Lessons from Berlin

Berlin is a city full of history pertaining to both World War II and the Soviet Union. My time there was focused on these events, as well as making up silly German-Dutch-esque words with Danielle and Sam. (We’re convinced this new language will win us a Nobel Peace Prize).

When we first arrived in Berlin, we weren’t able to check into our hostel yet, so we dropped off our things and went for a walk. We grabbed lunch at a fish market and walked around a nearby mall where there were two grocery stores on the basement floor. When it was time to check in, the first order of business was to take a nap. It was fan-freaking-tastic.

Fun Fact: I’m sleep derived.

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After the nap, we woke up and went looking for bits of the Berlin Wall. We found a spot where sections were still up, along with informational signs. While we were there, two people my age were walking around with a petition for fairer treatment to the deaf community and asking for donations. We all signed it, but I didn’t donate because I’m on a very right budget. Later, it was discovered that these people go around with this fake petition preying on tourists like sneaky panhandlers. Disgusting.

After we walked around the Wall park, we ended up a museum called Topography of Terror (via free admission). It was about the Nazi Regime with specific regard to Berlin. They had many mini Berlin dioramas set up to the time, showing where different offices and headquarters were located. They also had all sorts of primary documents to look over, as well as video/audio recordings of things like Himmler telling German troops that they must blindly follow anything Hitler says in order to be good soldiers. These outings made me really think about how dangerous nationalism can be, and how relevant the history of Berlin is to the future of America….

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We finished the night at tapas bar called Barcelona, then headed back to bed.

Fun Fact: tapas are amazing. I won’t have a chance to visit Spain again this trip, but I studied in Granada a couple summers ago and visited Barcelona last year. In Granada, when you order a drink, you get a FREE plate of tapas. Every. Time. It’s honestly the best.

The next morning began with a trip to the mall supermarket for a budget breakfast that was consumed in a rose garden. We walked past Check Point Charlie, which was a gate between the east and the west of Berlin, then we headed to a company called Berliner Underwoten that does tours of Cold War-era underground bunkers. This was the COOLEST and I highly recommend it to anyone in Berlin. Unfortunately, pictures weren’t allowed inside because many of the artifacts on display were lent from other museums.

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After the bunkers, I needed to do laundry. At Berlin City Hostel, laundry not only costs €6.50 but it also takes forever. I put my laundry in the washing machine, whose timer read 75 minutes. Just enough time for Sam and I to convince Danielle that we had to watch the brand new season of Orange is the New Black (my favorite show). When the time was done, I went back down to the laundry room find my clothes on the counter, soaking wet, while someone else’s clothes were already in the washer. Bluh- common room laundry is the worst. I put it in the dryer whose timer read close to 2 hours. More OITNB it was. When the timer was supposed to be done, I went down to check on it again, and found the timer was still at over an hour, and my laundry was still soaked. The laundry fiasco lasted a total of 6 hours – great for Netflix, not great for being in Berlin.

In the meantime, Sam somehow managed to wave to a German 16 year old out the window who then walked upstairs and knocked on our door to introduce herself. Lucky for Sam, there was a German school trip staying on our floor.

Once laundry was done, we decided to head back to Barcelona to drink some amazing sangria. Then we headed back to the hostel to chat with these German teenagers until the hostel staff told us the porch was closed. I got them to take a picture with Mauricio.

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The following morning, we had to pack and get out. We left our luggage with the hostel and went out for brunch. Then, we set out to visit 3 different gin distilleries as official St. Augustine Distillery business. (I’ll be writing all about these soon).

Fun Fact: my Florida job is that of a tour guide at the St. Augustine Distillery, where we produce the Best Craft Gin in America. Check it out.

After this research/day drinking was through, we headed to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The actual memorial is sort of like an abstract graveyard, with stone blocks of varying sizes spread out across a city block. Underneath is a free museum. It was really intense but completely amazing and necessary.

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After the museum, we headed to East Side Gallery. This “gallery” was simply a length of the Berlin Wall covered in graffiti. It was honestly so cool. We walked the length of it then headed back to our hostel to chill with the Germans again before grabbing our luggage and heading to our night bus to Krakow, Poland.

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That bus was no fun. We started out each with our own row consisting of two seats. After multiple pickup stops, we were squished into a full bus. Not only was it physically uncomfortable, but it took about 4 hours longer than it was scheduled to because of the Corpus Christi holiday that led to gridlock traffic. Instead of 8 am, we arrived in Krakow close to noon…

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