The sites we visited today were closely tied to issues in the present day. The juxtaposition of Syrian protesters alongside the Brandenburg Gate provided us with the realization that issues tied to racial and religious prejudice so overtly plaguing Germany in the past continue to scourge not only this country but worldwide. The protesters were also very close to the memorial to the Murdered Sinti and Roma, another group throughout Europe that continues to be targeted and unfairly treated. What we saw today expressed that the issues we learn about on this trip, like the past events of war and genocide, are not only things that we read about in textbooks but rather things that happen to real people currently. In visiting the Bundestag we could also see the endurance of social issues and divisions, as we could see how German lawmakers continue to pass laws concerning the lives and treatment of their citizens and people around the world.
Additionally, in learning about the Berlin Wall and the several fatal attempts to gain freedom in the west illustrates the fragility and near-preciousness of democracies at a global level. As Americans we often take for granted our ability to speak and act freely, and being able to stand in the exact spot that those elementary freedoms were stripped from people is something almost impossible to comprehend. Walking along different areas of the wall and being able to view Berlin from the top of the museum made the irrationality of dividing a city and the seemingly immature and hasty decision to separate ideology and citizens even more inconceivable. How the Berlin Wall served as a manifestation of the division of rhetoric and political and social values is resounding, and illustrates how deeply the contrasting principles governing the east and west were engrained to everyday life in Europe.
Today contrasted from other days on the trip as the sites we viewed today clearly showed that as many improvements and advances we have made in the treatment and tolerance of different groups of people, many remain disenfranchised and ignored. The primal rights and ambitions of these people cannot be denied, and in today's political climate, the urgency of these issues seems to be especially remarkable.
The trip has been absolutely amazing so far. I'm loving Berlin and all there is here. The food is delicious, the people are nice and the buildings are just beautiful.
This morning, after breakfast we headed out to see the remnants of the Berlin Wall. Seeing tup close really made me think of how drastically different life must have been in East and West Berlin.
A peer told us a story about a man who in order to escape East Berlin, made his own air balloon out of a motorcycle motor and not only flew into West Berlin but way past. After American soldiers found him, he was able to live his life on West Berlin! After seeing the walls, we saw an actual part of the wall intact with a no man’s land. Ms. Freeman told us that the width of each no man's land between the two walls varied but I found it to be quite wide. Little did I know that the width of this wall was considered narrow! Then I began to realize the bravery of those who made an attempt to escape for the sake of their lives. These men, women and children had to risk everything in order to cross the Berlin Wall. And it was certainly not easy with the no man’s land and watchtowers. We then visited the Mauer museum dedicated dedicated to the Berlin Wall where we gazed at photos between 1961 to 1989 and heard stories of those who escaped East Berlin. As part of the museum, there was a remade watch tower that we could climb. We could see everything from up there. Overall I thought it was such an inspiring experience seeing the Berlin Wall and acknowledging the challenges that many people had to go through.
The next stop was so to see the remains of the border houses. Here we took shelter from the rain and read about the influence of these border houses during the time the walls were up. Then we had lunch at the Haeckescher Market which had plenty of small carts, textiles, and gorgeous flowers! The neighborhood was quite beautiful with plenty of small shops and alleyways. For lunch, I had a Doner Kebab sandwich which was so delicious and flavorful, oh and cheap!
After lunch, we went to the Rosenstrasse Memorial which was dedicated to the women who protested the release of their Jewish and part Jewish husbands captured by the Nazis in 1943. The memorial had figures of women kneeling to their captured husbands and pleading for their release. I found the memorial to be quite beautiful and perfectly placed.
Before heading to the Berliner Dom we saw the head of Nefertiti at the Neues Museum which was so beautiful, her features were perfectly preserved. Next we went to the Berliner Dom which is the big cathedral that lasted during the wars, despite its slightly dusty appearance on the outside, the inside of the cathedral was absolutely breathtaking. My love for cathedrals has certainly grown!
Next stop was the Pariser Platz, which is this beautiful square in central Berlin right at the Brandenburg gate, here we also saw Hotel Adlon which was the hotel Michael Jackson draped his son Blanket on the hotel balcony.
The first memorial we saw today was dedicated to the Roma and Sinti group who was also targeted by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Here I have attached a bit of what I wrote in my journal (see photo at the bottom of this post).
Bundestag time! This was the large building that currently holds the German parliament and former Reichstag. The most interesting part was seeing the graffiti by the SS soldiers in 1945 on the many walls within the building. I was so impressed by the architect and elegance of the building along with its modern wing where we saw the Parliament room and the beautiful dome up top with gorgeous views of the city from all sides. This was definitely a highlight of my day.
After the Bundestag we visited the memorial dedicated to the homosexuals persecuted during the Holocaust. It was nice however I wish there was more to it, many of us thought the same time thing. Next stop was the memorial for the disabled which was a blue wall representing the color of the triangles many disabled people had to wear. The memorial was quite informative and definitely relayed the message.
Dinner time! I had an amazing dinner with Marina, Isabelle, Paloma, Cole and Claire. We found an Indian Restaurant in the Potsdamer Platz area which was quite affordable and delicious. I loved being able to connect with my peers during this dinner especially those I never had the chance to get to know. We ended the night with ice cream of Haagen Dazs which was so yummy! Banana Chocolate Brownie all day all night!
Today was an amazing day and I'm glad I had the privilege of attending this trip. I can't wait to see what else Poland and the Czech Republic has in store. Gutenacht to all! :)
Today was filled with many eye-opening things. First, seeing the Berlin Wall was extremely interesting because it's something I've learned a lot about in school. Something new I learned was that there were two walls separating the east and west, making it even harder to escape the horrific life east Berliners had to live. The Berlin Wall museum was interesting as well, because they had many stories of people who attempted to cross the wall, some who succeeded, many who didn't. The stories amplified how bad life was in east Germany, because people were willing to do almost anything to escape.
We visited many memorials, but my favorite was the one dedicated to the Disabled who the Nazis targeted. It was a long sheet of blue see through material on the side of a busy road. I interpreted it to mean that disabled people see the same world as us just a little differently, because when you look through the memorial your vision is a little skewed. I liked how it didn't explicitly say what it was about because it makes people stop and think about the meaning.
I also really enjoyed the market we went to for lunch. It gave us a view of what Berlin is really like. There were so many different kinds of foods you could buy, all for an affordable price so that you could try so many things.