Saturday, October 1, 2011

Barcelona: Day 38 : Deutschland!

Today, I was so stoked because we were flying from Berlin. After being here for a bit, one thing I know for certain is that I loveeee hearing German so much more than Spanish. We had to be up and at 'em early, and everyone was definitely yawning as we hopped on the metro and then the train to get to El Prat de Llobregat airport. I was doing my best to keep track of everything so that I would know how to get there on my own when the Dublin trip happens. We got on airberlin and had a lovely flight over the Pyrenees into the Berlin airport.

Instantly you notice some changes, the major one being the way people look and speak. Obviously the language is different -- but then there is the lighter skin, and Germans are a lot taller. Some people you see almost make you chuckle to yourself, because they are literally the most stereotypically-looking German you have ever seen. I apparently look pretty German, because the flight attendants spoke to be in German, as well as a few people. I have no problem with that at all! It's nice to actually fit in for once. It is just such a breath of fresh air to be here, and the German that I took at Clemson is already starting to come back.

Once we checked into our hotel (which was super nice, by the way!) we headed out for our first day of walking. First stop? The Berlin Wall. This border was built in WWII because the life in West Berlin was so much easier than that in the east. The East was suffering under Communism, and even the currency was different, with West Berlin's money being worth 4x as much. Because of the mass movement from one half of the city to the other, the border was made.

this area in between the 2 walls, in addition to being called No Man's Land, was also called the Death Zone

you can see people have chiseled out chunks of the wall as keepsakes
The wall was really oddly placed, because the line dividing west and east Berlin literally runs down the middle of a street -- when the wall was built, your neighbors on the other side of the street literally disappeared from vision. The street has since been moved, but the original streetlights have been left there to show how it was.

Now, in the original space of No-Man's Land, there lies exhibition/park space. It's all very green, and in one area some apartments where some architects live have popped up, but people are still very uneasy about living in such a place with such a brutal history.

The park provides a look into personal stories, and some little 'archeological windows' into old foundations of watch towers, guard houses, and other things. In some ways, as Kathrin said, it almost seems "overdesigned." There is borderline too much stuff there to really concentrate on the thing that matters -- and that is the wall itself.

Also in this area lies a chapel, in the place of an old chapel that was destroyed during the war. It was literally behind the wall, and thus it was inaccessible anyways for people. Now that the wall has been torn down and the reunification has happened, a new chapel is available for use.

Here's a little bit about the history of Berlin:
In 1244, Berlin began as a merchant town. Eventually they asked for protection from the Roman emperor, and it was granted. Several countries merged together to become Germany, and Berlin was unified.

During the Great Depression, many had it very hard, but Berlin flourished. Especially important were the avant-garde artists of the area.

In 1936 Berlin housed the Olympic Games, but this was overshadowed by the amount of militarization that was going on in the area. Once WWII was underway, all the Allied forces almost got into a bit of a race as to who could get to Berlin first and free its people. WWII, I would imagine, is a very sore subject for many of the Germans. The important thing to remember is that the people here today are most likely not the ones responsible for anything like that. It needs to be accepted, talked about, and discussed, but we should not barge in and start blaming people for things. One interesting thing is that everyone knows someone who was somehow involved -- someone who had some personal experience with the Berlin wall, or some close family member who remembers WWII to a T. Honestly, how could you forget such an experience.

As WWII progressed Berlin became dwindling into ruins, as starvation run rampant throughout the city. But things began to change once the Allied forces got there. The city was divided up into 4 parts, so that each country of the Allies could control a part and the job was split up. The US was working in West Berlin. Food was airlifted over the Wall to the East-Berliners (or in German, Ost-Berliners) and in 1999 the government finally moved back to Berlin, as the occupation of foreign soldiers was over. To me, it's crazy that soldiers were occupying their country for that long. I can't imagine walking around in the US and seeing soldiers that were not even a part of our country. I'm just thankful we've never had to go through that.

From that point, we walked through a Turkish part of Berlin, as they have a huge neighborhood there. This is actually the place where the delicious and cheap Döner Kebap was invented! It's like a completely different world in this Turkish sector, and even though all the people look middle-eastern they all speak German too! It's really weird. I love walking around crowded areas, because I can catch German here and there and understand more or less what is going on. This is very strange, because even though I took 10 years of Spanish, I almost feel more comfortable with my German. Maybe this is just because the Germans tend to speak a little bit slower, so it's easier to understand.
a market that we walked through, jam-packed full of Turkish people and Germans alike!
Later in the night we stopped at a place to eat that is underneath one of the train stations. Oh! I should talk about those. The system is really sweet in Germany -- There are a bunch of above-ground trains, and so you can view the city while you go through it. There are also high speed trains, and to add to an already stockpiled list of public train transportation, there is an underground metro. There is nothing to really stamp tickets or count rides when you get on, so it's just sort of go on and go on your way. There are apparently people that ride on there also that could potentially check your ticket to make sure you have one, but so far we haven't gotten stopped.

So anyways, we stopped at the Tiergarten stop and ate at this place that was underneath the tracks (since they are above ground). Let me just say, this was some of the most delicious food I've ever had. The portions were absolutely humongous, and we all got to try to beer that is a festive beer served only during the Oktoberfest season. It was really delicious, and though I am not usually a fan of lighter beers, this one was delish. It may have been a bit pricier, but I swear it was worth every penny (especially since Clemson was footing the bill for this dinner...) I can't wait for more from this place! I'm absolutely loving it.

schnitzel cordon bleue. it may not look like it, but it's HUGE!

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