It is my birthday! Yay! Only problem is, I got really sick yesterday...
So my question is this: what, who, where and how did I do something in Berlin (I think I know and if you want more info email me) to warrant me getting sick for the first time in a year, and on my birthday?! Boooooo.
So im sitting here at the hostel in Prague (if you could even say its in Prague, its a solid 15 minutes outside of the city) with my head feeling like it is about to collapse in on itself. I will however, do my best to convey the extent of my travels in Berlin.
Amsterdam ended up being a dissapointment.
I did not come to Europe to hang out with Americans (no offense to anyone), and thats all it was. It is the most "touristy" city I have ever been in. Even with my hunger manifested in the recreational activites they have there, the food was still absolutely terrible! The only good value in the city was their fresh "vegetables".
It is a beautiful city, with pristine parks and canals that you can really only find there (actually, every place in europe is starting to look the same...canals, churches, cobblestones, and big squares..but I digress). So in conclusion, Amsterdam was fun, but too touristy. I would love to go their with my friends, but for this trip it did not provide what i was looking for.
I am just now realizing that I already wrote about Amsterdam, oh well, blame it on the head cold.
After the expedition on train and foot and bus to Berlin, I arrived. The main train station is an amazing building. When you arrive in Berlin, you are blown away by the contrast of old buildings tatooed by grafitti artists and destroyed from bombings in WWII; with brand new skyscrapers and coporate headquarters. It is truly remarkable. Old and new live side by side here, and the locals think of these disgusting buildings as being just as important to Berlin culture as the new corporate headquarters. I have some awesome pictures (I AM TRYING VERY HARD TO GET PICTURES ON A COMPUTER, AND HAVE HAD NO LUCK YET, SORRY)
When I arrived in Eastern Communist Berlin, AKA Russia (my hostel was in the far east, on the ring line for those of you who have been to Berlin), and walked into my 8 bedroom hostel, I was startled by 6 young swedes in their boxers drinking and dancing.
I never miss an oppurtunity to hang out with swedish people, and these guys were awesome, juist like I was at age 19, immature, drunk, and ready to do stupid things (no leigh I am not that way anymore haha).
The first night I stayed in the hostel bar, and enjoyed some karoke. Besides sweet carloine, everyone was singing to the most depressing songs, i.e. Tears in Heaven. I shipped off to bed early because I had a big day ahead.
The swedes strolled in that morning at 7am. They got rejected from every club they tried to get in, and because of the law allowing alchohol in public, they still managed to get proper fucked (british speak for really drunk).
Europe does not go to sleep. When I tell people bars close at 2am, they always say (think of a foreign accent) "oh, we do not even go out till then, you americans are Pussys!" I have no idea how they do it.
The city tour I took was both educational and heart-warming. Berlin is an amazing city. From medieval times to the fall of the berlin wall, there is so much to see and do here. The tourguide gave me what 17 years of schooling could not: an understanding of 20th century german history, and WHAT A HISTORY IT IS. There was wayyyy to much going on in Germany from the start of the 20th century.
From the ambiguous reasons WWI even happened, to extreme inflation, to the roaring twenties, to Hitlers program, to east and west germany with a fenced off Western Berlin smack-dab in the middle of eastern germany, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to an amazing city that has seen unparalleld growth in the past 20 years.
It is unfathomable how this place was communist Russia twenty years ago.
The most amazing part, is how cheap the city is. $300 gets you a 3 bedroom loft in the heart of berlin. Food is half the price of Amsterdam, and a 6 pack is roughly $1.50. Because of this all major corporations are moving their corporate headquarters to Berlin (not because of the bier, although this could be a reason...it would be if my UOFA buddies had a corporation).
One memorable moment from the tour, was at the square where the Nazis burned all the Jewish books on that infamous night. Our tour guide told us a quote:
“Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people”
The quote above is taken from a 1821 play by Heinrich Heine.
