Sunday, 8 February 2015

Inter-rail: Berlin

Warning: super photo heavy post coming through. I had my Berlin briefing at college the week before last as I'm going to Berlin on the 23rd with college, so I thought I'd do a round up of my trip to Berlin which I did in Summer whilst inter-railing with my 4 best friends as I'm getting really excited to return and my post about Amsterdam was so popular! I'm going there to do research for my final project. I have no idea what topic to do it on ARGH.  

Berlin day 1 

So technically we got to Berlin on the 26th of July, but very late evening and then we went out that night so I'm classing the first day of Berlin as the 27th. We had a lie in that first day because we were knackered after travelling and then going out that night. We decided to treat ourselves to the first proper hot cooked meal of the inter-railing trip this day and didn't really look around to find somewhere decent as we were starving so we just popped over the road from our hostel to an Italian restaurant (how very... German) that actually turned out to have really tasty food. The waiter was kinda weird though. We got more into the spirit of German cuisine later in the day haha I assure you. 

The 27th of July was a Sunday and so Mauer Market was open and so after our lunch we decided to go there and have a little look around, only expecting to window shop as our houses were on our backs for the next 3 weeks so anything we bought was extra weight. It was different to what I expected, it was a little more like an indie yard sale/car boot (just without the cars) as one half of it was people selling their own bits and bobs which they didn't really want any more. Proper stalls were there too though, but for the most part I actually enjoyed the yard-saley section a little more - more bargains (and I love a bargain.) It took us quite a while to walk around it all as it was massive! A lot bigger than I thought it would be. In fact, we had a break mid snooping in order to have a freshly squeezed orange juice (well worth the money, and we had to get vitamins from somewhere!) on the grass area in front of the market. There was musicians there and quite a lot of people joined in and danced/sang with them. Literally think of anything in the world, I can assure you that it is sold at Mauer Market. I bagged myself a black vintage suede over sized jacket, a leather bag and a pair of satin shorts and I think I only spent about €15! After looking around the rest of the market, our feet were killing us so we sat on the grassed area a bit longer and left at around 5.30. I'd recommend Mauer Market to anyone who loves a good market or bargain. 

When we got back to the hostel, we dumped our stuff and headed to Alexanderplatz and got a curry wurst from a crappy little food shop for about €2.50 (I ended up living off the stuff). Alexanderplatz had been transformed into a festival type thing with clothing, jewellery, food stalls everywhere and entertainment including singers, comedians, magicians and musicians so we stayed there a while. 

Berlin day 2 

We decided to do a free 4-hour walking tour on the 28th. It was a bit of an effort to start off with because we were ready for 12.35 downstairs in the reception of the hostel, the "meeting point" according to both the leaflet and the receptionist but then when no one arrived we asked a different receptionist and he said they only did that on certain days and that we'd have to go to the original meeting place - a place that we had no idea where it was!! We did a mad rush there using every transport known to man - walked, ran, trammed, taxied (which is a RIP OFF by the way - don't do it! Cost us about €10 for a 5 minute journey, if that! Extortionate) and only just made it in time for the tour. They were walking away from the meeting place! Thank God we made it, after looking back it was one of my favourite days of the entire trip (maybe, kinda, I don't know - I enjoyed everyday to be honest). The tour guide was brilliant, funny (mainly sarcastic - good) and knew his stuff, also he was a brit so he liked us, which was maybe why I enjoyed it so much! It's essential that you get a good guide, or the tour can be dull and tedious! 

The first place we visited was the Brandenburg Gate which was very grand and is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin. We walked through the centre and began walking at the other side of it in order to see the path of where the berlin wall ran (which is still visible because the bricks are horizontal.) We walked through a lush park to the Roma & Sinti memorial centre is which is called 'The Memorial to the Roma & Sinti of Europe Murdered Under National Socialism'. It was reasonably small and plain but I think that allowed mourners and people paying respect to the deceased to be focused and not distracted by a big fancy memorial so kept the attention on the meaning for the memorial. It was a reasonably small pond in the centre of a space which had a stone slab in the centre that had 1 fresh flower on it which is replaced daily and a poem written in the pond which was carved into the wall of Autwitz by a poet. t was translated into English as well as being written in German. The poem was short and simple but vert powerful, especially knowing the history of it all. The guide, Alex, said that most walking tours don't come to this memorial, preferring to visit the famous Holocaust Memorial instead but I'm glad he showed us both as it's quite thought provoking to see them both. 

We went to the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" after that via the Reischtag (only a quick stop there to see the outside of the building - I want to have a better look on my trip.) The Jewish memorial wasn't what I expected at all. It is made up of hundreds of big plain grey rectangles. From an aerial view, it looks to be in a geometric shape but from the ground you are unable to see that and it looks rather 'random' in my opinion. It was impressive in size, the largest block being 8 feet high) and interesting inside, it felt like a maze as you got lost so quickly (perhaps a metaphor?) The only problem with it, I felt, was there was no obvious remembrance to the lives, or deaths, of the Jews who lost their lives. There names aren't anywhere on these rectangles and for me, it seems like they have just disappeared. It just looked like art to me. Alex explained some theories behind the memorial design, such as, if you look from a certain direction, the paths through the blocks seem to point towards the forest, which is supposed to represent hope, but they are all speculations and no one knows the real reason behind the design. 

We wandered a bit more before coming to the memorial for the man who came the closest to assassinating Hitler. This memorial was really cool I thought. From most angles it looked like a random piece of squiggly metal  but at the correct angle, you could see that it's the portrait of the profile of the man's face. I loved it. Next we went to the Bundes Ministerium der Finanzen, which was the Air and Nautical Administration Building for the Nazi's - the last remaining Nazi building. There is now a painting on the side of the building displaying the 'ideal life & family' but according to Alex, the artist had to change his original painting so much to suit the governments wants that he ended up hating it, which upsets me. 

After a quick drink stop we headed to Check Point Charlie, which wasn't what I expected either! I thought it would be some kind of monument or something but in fact, it's just an area which is occupied by a fake army base where tourists can take pictures. I was a little disappointed but understanding the history of it, I am glad I went there. We finished our tour around the corner from Check Point Charlie because there was a bit of cool street art (Berlin is full of it) that Alex wanted to show us. It was really amusing and featured a lot of crude images and ideas, which he explained to us. 

Berlin day 3 

We loved the walking tour so much that we decided to do the "Alternative tour". The first street art we came to was by an artist called Alice Pasquini who comes from Rome but does a lot of her art in Berlin. She used similar Roman colours such as blues and yellow, reds and greens. It was a self portrait called "suspender". We then went to a squatter area which has been transformed into a cool area by people's street art - one reason why street are is encouraged in Berlin as it gives value to sometimes 'grotty' places. There are now cool parties held there and the area as a whole had a cool vibe to it due to the copious amount of street art. I can't possibly talk to you about all the amazing artists and art I discovered, you really do need to see it for yourselves - the pictures do not do them justice. After the tour was over, we went to 'Hamy's' the 'best Vietnamese restaurant in Berlin', a recommendation from Alex. Me and Annie shared the chicken soup and the chicken curry, both of which were delicious. We continued our artistic and cultural exploration, visiting the East Side Gallery next. It was so amazing. I felt like some of the art work was a little basic, unoriginal and lacked imagination but the symbolism for each piece was so obvious that it didn't really matter and on the most part, I loved them. I could appreciate the theme of freedom in each piece. 

On the last day, we went to Museumstistel, or museum island, and finished off our stay in Berlin with a visit to Berlin's National Art Gallery before heading to the station to carry on our adventures in Prague (with Curry Wurst on the way of course.) 

Gee xxx

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