So I failed at my attempt to try every single type of coffee that they offered at the hotel breakfast in Berlin. There were like 8 different kinds! I never got up early enough to have time to try more than one, but since today was the last the day there, that just means I have to come back to try again.
Since it was Easter (happy Easter btw), our first stop of the day was to a mass service for Easter and the kids who signed up to go were with Mr. Lane and Julie. The rest of us then headed to a museum, and let me tell you, the walk there was absolutely gorgeous. It had finally stopped drizzling and the sun was glistening off all of the domed roofs and the cobblestones and it was just so beautiful.
Anyways, we arrived at the DDR museum, which turned out to be possibly the most fun museum I've been to in a really long time. Think the Boston children's museum mixed with the science museum in the sense of fun and hands on stuff, but now picture it as an interactive historical museum about East Berlin under communism (1950s-80s). I guess kind of hard to imagine, but I just learned so much about what it must've been like to live in East Berlin then, and I had so much fun while doing it.
I'm pretty sure everyone's favorite part of the museum was the super cool "elevator" that transferred us to an apartment set in the 70s. The "elevator" basically just demonstrated how janky their elevators were, but it was kinda spooky the first time I went on it. The floor moved and jerked to demonstrate the shakiness, and it also involved flickering light and sounds you probably wouldn't want to hear while on an elevator. It was basically my worst elevator nightmare, but I had a lot of fun "riding" it a bunch of times afterward and showing other friends how it worked. I really enjoyed the museum.
After that, we met back up with the church-goers and went to a memorial commemorating the books burned during the Nazi regime. It was a large rectangle or square room underground that you looked into through glass from above. The walls were lined with white, empty book shelves. For how simple it seemed, I though it was very effective. Ms. Freeman even told us a story about people protesting it being destroyed to make space for a "car park" (that's a parking lot for my American folks) and that they ended up building the car park around the memorial because of the outrage.
Then we had lunch at a Turkish place, where I had doner and fries.
After that we headed to the Jewish Museum, where we specifically visited three areas:
1. The Garden of Exile
It was similar to the memorial for the 6 million Jews in the sense that it was also a maze of tall concrete slabs, but these were all the same height and had trees growing out of the tops of them. The ground was slanted, and the effect was strengthened (I think) since it rained today, so it was very slippery and we had to be extra careful. I lost the people I was walking through the exhibits with while I was in there, and even though it was so much smaller than the memorial for the 6 million Jews, it still took me longer to find them again than was comforting. I honestly felt a real sense of relief when I finally ran into them. After that we headed to...
2. The Holocaust Tower
Now, when I say this place was suffocating, I mean it literally. I really did feel a heaviness on my chest when I walked into the exhibit. The tower was as tall as a building, that's maybe three stories, and it's walls slanted up into a hexagon shape at the top. You walked into it and all you could do was look up and feel how massive it was and small you were. The only light was a short diagonal slant at the top of the tower. It was really cold and it was designed so you could hear the noises from outside. It was extremely chilling.
3. The Memory Void
"Shalekhet", or Fallen Leaves, was created by Menashe Kadishman, and it was 10,000 heavy iron plates cut to resemble faces, laid out as almost a thick rug on the ground. I don't think I really have words for it, I can't explain how it felt. But for me, it was intense. I think it's one of the most effective memorials I've seen so far.
Following the museum, it was time to go back to the hotel, grab our bags, and get to the airport. We walked back, and walking through Berlin really feels amazing. I really miss how clean it smelled. We walked past two playgrounds, and I'm jealous of the kids who get to play on them because they looked super fun.
But we finally got back to the hotel and boarded the bus. Good bye Berlin! I'll miss you a lot!
As we were driving to the airport, I saw five different casinos, one right after the other, it was the most bizarre thing ever. We also passed the Victory Column, and it was very beautiful.
The plane we took to Poland was very strange to me. It was pretty small, but the weird thing for me was that the wings were attached to the top of the plane, not the sides, and they had propellers on them. The whole flight was incredibly loud and jerky, and it took me longer than I'd like to admit to figure out how the sink in the bathroom worked, but the view was so beautiful.
