07.01.2013 - 13.01.2013 -2 °C
On my last day in Amsterdam I tried to relax. It was a pretty nice day, so I went for a walk in a part of the city I hadn't seen yet. I walked through a flea market and bought a purse.
That afternoon some people from my hostel and I made friends with a guy from the UK who was living in Amsterdam. We decided to head back to his place and make dinner. We made penne alfredo (my suggestion haha). It was delicious!
My train ride to Berlin was ok. I woke up feeling sick that morning, which really sucked, but I arrived safely. I was picked up by Gultan and her son, Ali, some distant relatives who had offered to let me stay with them while in Berlin.
On my first full day I did a free walking tour of Berlin. While Berlin is not the most beautiful city in the world, it definitely has a lot of history. We walked around to some of the major sights and buildings in Berlin and learned the history of each site.
Most of Berlin was flattened during the bombing in WWII, so there are not many old building left. However, a lot of important buildings have been rebuild or restored to look as they once did. Brendanbourg Gate, while severely damaged, was not fully destroyed. It has been restored and it is very beautiful.
One of the most interesting places to see was where Hitler's bunker, the one where he committed suicide in, once was. All that is there now is a parking lot. The government did not want to put anything there to commemorate the spot because they feared that it would become a shrine of worship for the Neo-Nazi movement.
We also saw one of the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, which was very ugly, as well as Checkpoint Charlie, which was pretty boring but important.
The next day I decided to do a tour of Sachenshousen Concentration Camp. This camp is about an hour metro ride out of Berlin. It was built in 1936 and was used to hold political prisoners who were against the Nazis (communists and socialists). It also held Gypsies, homosexuals, the homeless, and other people who did not "contribute to society". It was mainly a work camp, but around 22,000 people died there, and hundreds of thousands of other people were shipped out of this camp towards death camps like Auschwitz. In 1942 it was also used to hold Jews. The sleeping barracks were built to sleep 100 men each, but at peak of it's operations, each barrack slept 400 men. This camp was mostly destroyed in the early 1950s, however some buildings remained and others were rebuilt to be used as a museum. It was a very emotional experience. It was about -2 degrees and snowing while we were there and the majority of the tour was outside. This gave us a very real idea of what the prisoners went through in the winter, especially given that we were cold in full winter clothing; I can't even imagine how cold it would be to stand out there for hours in just a pyjama-like uniform. This is all I'm going to say in this blog about this trip for now, however, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. For more information please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachsenhausen_concentration_camp
One my third day in Berlin I went to some museums with Gultan and her daughter (the family I was staying with). We first went to the Pergamon Museum where we saw the giant Pergamon Altar and we walked through the Gate of Babylon! It was a very cool museum. We then went to the Egypt Museum, which was also very cool. That evening we had dinner at a rotating restaurant at the top of the TV Tower. I got a beautiful view of Berlin at night! We decided to order dessert off the kids menu because they looked so much better than the ones on the adult menu. The waitress looked at us like we were idiots, but eventually gave in. When I got my dessert, you can see in the picture below what it looked like! I felt like an idiot eating it, but it was so good! haha
On my last day in Berlin Gultan and I first went to see another section of the remaining Berlin Wall. This section was a little nicer because it had pictures on it as well as information. We then went to the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium It was snowing a lot and the animals were mostly inside, but luckily we were able to go into the buildings to see them. They were very beautiful, but it did make me sad to see them in cages. That night the entire family took me out to an Indian restaurant and we had a delicious dinner.
I want to thank Gultan and her family for having me and for making such delicious meals (especially the homemade chicken soup!). It was very nice to have my own room, a nice shower, and a loving family for 5 nights.
It sucked that I had a cold the entire week. But as I write this, I am on the train to Munich and I am feeling much better.