Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ich bin ein Berliner

Checkpoint Charlie

Yes, yes, I know that means I'm a pastry.

This weekend I went by myself to Berlin, but not entirely. It was the first trip that Soo-Young didn't accompany me on--she went to Nice instead. I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend named Lisa who lives in Wedding, a Turkish borough to the northwest of Berlin. Lisa was actually friends with Louise, who you'll remember I visited in Portsmouth a month ago. I had long wanted to go to Berlin, it was at the top of my places to see, but I can't really explain why. It fascinates me that a city can change so quickly, and I wanted to see the conflict of being capitalist today and Communist just a few decades ago. The city has a booming art scene and is actually the cheapest capital in Western Europe. I found Berlin very interesting and modern, but there was a real pervasive sadness. It wasn't a soft, happy, pretty city, like Paris, but I really liked its toughness. WWII was still EVERYWHERE, from monuments to conversation. The first night I got to Berlin, Lisa and I went to a bar that played movies every week, and of course the topic of the Czech film shown was WWII. It's really respectable that Berlin preserves so much of its sordid history where other countries try to sweep it under the rug, like how Spain pretty much pretends Franco never happened.

With Lisa

Blowing bubbles in the park

...and on the U-Bahn.

In all these cities, I try to go on the New Europe Free Tours. They are given by college graduates, usually, who move to these cities and fall in love with them and want to share their love of the cities with you--and they're free! So I of course went in Berlin, and my tour guide happened to be a UGA graduate from Atlanta! He and I bonded over the ATL, and he even recommended a cool club to me that I went to that weekend. In fact, Berlin had a lot of the same qualities as Atlanta, since they are both relatively new cities compared to the Old Europe I've been seeing. While public transportation in Berlin is light-years better than Atlanta, they both are heavily car-using cities with wide streets, and they both have an emphasis on hip-hop streetwear.

Holocaust Memorial

Though definitely an educational trip, Berlin was also so much fun. I essentially did not sleep the entire five days and went out late every night, which I loved. I hate having to rush myself, so it was nice being able to leave at 1 am or 2. And the Germans were of course so nice, saying how excited they were to "practice their English" when talking to me. So far, every German that I've met has been smart, educated, speaks incredibly good English but still tolerant, unpretentious and nice. Lisa was a fantastic host, and it's so nice to be able to make a real friend from a weekend trip.

Behind this overly-ornate church is the East Berlin Radio Tower. The radio tower was supposed to be a sign of East Germany's prosperity, but as you can see in the picture, a cross is reflected everyday in its giant Communist disco ball. Of course Communist Germany did not support religion and many excuses were made at the time for the cross, like it was a giant Communist Plus Sign.

Berlin Wall
Die World! DIE!!!

Lots of graffiti.

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