Travel Diary, Berlin

April 23, 2014

Day 1

Technically day one begins the night before departure, rushing to finish my last essay of the year resulting in missing my train to Stansted Airport. If anyone has ever travelled from Standsted then they will be familar with the fact that it is in the middle of nowhere and flights are usually at stupid hours of the morning. Long story short, after lots of running, shouting, swearing, tears and unecessary pounds spent, I was on a coach to the airport, where I slept on the floor until departure time. Despite the dilemmas I had been faced with, once of the plane I had the luxury of having two free seats next to me and sprawled across them for the entire journey. 

Once at the airport, getting a train to Berlin city with little sleep and a dead phone battery became problematic. Again, if anyone has travelled to Berlin they will be familiar with the confusion the autobahn inflicts on tourists. I found a train reading 'Alexanderplatz' and figured seeing as this was the only train I was certain was heading towards the city, I should jump on. Alexanderplatz was nowhere near my hostel, but at least it was closer than the airport! 

I was in the city by 1pm so I had time prior to check in to explore what Berlin had to offer & it did not disappoint. Just a few minutes walk from Alexanderplatz I was struck by Berliner Dom, the most beautiful cathedral in Berlin. The building is an architectural masterpiece. The paintings and intricate details are surreal, with it's beauty being enhanced by the chiming of the bells. To top it all off, the enchanting building became multi-purpose, it was the landmark which I associated comfort to & began all my trips to other various destinations in Berlin from. 

After being struck by Berliner Dom, I knew from my research before arriving that I was on Museum Island. As much as I loved the idea of an Island solely for the purpose of museums, reviewers on TripAdvisor had mentioned how expensive tickets could be, therefore I was skeptical. To my surprise however, I was amazed when looking at the ticket prices... a three day student ticket was only €11! The ticket I bought was a 'museum pass', they're purple and you have hundreds of museums to choose from. While there are other passes to choose from offering similar things, like the 'Berlin pass' my roommate had, the 'museum pass' is far better solely for cultural sight seeing.

The first museum I went to was the Pergamon museum, one of the most renowned museums on the island. Known for the art and history it has to offer, the Pergamon lived up to the hype. It's main focus is on Middle eastern history, Islamic art and antiquity. Everything inside is an archaeologist's dream. Once inside the museum, with your tourist headphone guide on, you are greeted by The Ishtar Gate. The vivid colours stun and the construction is breathtaking. Again, I had done some research prior to visiting and yet no photo could ever do the gates of Babylon justice. It really is a must-see!

 Equally as amazing, was the Pergamon Altar. As I write this I think of words to explain the room... it is absolutely gigantic, a huge bright creamy white room, with friezes left, right and centre. As you walk in, you are struck by the steep stairs, which lead to another level of more ancient Olympian relics. Pictures of Gods and Goddesses everywhere, some killing each other and some holding one another, I spent well over an hour in this one room alone.
East Frieze, Pergamon Museum Berlin

After seeing a little bit of Berlin and almost five hours in the Pergamon Museum, I checked in to my hostel (Generator Mitte), had dinner, set an alarm from 8am and crashed hard.

Day 2

After a confusing breakfast consisting of a plate of yoghurt due to no bowls being found, I was ready to check out more of the City. The plan was to check out a few more museums, where the Berlin Wall once was and Topographie of Terror. Sadly all my photos of the museums I viewed in the morning were deleted from my phone, so there isn't much I can say that will do my experience justice. Nevertheless, let me just mention the Altes Museum is worth checking out, especially if interested in Ancient Greece and Philosophy like I am!

Anyone who visits Berlin knows Checkpoint Charlie is a must. I had been here before with my parents, but as an ignorant pre-teen, times have changed a lot since then and the experience was so eyeopening. There is a brief history regarding issues after the war, the conflict regarding the erection of the wall and the aftermath of the fall. Just as I finished reading all of this (all was written on posters outside surrounding the space where the wall used to be), it began to hail. Within the space the posters had surrounded there was a make-shift museum entitled 'Black Box' with even further detail about the wall and countries involved in conflict. It was great to learn so much about a part of German history which is taught in-depth very rarely!

