Well everybody, now I’m in Berlin! You know, just super casual. 😛
After breakfast with my host parents, I rushed out of the house and barely made my train. I’m always so proud of myself when I make the train like that. I got to the airport around 11:20, and there were DIS students all over the place! We had a while before our flight, so I went into the H&M in the airport with a few people and of course found something that I wanted to buy, but didn’t. Be proud of me mom and dad! Our flight was at 1:15, and an hour later, we were in Berlin! I am definitely not used to these short flights because usually only fly to India, and that includes two 8 to 9 hour flights. I still slept pretty well on the plane though!
It didn’t take too long to get to your hotel, so after a bit we took an alternative street art walking tour. It was one of my favorite tours that I’ve ever taken I didn’t realize the street signs were different between East and West Berlin, that graffiti was illegal in Berlin even though it is everywhere (and super cooll!), and that Berliners don’t like being associated with Germany. You don’t really see the German flag anywhere. But the main part of the tour was all of the graffiti and street art in the area. I cannot remember all of the names of the artists out tour guide mentioned, but I do remember the group 1up. Apparently, there are so many people in that graffiti group that on mother’s day, they ended up doing a graffiti job on a whole train in 3 minutes flat. There were so many people workings on it and looking out for cops, that nobody got caught. In fact, nobody in the group has ever gotten got! We also learned about this guy called “6” and he just puts 6’s everywhere in the city. He only does it on ripped up posters though, because then he is not technically defacing anything and cannot get charged for anything if he gets caught. Our guide told us that “6” tells people that if they put some really obscure phrase that I don’t remember into their search browser, their internet will be ten times faster. Out guide also told us that “6” is a little crazy. 😛
Victor Ash was actually commissioned to create this graffiti. There are faint grid lines you can see that he used to make it. Also, at a certain point in the day, there was a flag in Berlin and its shadow was put in the astronaut’s hand!
1UP graffiti art
We also went to a place called Yaam (Young African Art Market). It is African-themed and on the Spree in Friedrichshain just behind the East Side Gallery. There is a bunch of really cool graffiti there a beach with sand volleyball, they play something called speedminton which is a mix of tennis and badminton, and basketball, plus the amazing smell of food! The government may be shutting it down in two months. I think our whole class signed the petition to keep it running though. It was a pretty cool place to be!
After our tour, we left for dinner at Dressler Restaurant. The only problem was that we couldn’t find our restaurant! Our study tour leaders kept taking us back and forth on the same street for at least an hour. Our reservation was for 7, but we literally did not get there until 8, if not later. Somebody finally found the restaurant. The sign for it was really small and obscure, so it was understandable that our study tour leaders couldn’t find it. Waiting that long made the food that much better too. I had the best tomato soup I’ve ever had there, and a delicious mushroom risotto!
Monday was our first day of academic visits. After eating breakfast, we left for the Center of Anatomy. The doctor told us a lot about medical school in Berlin, but the bulk of our visit was in the cadaver lab. I TOUCHED EVERYTHING! It might be weird to be this excited about looking at the human brain, liver, lungs, stomach, heart, and every muscle in the human body, but it was really cool! There was one whole body in the lab, and it was a little disturbing when the doctor uncovered the face, but I was quick to get over that fact
After that we went to the German Heart Institute in Berlin. It is a specialist center for heart treatment and is renowned worldwide. They did 1,765 heart transplants in the last year and they have the biggest program in the world for pediatric heart surgery. Every person in Germany has obligatory health insurance. If you don’t for some reason, the government will take care of it. Because the heart institute is so well known though for their amazing work, many international patients come here. Unfortunately, they need to pay in full. Also, it is a public hospital but I private institution, so they receive no funding from the government.
Our next stop was at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. For those of you who don’t know, Checkpoint Charlie got its name from the Western Allies during the Cold war, and it was the most frequented crossing point between East and West Berlin during the war. There were two other checkpoints, Autobahn and Bravo. If you haven’t noticed, the names start with the first three letters in the alphabet, so there was Checkpoint A, B, and C. The museum was very interesting. There were basically stories written around everywhere, and it took a while to find the English. Some of the stories were really interesting though. For example, there were stories of people putting loved ones in suitcases while trying to cross the border, or a man stealing the passport of a woman who looked like his fiance so he could be with her on the same side of the wall. My favorite story was about Raoul Wallenberg, and amazing Swedish architect, diplomat, and humanitarian. He was known Ifor successfully rescuing tens of thousands of Jews from Hazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust. On January 17, 1945 he was caught by the Red Army and was held on suspicions of espionage activity. It was said that he died in 1947 while still detained in Russia, but in actuality, nobody knows what has happened to him. He may still be alive for all we know. I can’t believe that one man did so much and saved so many lives. You should look more up about him if you get the chance!
