Sunday, July 3, 2011


June 20-21
After Salzburg, my next stop was Berlin. I like taking night trains because you don't have to waste daylight travelling. Berlin was not my favorite place. I've had a lot of great days travelling, so there was bound to be a bad one in there I suppose. Maybe if I had been in a better mood, I'd have liked Berlin more, but I wasn't. The city was very dark. The buildings are dark and the history is dark, and the neighborhood I stayed in was dark (and the hostel was the least friendly place I've stayed. Clean, safe, fine. But dark). I was in need of a day in the sun and a friendly face, and found neither on my first day there.

My second day in Berlin, I went on a free walking tour (one of the New Europe tours), which was excellent. The guide was from Australia and did a great job (this was the most English I heard in Berlin). By the end, I almost liked the city (Not enough to stay though). The history of the city is incredibly interesting and I liked seeing the places I've learned about in classes, but Berlin probably would have been better to visit with a group of people.

My favorite place in Berlin was the Jewish houlocaust memorial. Its a very simple, impersonal looking memorial of hundreds of stone blocks of varying heights, but otherwise identical, arranged in straight rows, in a plaza where the ground is full of small hills. The deeper you walk into the memorial, the taller the stones get, and the colder and more solemn it gets. It has an interesting effect of feeling confining, but also protecting. As I walked next to the blocks, I felt hidden, but as soon I crossed the next path and could see all the way to the end of the row, I would remember how open it was. Despite being able to see to the end of each row, you still lose people in the memorial. You can hear them, but can't find them. There are no faces, just large blank stones. Its a maze, but also very orderly. I thought it was very well done, it certainly made you stop and think about what it was, and why it exists. After walking through the memorial, we (the tour group) had a discussion about how we felt about the memorial and how German's acknowledge WWII history- very interesting to hear perspectives other than only American.

Perhaps I will give Berlin another chance someday, but I didn't want to stay longer this trip, so I took another night train to Vienna. On this train, I met a photographer and a sound engineer, both living in Berlin, and we had a conversation about the diffreneces in digital and analog art, and then compared other cities we've visited. People can be so interesting. This time I booked a sleeper car, and it was definitely worth it, spending all day on my feet and moving around so often does catch up with you and makes you tired eventually.

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