In addition to this, because Friedrichstraße is visited by tourists so often due to both the culture and the shopping it has to offer, there are quirky elements which make you feel like you are stepping back in time. Such as signs informing you that you 'are now entering the American sector' and actors dressed as American guards... with this being said, I couldn't not use this opportunity to take a photo!

Artists make art of Berlin Wall remains

Next I walked to Topographie Des Terrors. A museum which is situated where the Gestapo and SS headquarters were during the Nazi era. Truthfully, nothing I write will explain the feelings and emotions I felt whilst at the museum. Whilst studying National Socialism there were often things I felt strongly about, things I learnt that made me feel physically sick, but this was another level of disgust, of realising just how brutal humanity could be. Even walking up to the museum sends shivers down any moral beings spine. The thought of so many barbaric men in history walking where I was now walking,  the idea of so many barbaric and inhumane schemes being initiated here was terrifying. I would be lying if I said I didn't shed a tear, it was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I have had, having to read what so many innocent individuals had to endure. With that being said, it was a day I will never forget and I am proud to say I have visited somewhere so eyeopening and raw.

Those sent to the 'House Prison' at the headquarters of the SS. Now where Topographie Des Terrors stands.

With so much to read and to learn, I left Topographie Des Terrors at 7.30, and headed back to the hostel for dinner. Making a quick stop again at my beloved Berliner Dom and the river to dwell on my day and what I had learnt from everything I had visited during the day.

Day 3 

Today was my final day in Berlin, breakfast was brighter this morning as I managed to hunt down the bowls for my yoghurt! The plan for today was to check out Potsdamer Platz, The Reichstag, The Jewish memorial and Brandenburg Gate all before heading home!

The first place to tick off, and thankfully the nearest to where I was staying was The Reichstag. After a few years learning about the German parliament I was excited to check out where legislation was made. As expected, a building with so much history was bound to be grand and ooze patriotism, although a part of me dislikes the addition of the dome (I believe some things should not be 'modernised'), it does relate to reunification and so it's all for a good cause, and acknowledging a positive milestone in German history.

The ultimate lankdmark of Germany, Brandenburg Gate. So very little need be said. Now considered a symbol of european unity and peace there is something heartwarming about Brandenburg Gate, not to mention the happiness it brought me when I was able to photograph it in the SUN!

Built to look like cement gravestones, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has serious emotional impact. The concrete looks ice cold and the sheer amount of 'graves', although look never-ending, do not even begin to show the extent of those murdered during the Nazi regime. Again, eyeopening, chilling yet relieving knowing Germany stress the importance of remembering and not brushing under the carpet, such a distressing time of the countries history.

A quick walk from here is Potsdamer Platz. Further segments of the Berlin Wall are positioned here, with further information regarding the Cold War, as well as a history of Potsdamer Platz and the areas surrounding up until as early as 2010! Not only is Potsdamer Platz known for these segments, but was one of busiest squares in Germany before World War Two. The area still remains busy today, with high rise city buildings and big brands like Sony and Haagen Dazs residing here. The square is also known for its brilliant bars and endless amounts of restaurants... I regret not dining here while I had the chance. That's one drawback to travelling alone I am willing to admit, no matter how hard I try to convince myself it isn't weird, there's something I really dislike about eating alone, especially in nice restaurants... however with time the confidence will come to do so & when it does I shall dine endlessly in Potsdamer Platz.

After embracing Potsdamer Platz it was time to make my way back to Alexanderplatz to catch the train to the airport and begin to come to terms with having to face reality and my commitments at home... but on the plus side I was going back with stories to tell.

Berlin is a city full of culture, art and history. With so much to see and only three days, there is no doubt I shall be returning to the city. I strongly advise anyone who has never travelled alone before, like me, to give Berlin a shot as their first destination. It embraces German living to the fullest; the people are friendly and happy but are laid-back with those who want to embrace their independence and do their own thing. It's a wonderful city, full of wonderful people with an endless amount of things to do and see to keep you entertained... Berlin I lost my independent-travel virginity to you and I don't regret a thing!

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