Wow! The first day is already done. The trip already feels short when looking at the itinerary, but if today was any indication, it is going to fly by!
After not much sleep on the airplane, today was a busy day of sightseeing and recovering from jet lag. We arrived in Berlin and immediately hopped on a bus for a tour of the city. What struck me right away was the juxtaposition between old and new. Buildings that were built pre-WWII (18th & 19th century), right alongside those built 200 years later. But what’s interesting is that even the “new” buildings look old. Some of this is by design, but some of it is, I think, many of the new buildings are at least 20 years old. I saw very little new construction. Berlin, of course, is steeped in the legacy of the horrors of WWII. Many of the older buildings still show damage from bombs. It almost feels (structurally speaking) as if the effects of that war and then the Cold War are just beginning to lift.
First actual stop off the bus was a “documentation center” (basically a sort of museum), the Topographie des Terrors. It had the remains of a basement wall of the building that became the headquarters of the SS.
In addition, part of the site contained a large section of the Berlin Wall.
It’s so surreal to think about an entire city just split in half and not being allowed to go from one side to the other.
After that we visited the Holocaust Memorial. There are 2,711 rectangular blocks to honor the Jews murdered during the war. The story is that there is no significance to that number because the artist wants visitors to focus on whatever meaning they take away from the memorial. Very breathtaking and seemed to stretch on forever in all directions.
A couple blocks down the street from the memorial is the site where Hitler’s bunker was. What’s interesting is some sites around the city have been left as is, war damage and all, but other sites they have torn down. The bunker is one of the latter. They have completely filled it in with gravel and sand and then paved/built over it. So this is what it looks like now.
I’ve got a cute little hotel room. It’s MUCH tinier than most people from the US are probably used to.
But it’s got an amazing view. Both during the day…
…and at night.
We ate very traditional German food today. Lunch was a SUPER delicious bratwurst. For dinner it was rouladen and yummy “pancakes” (crepe) with blueberries.
Everyone on the trip is so nice and I’m really enjoying hanging out with them and experiencing this amazing place. Tomorrow we have free time and some “challenge by choice” activities to try. We’ll see if I’m able to push out of my comfort zone a little bit!