In the middle of our spring break trip, David and I traveled by train from Prague to Berlin. After crossing the border, the train came under the care of the incredibly organized Deutsche Bahn, our first experience with hyper modern Berlin. With more money than it knows what to do with, the city is now constantly rebuilding. Cranes are always up, and fellow travelers exclaimed that things looked different from even a year earlier.
We took one of the extremely popular free four hour tours of the city. As it was March, the tour was small and fast moving, and our guide was really good. I loved all the history, because it is almost entirely based in the 20th Century. It can be easily and logically divided into five periods: the German Empire (1871-1918), the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), the Third Reich (1933-1945), shared occupation (1945-1990), and the present era.
And in the present era, we found Berlin to be a nutz city with an insatiable party libido. It’s a younger city than New York with a lot of places that open at four in the morning. We spent most of our time in Mitte, an über-hip area with a lot of stores selling only one thing. Our hostel, based on Douglas Adam’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was also in Mitte. We also walked along the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall still standing. As I mentioned before, Berlin is one of the most internationally famous locations of graffiti and street art, and we were not disappointed.
Walking this way lead us to Kreuzberg, a traditionally alternative section of town now home to hipsters priced out of Mitte. Both have an American Apparel however. It was a fun place to be, with a lot of interesting locales, and surprisingly great and inexpensive sushi.
Most interesting to me was the remnants of conflict between East and West Berlin. I didn’t realize it, but that wall was actually the last in series of protections aimed at keeping East Germans in. And once the wall, and its accompanying death strips, finally came down, there was still a strong mental barrier. It’s kind of unfathomable to Americans, but many did not support reunification. Now, the only physical indication of the barrier in many places are the stylized pedestrian crossing signals. I wish I had more time there, but for now, it’s an adequate introduction. As always, there’s a lot more detail in my pictures, dutifully uploaded to flickr.
“East Berlin can’t buy a thing, there’s nothing they can sell me/ walk through the wall no pain at all” — The Mekons