Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peace Be The Journey- Berlin/Dresden, Germany

Heading into Germany I prepared myself for the hectic week ahead. First stop was Berlin, the epicentre of The Cold War, World War I, World War II and the Holocaust. Nine times bigger then the city of Paris, Berlin is ridiculously overwhelming. With every inch of it covered in history, the city itself was very interesting to the eye. Being desolated by war after war Berlin was completely rebuilt to its former state in the 50's. Although the buildings and cathedrals were created to look old and weathered like the originals to me there was no masking the devastation that had tore this city apart.

Not knowing where to even begin we jumped aboard a free walking tour of the city. The company Sandemans run numerous tours a day where you get to join for free and pay at the end how much you personally think the tour is worth. Starting off at the Brandon Berg Gates the tour runs for three hours stepping you through major sites such as Check Point Charlie, The Jews Memorial, Hitlers Bunkers, The T.V tower, The Berlin Wall, The Nazi Book Burning and so much more. It is the perfect introduction to all that has happened in Berlin and Germany as a whole. There is no such thing as information overload when it comes to Berlin. The more you know the more there is to know. 

The longing for more answers to the hundreds of unanswered questions that floated around in my head lead us to focus more of our time on World War II and The Holocaust. Which lead us to only one place, The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. When entering the big iron gates that hung the slogan "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Labour will set you free) my heart instantly sank. I didn't know what to expect and I didn't know how to feel. I won't dive to deeply into some of the sites I encountered on this tour, it is definitely not the easiest topic to openly discuss. What I can tell you is that The Sachsenhousen Camp is said to be the model camp for all other concentration camps, both in its design and in its treatment for its prisoners. Established in 1936 the camp was primarily used for political prisoners during World War II. There is no exact documented number of people that have both entered and died in Sachsenhausen. The closet record of any figure was only established in the last ten years when human ashes were found buried in the camp grounds, an astonishing number I think is best not to be reviled. I believe everybody once in there life should go to a concentration camp, the value it holds can not be explained only seen for yourself. 

After attending the concentration camp it was only necessary to back it up with The Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe and the Holocaust Museum which lies underneath. Created by a designer from New York, Peter Eisenman. The memorial took two years to create and piece together. Placed in amongst the busy city lies 19,000m2  of grey cement slabs. Rows of which line up in all different heights and levels. The artist never told anybody what his worked represented, it was said to be a blank canvas for ones own interpretation. Getting inspiration from the Jewish cemetery in Prague, I believe the slabs of cement represent the tombs of the deceast. I also think the obscure layout with all its different levels is meant to overwhelm and confuse you as walk through. The idea is to put you into a situation that makes you feel how you could imagine a Jewish person to feel at that time. As I said there are no right or wrong answers. It is up to ones interpretation.

The Holocaust Museum that lies underneath is phenomenal. It takes you through a timeline of all the events throughout the war and tells you stories of the families that were effected and killed throughout this devastating time. With postcards and journal notes written by prisoners as young as twelve years old. It was a gut-wrenching experience, one I will never forget. It showed you that the mass deaths weren't just another number in history. It took you deeper to see them as the individual human beings they were. 

Rest assured there is a lighter side to Berlin. The night life is said to be some of the best in all of Europe. With dinner and drinks starting at 10pm the night doesn't truly kick start till about 2am. If your not up to dancing until the afternoon the following day there are plenty of chilled bars to hit up. My two personal favourites, Berlin's oldest and biggest traditional beer garden Prater. Spend the evening outside amongst rows of treacle tables enjoying a sausage and stein full of local beer goodness under the fairy light sky. Another great spot is White Trash Fast Food. Its a quirky pub that is decked out in crazy decor and has a fun menu thats perfect for everyone. Downstairs is a great nightclub, smoking room and best of all a tattoo studio, which isn't the best combination after a couple cocktail jugs. I am still not sure how I managed to walk away without and inch of ink although I have plenty of time to make up for that. 

Berlin was a beautiful mess, such an emotional roller coaster. Needing a few days to ease our minds we stopped off at a near by little town Dresden. 

Bombed and completely destroyed at the very end of World War II, Dresden was rebuilt into an Old Town and New Town. Renowned for its porcelain the Old Town is a beautiful place to get lost and wander around aimlessly. What I enjoyed most about Dresden is the fact that there was no pressure to see certain landmarks or fall into tourist traps. Most of our time was spent in the New Town, with a 95% uni student population there is always something going on. By day we found the most amazing vintage shops, downed way to many milkshakes in search of an epiphany and drank our afternoons away with 80cent beers whilst people watching.

 At night the cool place to be was down at the Bermuda Triangle where the streets were filled with youths spilling out of bars and joining the already formed groups that just chilled casually on roads and footpaths. Picnics at the park were always my favourite way to end any night. Accompanied by our Dresden family two Melbourne Girls Carly and Rhiannon and Sydney girl Laura. We spent countless hours eating kebabs, downing 80c long neck beers and paying out James all whilst enjoying some tunes spilling out of the random parks duke box. Such a hard life but somebody has to do it.

Germany had come to a sweet end. With so much more of the country to left to see it felt almost wrong leaving. Reassured that this would not be the last of our time in Germany. I hoped back on the bus ready for yet another amazing European country. 

The Wanderer's Daughter xx         

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