an eye on the workings of their government.  The Reichstag offers tours throughout the year, however closes one week per year for cleaning…that week is right now so we admired from the outside and moved forward for a picturesque walk through the Tiergartens.

DSC_0973 DSC_0974 IMG_0036 IMG_0035{we could NOT figure out how they did this!!!!}

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The Tiergartens, much like Central Park of NYC, are a beautiful oasis amidst the noise and bustle of a large city.  There is an instant tranquility felt when you enter the park and the crisscrossing web of pathways is relaxing to wander.  We explored the park stopping at the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal (Soviet Memorial dedicated to the 80,000 Russian troops, American glockenspiel (gift to Germany from America), Siegessaule (Victory Column to celebrate military wins by 19th century Prussia) before taking a break for lunch at Café am Neuen See.  A Bavarian-style beer garden nestled on the shore of Tiergarten’s New Lake it was a gorgeous place for a bite of pizza, a beer, and some great people watching.  The couple behind us was speaking English and after saying hello we learned he was from Florida but had been living in Berlin for the past ten years.  He was able to give us some great advice about which pieces of the wall to go see.

DSC_0964 IMG_0037 DSC_0976 DSC_0981 DSC_0989 DSC_0990 DSC_0993 DSC_0995 DSC_1000 DSC_1001 DSC_0994{we were about to enter the nude portion of the park…oops!!}

DSC_0987 DSC_0988 IMG_0038 IMG_0039 IMG_0043{the benches where we ate are in the background}

IMG_0042{there are bikes everywhere!!} IMG_0041 IMG_0040IMG_0045{our duck friend – he had a hurt foot so we fed him 🙂 }IMG_0044 IMG_0072 DSC_1005 DSC_1003 DSC_1002 DSC_0996

Leaving our peaceful little park, we walked to Ka-De-We, which was familiarly reminiscent of Harrod’s in London – eight floors of a department store, that houses everything you could want.  We spent the majority of our time on the 6th floor – the food floor – exploring the expansive displays that housed every brand, variety, and type of food you could ever think of.

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Tracking back toward to Tiergarten, we stopped for a few hours at the Zoo Berlin, a world famous collection of animals and sights.  It was relaxing to wander among them and very fun to see different species of similar animals (while most of the animals at our zoo’s are from the Americas, the majority of these were from Europe and Africa).

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After the zoo we stopped at Tony Roma’s for dinner before heading back to the apartment for the night.  All told, we ended up walking more than 14 miles through Berlin in a single day!

Our next morning in Berlin, we rose early and fixed breakfast at the apartment before backing the car and heading back to downtown Berlin – first stop, Starbucks 🙂  We ended up going to three different ones in Berlin (this one partially by accident and due to one long tunnel…).  We caught up on some emails and walked a few blocks to the Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.  Covering an entire city block of concrete blocks and called the Field of Stelae, each steale is a different height and each represents a page of names of Jewish citizens murdered at Auschwitz.  Just standing here is enough to make your stomach twist.  Throughout the Holocaust Memorial under the field I was near tears.  It just is impossible to understand how humans could act this way toward one another.  It truly is repulsive, illogical, sickening, and just sincerely beyond words.  The emotion is raw and it’s something I will never, ever, ever forget.

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After the memorial we ventured to one of the three major sections of the remaining Berlin Wall.  Another example of the crimes humans can commit on one another for absolutely no reason.  The wall was built after over 3 million East Berlin residents migrated into West Berlin.  The first one we visited was a section of the wall that was residential – homes stood in between the inner and outer Berlin Wall were originally allowed to come and go as they pleased between East and West Berlin, however as East Berlin and the Russian forces got more intense, these homes had their front doors (which exited into West Berlin) boarded up and the residents were forced to move into deep East Berlin in the middle of the night.  It was incredible to see the more-or-less intact side of the East Berlin wall whereas the West Berlin side was bare clear to the inner wires because the West Berlin residents would chip away at the wall.  West Berliners would also dig tunnels from West Berlin to the wall so the East Berliners just had to match up one of the tunnels and could escape to West Berlin.  Despite this aid, many were shot in their bid for freedom to West Berlin.

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After walking through all the monuments and exhibits, we stopped to eat burgers and hummus before getting back in the car to visit another section of the remaining Berlin Wall – a 1.3 km stretch now dubbed the East Side Galley (not to be confused with East Side Deli!).  This piece was covered with artistic expressions right after the majority of the wall was torn down in 1989 and on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall the artists were all invited back to repaint their masterpieces.  Some were meaningful, some enchanting, some beautiful, and some just weird.  It was fun to walk and point out each of our favorites.

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The final evening in Berlin, we headed back to the apartment, Mom and Dad did more laundry, Cameron and I caught up on Suits and we got ready for an early morning drive into Messien.  Below are some random things we’ve noticed wandering the streets of Berlin…

IMG_0094{flyers on the pole thicker than my hand}

DSC_1013{the number of bikers in this city warrants their own TRAFFIC SIGNAL}

IMG_0034{<3 <3 <3}