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Published: July 20th 2008
Nazi book burning memorial Berlin
There are enough empty shelves in this subterranean room to hold all the books that were burned on this spot in 1933.
Mat: Dave my little brother (well no so little, medium maybe, and quite hairy) was travelling to Germany at the start of June to play music at a festival in Braunschweig. Braunschweig is about two hours west of Berlin, so Trace and I organised to meet him in Berlin, and then go for a wander through Poland, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary. Good times.
For today's instalment however, it is all about Berlin.
Berlin is cool.
We arrived to a sun-drenched city that was topping 30 degrees. Considering we had been excited by a 20 degree day in Scotland before we left, this did our heads in a little. It was pretty much like this for most of our three week trip, and even hit 33 degrees in Slovenia. Suncream, swimming, sunglasses, singlets, shorts, jandals, sweat, cool showers, were all things we had forgotten about. Good stuff.
But Berlin. Why was it cool? Hmmm, well it is bloody interesting from a history perspective for a start. Visiting the epicentre of Nazi madness, and starting to get a feeling that it was real rather than some ancient nightmare myth, was an experience. A civilised, educated, European people, swept along
by a twisted group of men. You have heard it all before. Yeah yeah, evil stuff. But Jesus, you can identify with the people and society that eventually made up the many cogs of the persecuting, killing machine that was Nazi Germany.
The effect of the east-west split epitomised by Berlin was also fascinating. I never really could get to grips with how a physical wall could separate two such different, and unbalanced societies. But after learning more about the Stasi (the political police responsible for maintaining intelligence on the population), the wall system itself, propaganda and so forth, you can see how it worked. No wonder there was such a party when the wall fell unexpectedly in 1989.
Berlin is also cool because it has much falafel. Falafel for Africa. Falafel for India. Falafel for the southern provinces of China. Apparently Turks were hired to support the economy in the early 1960s when Germany lacked workers. As a result there now seems to be more rotating cylinders of chicken and beef than there are people. King of Falafel, Falafel Master, Donor Palace... there are more mono-browed chefs than you can shake a stick at.
in Berlin seems to have a bike. And it works. There are bike lanes everywhere, and unless you have a silly expensive one and leave it out overnight, no one nicks or vandalises them. Plus the place is pretty flat so biking is hardly even an effort, especially seeing as if you are over biking you can just hop onto the subway and cheat. Good stuff.
Beer. The Germans make good beer. Sure they have the boring quaffers like every country, but if you want a doppelbock, weissbier, or the like, you just need to pop into the local dairy and bingo, boutique beer goodness for a Euro or so. And they have those nice ceramic corks that lever off - love those.
They make a mean vege weiner.
Tattoos. There is a high proportion of good tattoos displayed by the Berlin populous.
Graffiti. At least the vandals make an effort. There is some interesting stuff sprayed on the walls of Berlin.
Museums. They have an island in the middle of the city with a number of world class museums, and an art gallery. Food for the brain, something for the beer to digest later.
Spent four nights there. Awesome. Then hopped on a sleeper train to Krakow in Poland...
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