Getting lost has never been so fun #globalteachers

Getting lost has never been so fun #globalteachers

What an adventure today!  Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out.  And sometimes those mistakes can lead to great experiences.  Today a large group of us were going to start the morning with a boat tour down the Spree River and then visit a museum.  Well, two other teachers and myself got held up and separated from the group.  We worked on catching up, but unbeknownst to us, we were going in the completely wrong direction.  However, we got to see a lot of the city (not to mention get A TON of steps in) and ended up going straight to Museuminsel (Museum Island).  Getting to Museuminsel so quickly allowed us to see both the Altes Museum (ancient Roman & Greek work) and the Neues Museum (ancient Egyptian works).  My favorite room of both was, by far, the Rotunda in the Altes Museum (which was built in the 1820s!!!).  Along the wall are lifesize statues of Greek gods and on the dome ceiling are images of winged figures and zodiac symbols.

Along the same plaza as the Altes Museum was the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral).

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The first half of the afternoon included a short bus tour on our way to the Reichstag (German Parliament building).  We saw the Konzerthaus Berlin (I bet you can figure out what that is), the French Church (built in the early 1700s because the French wanted to go to a church that spoke French), and the German Church (built for the same denomination as the French church but with services in German), Checkpoint Charlie (the third, and most famous, Allied checkpoint between East & West Berlin), Trabi World (Trabant are a car unique to East Germany).

I’ve always considered myself fairly knowledgeable about history, but I’m realizing there is SO much I don’t know about the second half of the 20th century, especially concerning world affairs.  I’m starting to see just how superficial my knowledge is when it comes to the years between World War II and the new millennium.  And what little knowledge I do have is very US-centric.  I definitely need to go back and learn more of the history of this era.

We also got to stop at a well known chocolate shop.  They had these AMAZING chocolate sculptures.

Gotta love German humour…

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After this tour we traveled to see the Brandenburg gate.  Just a few blocks away was where the Berlin wall passed and also nearby is the Reichstag.

The Reichstag has a very long and, in parts, terrible history.  Home to the German government, it was set on fire in the early 1930s with the rise of the Nazis.  Severely destroyed, it fell into disuse until the 1960s when it was rebuilt, but did not become the seat of the German government again until after German reunification.

My favorite part about the building is that due to the nature of German elections, the number of people elected from each party can change.  So seats must be rearranged to accommodate the correct number of people in each of the party groups.  So flexible seating has even made its way to the German government! 🙂

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Flexible seats

That night I got my first experience riding the German Ubahn (underground train).  We traveled to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and then found a DELICIOUS German restaurant for dinner (I had the Wiener Schnitzel).

All in all, a very long, but exciting day with tons of new learning and appreciation for the city of Berlin and its history!

Day 1 in the books #globalteachers

Day 1 in the books #globalteachers

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. 20170617_040540

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.

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I’ve got a cute little hotel room.  It’s MUCH tinier than most people from the US are probably used to.20170617_120229

But it’s got an amazing view.  Both during the day…

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…and at night.

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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!