It’s been a month since I left for Germany so I guess now is a great time to blog about it. Besides Morocco, I was most excited for our trip to Berlin. I would finally be in a country where people knew my last name!!
When we left for Berlin, we packed a little heavier than our typical one backpack for RyanAir requirements. Since we flew SwissAir, we were allowed to check a bag for free!!! Unheard of on RyanAir! We felt like princesses on the flight. They brought us complimentary drinks and sandwiches. I was overly excited when my sandwich had butter on it. My grandma always puts butter on sandwiches and said it was a German thing. And I was on my way to GERMANY.
Since this was our last trip, we had it down to a system. We landed, found a bus to the city, hopped on the metro to our hostel, and settled in before finding food. Once we pulled ourselves together and fed our stomachs, we sprawled out the map of Berlin and planned the next 5 days.
Thursday we ventured out into the tundra that is Berlin to visit the nearest concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. The entire camp was outside minus a few memorial museums, so we froze. We had seen pictures of the prisoners’ uniforms and quickly learned how hypothermia was one of the main causes of death in the camp. It was an eye-opening experience. This camp specifically wasn’t an execution camp like Auschwitz, however thousands lost their lives on the grounds.
Our stay in Berlin started off on a tragic note, but I learned a lot. I don’t normally enjoy history, but when it’s a whole different world when I get to experience it first hand. The history of the concentration camp really came alive for me when our tour guide mentioned that some of the buildings were used to train the police force. It seemed like history was ready to repeat itself. I didn’t take a lot of pictures at the concentration camp because it felt out of place to snap a shots in such a horribly memorable space.
…So I’ve officially spent 5 months on this post.
After bearing the frigid temperatures outside at the concentration camp, we were more than prepared for our 7-hour walking tour, or so we thought. Naturally the 3 of us couldn’t agree on just one short tour, so we ended up on this marathon. Meeting our tour guide was one of the highlights of our trip. The man who sold us our tickets said, “Your tour guide is Ricardo and is standing over there.” We walked over to meet “Ricardo” who then introduced himself as Leo in a thick Spanish accent. Accent and all, he was a great tour guide, even when he said things like “Factory Revolution” instead of “Industrial Revolution”. In our 7 hours of walking we saw Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag, the site of Hitler’s bunker, Humbolt University, Holocaust memorial, WWII memorial, the Berlin Wall, and a few palaces. I think I learned more in those 7 hours than I did all semester in my history class.
At this point we had been on our feet for the past 7 hours. And I had been traveling the previous 7 weekends. Needless to say when we got back to our hostel I went into hibernation despite Leo’s attempts to show us all the hip Berlin clubs. I was overly exhausted and slept the next 16 hours.
We slowed our pace on Saturday and spent the day Christmas market hopping. They were the cutest stores/stands! And they were all over the city! I took advantage of my German heritage and the souvenirs as I picked out a few gifts for my family. The three of us ended up buying hats, gloves, and an extra pair of socks. We clearly couldn’t handle the weather. That night we ventured out to an ice skating rink in the winter wonderland.
Sunday was the last full day we had in Berlin. We spent it viewing the East Side Gallery, or the remaining standing 1.3 kilometers of the Berlin Wall. One of the coolest things about Berlin was that its history was so recent. The Berlin Wall being a prime example. The mere fact that it was still standing, and that I visibly could distinguish the East and the West side of the city by the buildings, stores, and people proved that the divide still existed, wall or no wall. We ended up the day hitting up the rest of the Christmas markets we missed on Saturday.
It wouldn’t have been right if our last trip didn’t involve some sort of transportation dilemma. Nearing Christmas time, the airport was chaotic. Amid the chaos was a strike by the airport employees. Just our luck. We spent the better part of our time searching for the correct line. There were so many people that we couldn’t distinguish the different lines. We eventually boarded our plane an hour late where we were informed that the delay was caused by airport problems, not the weather as we had been previously told. Jess, Rachael, and I cringed. We had only had an hour to catch our connecting flight from Munich to Madrid. We tried our best not to worry because there was nothing we could do about it, but I’m always a mess. The Munich airport was no less hectic due to the mass of people missing their connecting flights. Almost 12 hours later, our luggage and we arrived safely in Madrid.
What a weekend.