Once we landed and got our bags, we got on another bus (which we learned was special because they got a new, bigger one specifically for us since we're such a big group) and started the drive to Oswiecim. The countryside was quiet and picturesque. The houses were very colorful, which I liked, and everything was a lot more spread out than in Germany.
When we got to Oswiecim and the hotel (aka the former SS barracks we were staying at), we all got a little bit nervous. It's kind of creepy knowing that after I write this that I'm going to be sleeping in the same place that a man who aided in the killing of countless innocent victims in the holocaust slept, and that just across the street from us, literally, is the concentration camp Auschwitz I. I'm nervous to visit tomorrow, but I am also interested in seeing it for myself.
Frohe Oster (Happy Easter)!!!
Today was our last day in Berlin. First we split up into the group who went to Easter mass and another group who went to the DDR museum. I went to the DDR museum. As we were walking to the museum we walked past the Berliner Dom; it was really beautiful because the bells were ringing for Easter and the morning sun was shining on it.
The DDR museum is an interactive museum that is about life under the Soviets in East Germany. It was very interesting because we got a different perspective about what life was like. The museum didn't only talk about how there was little food available or the restrictions of living under a communist rule. It also talked about what these people did for fun, what their houses looked like and where they went for vacations (nudist beaches apparently!)
For lunch we went to a Turkish restaurant which was really good! After lunch we went to the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Unfortunately we did not have that much time there since we had to get to the airport. However what we did see was really amazing. We saw the holocaust tower which is a naturally lit unseated concrete tower. When you go inside of it you really get the feeling of being alone even when there were other people in the tower as well. It also evokes the feeling of helplessness because you feel very small standing in the tower.
Next we saw The Garden of Exile which is slightly similar to the Jewish memorial in Berlin in that it is also concrete blocks standing on an uneven surface. When you walk through the blocks you loose your way a bit and feel very unstable due to the changing elevations of the ground.
Lastly we saw the Fallen Leaves exhibit which is a room where people walk over 1,000 metal faces. They represent the innocent people lost during war and walking over them shows that we often forget about them and their lost lives. I thought that all of these exhibits were very interesting and effective in getting their point across. My personal favorite was the Fallen Leaves exhibit due to the interactive nature and how it makes you really think about all of these innocent people lost during wartimes.
Unfortunately, we had to leave the museum to get on our plane to Poland!
Today we were really sad to leave Berlin but we're excited for what Poland will bring us!
Happy Easter! Today was a nice relaxing day.
For the day's first event, our group split up, with some of us going to church and the rest of us going to a museum. I went to church and it was quite the experience. The building was beautiful inside and filled with incense that rose to the top of the dome. The mass was in German, with a bit of Latin, and though I couldn't understand much, it was beautiful. The orchestra and choir were what made the mass so impressive. They played and sang for the majority of the mass.
After we left the church, we saw the memorial of the book burning just outside. We then set out for our last meal in Germany for this first third of the trip.
After lunch we visited the Jewish Museum, which I found to be pretty powerful. The three exhibits Ms. Freeman told us to visit were definitely the most powerful. The fallen leaves exhibit, the garden of exile, and the holocaust remembrance tower were so well thought out and created emotions in me that would be hard to achieve without so much thought. I think the remembrance tower was my favorite, particularly because I walked in and just stood looking around the tall, cold, and empty tower feeling a helplessness and longing that actually left me speechless.
When we left the museum, we made our way to the airport and departed for Poland. Many of us were tired during the flight and after it, but I could not contain my excitement. Being 100% Polish and visiting Poland for the first time was truly an amazing experience. The plane touched down and all I could think was "Jestem domu" (I'm home). I couldn't help but smile and not stop. The ride to Oswiecim was very beautiful and I couldn't take enough pictures of the incredible landscape. I'm so happy to be here.
But then I realized tonight would not be the fun night in Poland. Tonight we sleep across the street from Auschwitz. And tomorrow we visit Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau. I just don't feel right. Just being here I feel so spiritually unsettled and I fear for tomorrow. So much horror and I am about to become a second hand witness. I also however look forward to the enjoyment of this beautiful country and I have faith that we will, as a group, be there for each other during the emotionally difficult parts of the trip, and enjoy the lighter moments together.