Wow!! Talk about foresight!
Another great part of Berlin (to those of you still reading), is how apologetic and sympathetic they are to the sufferers of the holocaust. From Yitzhak Rabin Strasser to Hiroshima Strasser; from the the enormous jewish memorial, to the huge Jewish museum, everywhere in Germany, there are memorials dedicated to those horrific times.
I was in Berlin for a solid 6 days, so there is to much to put in this blog. Let me just say that the swedes got crazier. We hung out every day, and had a great time. I felt bad for our one girl roommate. She had 7 guys running around in their boxers for half of her stay (actually, she should feel lucky). The greatest swede moment (I was not there, I was on a bar crawl), happened one night when they got rejected from 4 bars, and ended up at a Gay Bar...only to stay there and enjoy the night (they were not gay, at least I hope not).
My last day in Berlin, I took a daytrip to Cottbus. This is where my Grandfather grew up before the holocaust. This was a very special day for me.
On the train ride I saw grafitti on the side of a bombed out building which I thought was a testament to Germany and how it has changed. "FUCK NAZIS!" (Which reminds me of another story, the Nationalist Social party has 3 people who have been elected into Germanys congress. When they came in for the swearing in, all members of congress and staff members, stood outside their offices, lined the stairways and chanted "Nazis out, Nazis out" as they walked to the congressional room).
Back to Cottbuss.
Armed with 3 street addresses, I arrived in Cottbus (there are no tourists here at all) and went on my blind way. The street my grandpa grew up on was literally one block from the train station (by the way grandpa, when you said Marine Strasser, I wish you would have spelled it too, "Marien" Strasser was hard to find!). I walked down the street counting the numbers. The weird part was, every building was an apartment complex with a store at the bottom. I knew he hadn't grown up in an apartment, this was a little discerning.
I came upon number 25 Marien Strasser. Between two 4 story buildings there was a 7 foot brick wall that was falling apart, and a white washed fence with chipping paint and a huge pad lock. I hoisted myself up, broke 3 bricks, got all the localslooking at me, and saw the old abandoned house. It was amazing, it looked like no one had lived there since they left. I have pictures.
My next address was his Uncles Winery. Unfortunately, it started getting very dark and cloudy, like Tucson before a monsoon, and I had already walked for 45 minutes, only to be at the houses addresed in the 30's (this house was in the 120's). So I turned back and went to the last place of interest.
At 65 calauer street, there are 3 gold plaques laid in the ground that say "Benjamin Schindler, Rachel Schindler, Cecelia Schindler lived here," each with their own concentration camps that they died at (The girls had question marks). The stones were there to commemorate my great grandpa, great grandma, and great aunt.
A funny thing happened though. As I walked up, a young blonde girl no older than 14 was standing right next to the plaques (they were in the front yard). She didnt speak english well but she nodded that she lived there. I told her this was my family and her hands shot to her face. I said my name was scott and her name was Anna. I could tell she wanted to get her parents but she was so shocked she didnt know what to do.
The second I was ready to leave, as if by divine intervention, a lightning bolt struck and it started POORING! Luckily the train station was one street over, and I headed back to Berlin.
So that was Berlin. I absolutely loved it. So much history, very liberal in its laws, legal to drink on the street, great metro system, cheap to live there, and beautfiul parks and buildings. I now know why Berlin has the largest concentration of Jewish immigration, and if had to move to Europe, I would probably be one of them.
Its 8 30 on my bday. The bike tour was fun, but the rain was not.
Not wanting to break tradition, I found a mexican restaraunt and had a personal birthday dinner with myself, a Pollo Burrito!
Thanks to everyone for the bday wishes! And if you didn't send me any love, I hate you, and you are never allowed to read this again!
Got another group of Aussies as roommates. Its hard to not go out and party with them, especially today, but I need to get better.
Until next time.
GO PADRES! WE GOT TONY GWYNN..WOOOOOOOOOO
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