So this weekend I was having sort of an identity crisis for my blog. To everyone who gave me feedback thanks 😀 I’ve calmed down and I’m back on track 😛 Just wondering if any of you sometimes have that? Anyways, I had already covered my first three days in Berlin (Berlin on a budget: day 1 and Berlin on a budget: day 2 and 3) time for my last two days is this amazing city.
How I spent my 5 days in Berlin
This day I would normally spent in Potsdam. Potsdam is about 30 km from Berlin and can easily be reached by public transport (with your ABC card on S-Bahn). The town itself is cosy, but the bigger eye-catcher is for sure Sanssouci park with its beautiful gardens and castles. I had the whole day planned out for Potsdam, because the park is HUGE. Unfortunately the weather changed at noon and it started raining really hard, so I turned back to Berlin. At least I did get to see a part of it 😀
Since I was there early, and the bad weather, there weren’t that many people at all, which was quite nice. The park feels really English. I saw the Neues Palais, very pretty in Rococo style. Again I got reminded of Vienna.
Back on the train I was searching in my travel guide ( I’m a fan of Capitool and Lonely Planet) for a back-up improvised plan. Since I do not dislike museums, I always consider them one of the best options on rainy days. I was really doubting between the German History Museum and one of the museums on Museuminsel. I decided to visit the Pergamon museum. Students get a discount (in many places in Europe) so don’t forget to bring your card.
The museum is specially made to display big pieces, and with that I mean BIG. The entire gate of a Babylon can be found there. As I walked my way through it I could already imagine what it must have been like back then. I’m pretty sure overwhelming. The most wonderful room (in my opinion) was the one bellow:
This is the market gate of Miletus. Imagine you buying your veggies, and you walk underneath this! I would forget my tomatoes.
They were and I think are still working in the museum so certain parts are not open. The next wing was all about Islamic art.
The Mschatta-fassade was really nice, but in general I am usually less impressed by Islamic art. I think it’s probably very nice if you would really visit a Mosque or one of their cities, but not as a separate piece in a museum.
The last day I discovered the area around Kurfürstendamm. Really the place for shoppers. I once saw a show on tv where they visited Bikini Berlin. I didn’t see any bikini’s here, but the concept is really cool, and for me it contains some German identity. First of all you get to have a sneak peek of the Berlin Zoo. I was fascinated by the monkeys, for literally an hour. In Bikini you can find many unique pop-up stores, there is food, I really enjoyed this spot a lot. You should just go there to feel the vibe for yourself.
Right across you have the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. The authentic church was left as it was after the war. I love it! I don’t think you should just clean up everything, this just really breathes history and makes it so much more unique! Next to it you have a very modern chapel. Inside the old church you can still see some beautiful mosaics (ground floor is free). The church is like Berlin, old and new. Not putting away its past but giving it a place in a modern and vibrant city.
In the afternoon I did something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Easily reachable by again the S-bahn, is Oranienburg. If you’ve never heard about it before, I didn’t either. This wasn’t even a plan of me in the first place. It’s because of my guide (you know the one on my first day) that I got to know about it.
In Oranienburg you can visit Sachsenhausen, which used to be a concentration camp. Now it’s a memorial and museum. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it would be hard, sad,… I also took a tour here. This isn’t about seeing, it is about knowing. The money you pay goes to the Memorial, which I find a good investment, so that many people could see for themselves.
Between 1936 and 1945 over 200.000 people were imprisoned here. Sachsenhausen was meant to be an example for the other concentration camps. It was also a place where SS were trained.
First we passed along a couple of houses of the town, making our way to the entrance. These houses that we saw were from the higher officers that worked in the camp. Our guide told us that these people sort of had two faces. In the day they were in the camp, at night being a father putting his children in bed. We also walked along the houses of the training camp for the SS. Oddly enough, since no one else wanted to use these buildings, nowadays it is used by the german police. Policemen that get trained here are obliged to visit the Memorial at least once.
We came closer to the entrance. Now it’s just ground and trees. But this used to be the place where the guards lived. They had lovely houses, pretty gardens, to strengthen the difference with the situation on the inside.
Inside each remaining building is a little museum. We could see that from up here they had a perfect view over the camp, anyone making a wrong move could easily be shot. The exhibition also talked about the role of the media.
What is odd about this picture? Someone in my group noticed, I first didn’t. The picture showed prisoners working in the snow. They were wearing a coat, had there ears protected, had gloves. Just these little details made a whole difference. Right now you saw they needed to work hard, but were treated fairly. In reality the prisoners didn’t have any of the above.
We moved on to the only two remaining Jewish barracks. My guide said it was important to say that not all prisoners were Jewish. Yes the Jews were the big majority. But she dais the second biggest group were soldiers of the Soviet Union, and no one ever talks about them. They had a ranking system. Jews were all the way at the bottom. prisoners from Scandinavia f.e. on top, because they were the Arisch Race. Our guide added that men who were gay were lower ranked than female ones. She didn’t know why, but they were treated differently.
When we entered I could see the paint coming from the ceiling, lots of the wood was black. And yes my suspicions were confirmed. There was a fire here. Apparently neo-nazism is gaining popularity in small towns in eastern Germany. In this very own town, some people set the barracks on fire. This is something I can’t understand, and made me realize that these things could happen again and maybe even will.
The guide continued telling about the living conditions, I’m not going to go too much into detail about this, but you know they were poor… very very poor. I can’t believe people actually survived this.
Our last stop was station Z. Which was the last stop aswell for many prisoners. Here they tested out techniques to massively kill the prisoners. Also destruction by gas was tested. You can still see the fundamental and the ovens where they burned the bodies.
I didn’t leave this place with a depressing feeling. My guide was superb. She told us just enough. It’s not like a visit makes you happy either, but it is very interesting to say the least. Someone also asked: how on earth can anyone do this? My guide replied that perhaps in their philosophy it was ok. They didn’t consider Jews as humans. We do tests on animals, lots of people think this is unethical. While some consider it no big deal because animals are ‘beneath us’. This is a difficult topic. I often think too how can you do this, how can you not notice this. But who knows maybe I’m being influenced now aswell. How many things are going on in this world that we know nothing about? Or we just don’t want to know anything about? I found it important to see and to know.
Another thought in the group was: ‘Why didn’t the Jews massively escape Germany’. Apparently they weren’t welcome in alot of countries… sounds familiar.
I just realised I ended this piece in a not very happy way. So to conclude: Berlin is amazing! Why? It is a city of many aspects. Modern, historic, vibrant,… There is something for everyone. You won’t leave Berlin without having a few things to think about! Hope you enjoyed reading, and I would say if you have the chance definitely visit!
Sleeping and food
I rented an Airbnb apartment, which wasn’t expensive at all and very good! The advantage of having an own kitchen is of course that you save a lot on food aswell. Nearby is a shopping center, when you go to level -1 you’ll find a big supermarket. You can park your car for free in the street if you have one. Be aware to avoid the center with your car, I believe you need to pay a tax if you drive there.
You have two U-bahn (subway) stations nearby. Berlin is very big. I could do everything from my itinerary by using the U- and S- Bahn. Even Potsdam and Sachsenhausen! If you are with more than 2 persons I advice you to take a group ticket, this is cheaper than getting individual ones per day. If you are staying in Berlin you get yourself the AB ticket. this is 7 euros a day. The one for a small group is 17,30. If you go outside of Berlin, for instance to Potsdamn take the (A)BC ticket (7,60 and 17,80). A week ticket is 37,20 (ABC). More information: go to this site
I made this trip during the Easter holiday in April 2016.