We ended Monday at Fassbender & Rausch……the BEST CHOCOLATE STORE EVER! The store was amazing! There was chocolate from wall to wall and amazingly detailed chocolate sculptures of the major sites in Berlin. We went upstairs and all got to order some hot chocolate. Mine was 70% dark chocolate with orange. It was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. If you’re ever in Berlin and are of fan of chocolate, go there! I showed my itinerary for this trip to my host parents, and Steen got really excited when be saw that I was going to Fassbender & Rausch. Now I understand why.
On to Tuesday! We only had one academic visit and that was to the DRK Kliniken Berlin Köpenick. It took a lot of public transportation to get there. I forgot to mention that we took public transportation while in both Berlin and Poznan. I was always afraid that I would be that one person that the door closed on before I hopped on the train. Luckily that never happened to anybody! Anyway, back to the DRK. It was probably my least favorite visit on the whole trip because we sat in a lecture for the entirety of our visit. Some intersting points though is that it is a non-profit association and it follows the principles of the German Red Cross. First we watched a short clip about the hospital, and then we just had a Q & A session. The good thing that the doctor was very honest about the clinic and the health care system. After that we had lunch at a place called Brauhaus Mitte. Everybody was given a leg of pork except for me of course! I was not impressed with my lunch, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Then we went on the best tour I’ve ever head, the Berlin Fat Tire bike tour! Our tour guide was a hilarious Irish man who used to be an architecture student. He gave us so much information and made it fun and really interesting. We stopped at Checkpoint Charlie and the remaining part of the Berlin Wall. Whenever you see two rows of bricks on the streets in Berlin, that is where the Berlin Wall once stood. It’s hard for me to imagine how it was because the two rows of bricks are everywhere and don’t really follow a pattern. We also went to where Hitler’s bunker once was, which was where he spent the remainder of his life. The tour also took us to Luftwaffe Ministry. This was the HUGE headquarter building of the Nazi Luftwaffe Ministry and is now the main building of Germany’s Finance Ministry. Our tour guide was joking about how there are never good feelings about the building. First the Nazi’s, and now where you have to pay your taxes. We also saw the famous Brandenburg Gate, which was beautiful! While we were there, they switched on the lights because it was getting dark. The Victory Column was on our tour as well. It is a symbol for the victory for the Prussian army for their victory over the Danes, Austrians, and the French. The tower is topped by the goddess of victory, Victoria, and she is looking towards the direction of Paris. Out tour guide said that this was a kind of in your face thing for the French. 😛 Hitler actually relocated the tower for his plans to redesign Berlin. This probably saved the tower from being destroyed.
Me with my beautiful bike Versailles.
I’m sorry I keep going on and on about this tour, but it was awesome! We walked through the 2,711 block Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe designed by Peter Eisenman. I’m in a class called Holocaust and Genocide right now, so I had already learned a bit about it. For example, my professor told me the reason the memorial is on an undulating ground is because when the Jews were transported to concentration camps, they were alwasy taken at night so they had no sense of where they were heading. When they were walking around then, they could not see, so the memorial is supposed to make you feel like they did while walking on unknown ground to the camps. However, everything about the memorial is open for interpretation, which I think is the beauty of it. There was some controversy over the name because it was not only Jews who were victims of the Holocaust. Now there is a monument for the people who were persecuted for their sexual orientation across the street. The location of the memorial is in a great commercial location too, so some wanted it to be closer to where some concentration camps were because they thought it was more fitting. As I’ve said, Berlin has graffiti everywhere. You may ask why the memorial never has graffiti then? Well, a company said that they would provide a chemical agent for free and forever which would be put on the blocks so it would be impossible to vandalize the memorial. This company is also the company that provided the Nazi’s with the gas they used in gas chambers. As you can imagine, another source of controversy. We also saw the Soviet War Memorial, Bebelplatz, which is home of the Nazi book-burning on May 10, 1933, and of course, the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building. The book-burning Memorial was made by Micha Ullman. There is a glass plate in the cobblestone on the street, and when you look inside, there are just white, empty bookshelves to commemorate the book burning. There is also a quote by Heinrich Heine. The English translation is, “where they burn books, they ultimately burn people.” It was quite beautiful.
Memorial for the Murdered Jews
At the Reichstag.
Wednesday was our last day in Berlin. We had some time on our own, but it really wasn’t enough time to see everything. I went with some friends to the Topography of Terror Museum right next to the Berlin Wall. There was so much information on the Nazi regime and of WWII as a whole. Then we went souvenir shopping. We were going to go to the information center right under the Memorial for the Murdered Jews. But, the wait was an hour and we just didn’t have time. I’ll just have to come back to Berlin sometime! Who wants to join me? 🙂
Group picture at the Berlin Wall