Sunday, August 10, 2008

Berlin, Germany

On Wednesday, 6 August, about half of the passengers on our ship (pretty much all the Americans) took a three-hour train ride from our port on the coast of Germany to spend the day in Berlin. It was quite a long day (we departed at 6:45 AM and returned at about 9 PM), but it was definitely worth it to see the myriad of historically important sites in Berlin. After our train arrived in Berlin, we boarded a tour bus, on which was waiting for us the craziest tour guide you could ever imagine. His name was Burkhart, and he was probably the most flamboyant (yet straight) person I have ever met. My sister Jessie and a couple of our friends spent most of the tour laughing at his antics and trying to capture them on video. Seeing as we were all running on less than three hours of sleep (we’ve been having a little too much fun), Burkhart was probably the only thing keeping us awake for most of the tour.

Anyway, sorry for the tangent. After becoming acquainted with Burkhart, we were first taken to visit a surviving section of the Berlin Wall. The wall is covered with graffiti, but it is strangely beautiful. Some of it is extremely goofy – for instance, there was a picture of a dinosaur along with a hilarious quote that is unfortunately not appropriate for me to copy here. A good deal of the graffiti, though, is meaningful in some way – politically, socially, morally, or otherwise. One thing that caught my eye was the words, written in small letters, “¿Cuándo dejará Colombia de sangrar?” which means (translated from Spanish), “When will Colombia stop bleeding?” I found it quite poignant that many travelers to Berlin had found some hope for their own homelands in the fact that Berlin’s painful struggle had ended.

^Berlin Wall

Our next stop was Checkpoint Charlie, which was the portal of sorts through which diplomats, officials, etc. could pass legally between East and West Berlin. It was the third of three checkpoints in the wall – the first two were on the outer edges of the city, and were named Alpha and Bravo. Afterwards, we visited the Pergamon Museum and ate a delicious lunch at the Palace of the Princes. We drove by the Holocaust Memorial, which I found strangely overwhelming, considering it consists simply of 2,711 slabs of concrete. Next was Brandenburg Gate, which was formally located inaccessibly between the two halves of the Berlin Wall. Finally, we listened to an organ concert at the beautiful (and huge) Berlin Cathedral, which I particularly enjoyed.

^Checkpoint Charlie

^Pergamon Museum

^Holocaust Memorial

^Brandenburg Gate

^Berlin Cathedral

As you can imagine, after such a long and intriguing day, the train ride back to our port involved lots of sleeping.

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