The departure from Nuremberg was an exciting one: we were going to be meeting a childhood friend of Abby and Emily’s in Berlin. Taryn has traveled in Europe numerous times before and has studied in Spain for an extended amount of time. We were all excited to meet a fellow American in a city that none of us have ever been to before and share in some experiences that will last a lifetime.
We arrived on a Friday and checked in to our hostel. We booked a 6 bed between the four of us because it was cheaper. However, when we checked in they gave us a 4 bed private, saving us money and giving us a space to our own. We went out Friday for some supper and beers, trying our first Berlin curry-wurst and catching up with Taryn on our travels and what was new in our lives. After supper we went to another bar, and after a few drinks I split up from the ladies and made my way to the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag building. I accidentally stumbled upon a projection video of the history of the Berlin Wall and the split of East-West Berlin next to the Reichstag. The video was overwhelming, showing the lives of the citizens and having very personal interviews and clips that were recorded during the struggle that carried on more than 30 years. I wandered back towards the hostel and coincidentally met up with the ladies after they had some snacks at McDonald’s after a night of drinking.
Saturday arrived and we made some separate plans. I had spoke to a friend in Zeilhard and he said you could not miss two museums in Berlin: the Pergamon Museum and the Neues Museum. Lucky for me, they were part of a “buy one ticket get into both” kind of deal. The Pergamon Museum was full of Roman, near Middle-Eastern and Islam exhibits while the Neues Museum houses one of the biggest Ancient Egyptian collections outside of Cairo. They were both beautiful, fascinating and worth the time and money.
(Emily & Taryn) As Caleb was exploring the museum, we ladies had quite the experience of our own. We started the day off with no plans other than to explore the city and see the Berlin Wall. As we made our way toward the historic city division, we began to frantically Google more about the history of the Wall (since we lost our tour guide for the day!). When we reached the remains, we began to realize the true magnitude and importance of the area. We spent hours learning about the citizens from both sides of the Wall, the Communist East and Democratic West, and how their lives were impacted by the building of the Wall by the Eastern government. Reading about stories of the families who were literally separated forever by an unjust government overnight, we truly understood the importance of educating ourselves about our history as to not repeat it; in the current political climate, this seems more pertinent now than ever.
As we were finishing the last section of the Berlin Wall, we suddenly heard extremely loud music, so of course, Emily wanted to follow it. We stumbled upon a completely unexpected surprise; a parade of live music, from techno to reggae to some music we have yet to identify. Utterly confused and too shy to ask anyone, we did the only thing we could think of: get a beer and ask the bartender. It turns out we had run into the Love Parade, Berlin’s version of the Gay Pride Parade. The road was shut down and was flooded with people from babies to grandparents, who all seemed to be partying harder than we were. After a couple beers we were feeling less out of place and started dancing and walking in the parade itself. I wish we could share all the things we saw during the love parade but we will try to keep this blog G-rated. Let’s just say there was no judgment… or police. Sadly, it was a rainy day. Once it started trickling we made our way to a restaurant for a snack, beer, and coffee for the weak. 😉 Once we were at the restaurant it started pouring and we realized we ended up walking 3 miles away from our hostel!! Luckily, there is no open container law in Berlin (like most of Europe) so we had some road beers for the way home that made the trip go by just a little bit faster. Stumbling upon the Love Parade was a complete accident, but it was my favorite part of Berlin. We are slowly starting to learn that accidents lead to the best times and stories.
(Caleb) Taryn was in Berlin to visit her boyfriend, Scott, who was working with his father at a fashion expo to help sell and gain suitors for business from their Dutch-based clothing line, Isla Ibiza Bonita. We planned on meeting Scott in the evening for dinner and decided to use the day as a way to site-see another part of Berlin as we walked to meet him. We passed by the Reichstag and under the Brandenburg Gate and wandered through Tiergarten Park. Berlin, unfortunately, had quite a bit of rain throughout most of the time we were there, leading us to bounce from bar to bar on our way to meet Scott that day (unfortunately? Psh, it was perfect). We stopped in at a Greek restaurant around 2 pm to quench our thirst. After a drink or two, the waiter dropped four sambuca (tastes like Rumplemintz or Jaegermeister, ugh) shots on our table. We took the shots with regret and finished our beers. Lo and behold, ANOTHER round of sambuca shots were set down for us after we took the first. Taryn and Abby wanted to get theirs out of the way and took them immediately, while Emily and I paused, wondering if they would torture us with more if we finished them. We waited until we were ready to leave to take the final two shots, choked them down and continued on down the road to meet Scott for dinner. Our friend, Tom, was also arriving in Berlin as he was continuing on his trek across Europe on his bicycle. He, too, met us for supper at a local restaurant where we watched Germany take on Chile in the final for the Confederation Cup.
The following day we made plans to do some site-seeing with Scott and his family. We met them at the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, close to the Brandenburg Gate. The memorial is made up of over 2,700 solid stone blocks that are placed at varying heights in the ground. As you walk into the memorial from the busy streets of Berlin, up and down along the narrow pathways, it suddenly becomes silent as you find yourself in the middle of the stones with nothing but peace, quiet and the thoughts that pass through your mind. From there we continued on to the Topography of Terror, the former area of that held the main headquarters for the SS, Gestapo, and other main departments of Hitler’s regime. The area is now home to a free museum with a large, undisturbed section of the Berlin Wall with tons of information from the time. After reflecting on the area with my fellow travelers, we made our last stop at Checkpoint Charlie, the American passageway between East-West Berlin that was confronted with American tanks on one side and USSR tanks on the other. We said our goodbyes and Scott was off to his hotel for some rest and one more day of work before heading back to Holland.
After saying good-bye to the Willoughby’s, we set out for East Berlin where our friend, Tom, and his friend were staying. It was MUCH different from the areas we had been in before. A “very trendy area,” it was filled with bars, graffiti, and seemed a little rough from the long, hard memories of communism it held from the decades before. It took us some time to warm up to the area after we were denied entry to a bar on our way there. We must say, Berlin had some of the roughest and rude people we had met, but then again, it is tourist season with a huge flood of visitors from outside the city. We made our way to a biergarten, while being coaxed by drug-peddlers and passing by the plethora of people, to meet Tom and his friend, Cami. One beer led to another, just like always with Tom, the conversations passed by without noticing the time. After a “prost” for Independence day with our British friends, we caught the final bus back to our hostel.
We didn’t know what to expect on our last day in Berlin. Scott and his family had VIP tickets to a fashion party held at Wilde Renate Club, and unfortunately they had to head back to Holland and they left us with their tickets. A little nervous not knowing what to expect, we got as fancy as we could and made our way to the club. The girls were swapping shoes, squeezing their toes into each others’ shoes, trying on dresses, retrying on dresses, criticizing each others’ clothes, just trying to do everything perfect. We arrived at the club and we could already tell we would enjoy the night: people watching, drooling over the beautiful people and immediately began taking advantage of the all-free everything. Standing coolers were free to pop open a beer, the food stands filled with french fries, burgers and brats. They were definitely taken advantage of by our drunkenness and the night ended with several rounds of shots. It was fun to explore the dark, dingy and sometimes creepy rooms of the club. Each floor held separate rooms of eccentric decor and the music was different in each space. We had such a great time drinking and dancing the night away, and we cannot say thank you enough to Scott and his family for allowing us to take their place at the fashion party.
We explored Berlin the best we could, but still feel like we barely scratched the surface. Feel free to wander over to our “Photos” page and check out more of Berlin and the other amazing places we have been so far.