Weirdly, feels like home...

Trip Start Oct 03, 2012
Trip End Nov 01, 2014

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Flag of Germany  ,
Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our first impression of Berlin was nice wide streets, spaced out buildings and square blocks. It has a really nice feel to it, and in a way kind of feels like home. The city seems relatively clean compared to Paris, and definitely is not as congested. Rather than being all old buildings, it has a mix of the two. The historical buildings have been kept, and new buildings built around them. Haven't found the Germans too bad to be honest, not as bad as I thought they would be, based on what i have been told, so that's good.

At the moment they are having the "Festival of Lights" in the Potsdamer Platz area, which is something they do every year here :). I've heard at night it is really pretty, but unfortunately its the last night tonight so we wont be able to see it before we leave.
First day here and we have already tried currywurst (which is steamed, then fried pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with warm curry ketchup and German beer.  Off to a good start in Germany, trying the local favorites.         

We managed to walk about the city and find some historical buildings (TV tower, Dome Cathedral, Victory tower) and along the way came across a tour boat that took us around some of the main tourist attractions and gave us a bit of history as well which was good on the first day.

The Holocaust memorial is pretty large, and seems kind of sombre with all these rows of large and small scale concrete blocks placed along the ground. The museum underground was done really well, had loads of information about the war and how the prisoners were treated from start to finish. Listening to autobiographies of those that survived the concentration camps and lived to tell their story was quite heart breaking. The pictures of mass murder were quite explicit and there was not really much hiding the truths of what happened to these people. We did an auto-tour which was really good. 

Brandenburg gate was a pretty impressive, large historical old gate which is the only one of many that are still remaining from 1788. It stood amongst a square of hotel buildings (one of them being the hotel where Michael Jackson hung the baby off the balcony - random i know). Its pretty amazing that it is still standing after the war considering it endured a lot of damage during. Even though there wasn't much to do there but take pretty pictures of it, it was a definitely must see landmark in our opinion!

We took a quick look at the outside of the German parliament (Reichstag) building where Hitler was elected in 1933. Another huge building that made for an impressive photo. There was a pretty regimented process to get inside, but because we both are not that into the elections and governmental process we didn't go in. The outside of the building was enough for us :)

Next on the list to see was 'of course' was the Berlin Wall! We didn't realise that they built the wall surrounding the whole of western Berlin which was like 200Km long! We thought it was a division barrier. The wall has now been demolished but bits of it have been kept for memorial sites, street art and some randomly scattered around the city as monuments in parks and streets. We were lucky enough to see all types of the wall about the city and get some pretty cool photos too.

Checkpoint Charlie was the last on our list of things to do today. It was one of the 3 points along the length of the Berlin Wall where people could pass from the West side of Berlin to the East and acted as a boarder control.The original white booth is still standing in the middle of the street and is said to represent the separation between the East and West sides of Berlin during the war.

To finish a good day of history lessons, we met up with some friends we have met along the way for something to eat and a few quiet drinks at what we now are calling our local bar. Perfect evening!

Our tour today of Sachsenhausen concentration camp was a very interesting and sad. Being our first concentration camp we have ever been to, we really didn't know what to expect. There was a very airy feeling about the camp, and having a tour guide that could tell us all about the goings on during the war, made everything so much more imaginable. The reality of what the people in these camps went through was horrible, and made you feel a little sick inside at times. We got to go into one of the many barracks where the prisoners stayed. It was unbelievable the amount of people that were jammed into a tiny house. 3 people to one bed, 3 beds to a bunk and 150 people to a house the size of two double garages. We got to take a look at the Crematorium where all the bodies were burnt (up to 600/day), camp prison where people were tortured, pathology lab where experiments where carried out of dead/living people during the war, SS guard housing and facilities and the side of the camp that was named Station Z. Z being the last letter of the alphabet - which also meant the last part of the camp the prisoners would ever see. They also had museums on site with things like original prisoners outfits, the white and blue stripped top and pants with the individual number sown on etc
I think our whole tour group went in all enthusiastic and came out feeling quite drained and shocked at the reality of it all. We all really enjoyed our experience, but its definitely not something for the light hearted.

During our camp tour we meet another 3 girls, which decided to join us afterwards to check out the East side Gallery. This is a massive strip of the Berlin wall (1.2km) that has 105 paintings by artists from all over the world. Pretty funky looking if you ask me. :) Was definitely worth the view.
We all decided it was time for a stiff drink after today's adventures, so we headed to our local. Dan was yet again the only guy in a group of 5 girls...I'm sure he didn't mind though!

Our last day here was pretty relaxed, time to get to pack up our things and head to Krakow.

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