So why Christmas in Berlin? I wanted to go somewhere, but many cities in Europe obviously grind to a halt over Christmas. One of my friends told me he spent Christmas day in Finland a couple years back, and the only restaurant open was a kebab stand. I did some research and found that Berlin stays lively over the holidays, and it being an easy flight from Copenhagen seemed like a good next stop.
I wish I could’ve come up with a better title for the blog, but Berlin really was a dreary city. Trying to focus on the positive, I will say that they had the best public transportation here, which I’ve heard is common for Germany. It’s amazing there’s not more of an obesity problem here, as you have no reason to walk anywhere. A one-day metro pass was 6 euros, and you could travel to literally every tourist attraction throughout the city.
Due to being there over the Christmas break, I really only had one full day to do all the touristy stuff. I started at the Reichstag building, which was a nice looking government building from the outside, but I had little interest in waiting in the line to get in so I moved on quickly.
Next up were the memorials. Berlin has a grim history with World War II, and that’s what nearly all the monuments and museums focus on. All the museums are free, which is justified since Germany started the war and did many of the inhuman things…so I imagine charging for admittance would be in poor taste. First up was the Gypsy memorial, which was a quiet, quaint reflective pond set in a park. I think it’s striking how much the Gypsies are reviled in Europe even today…it’s definitely the most discriminated against ethnic group I’ve ever seen.
Next was the homosexual memorial, which was a nice ‘screw you’ to the Nazis with a video of two guys making out.
The Jewish memorial was obviously the largest, but I thought the design was a bit disappointing. I’m not sure I understood the artist’s idea behind the ‘concrete box’ theme, and quite honestly it seemed disproportionate to the magnitude of the tragedy. I also found the name inappropriate, as it was simply called the ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’…no mention of the Holocaust, or of who did the murdering. I read an article recently that I agree with, that says this vagueness could be one of the first steps on the road to forgetting.
Below the memorial was a Jewish museum which was emotionally crushing, as it had quotes from letters written by prisoners of the concentration camps. It has actually become cliche to say things like “Nazis were monsters”, since everyone who’s sane believes that. However, I must admit it never ceases to amaze and shock me just how soulless these thugs were.
I went looking for the Berlin wall, and found the remains of it next to a museum called the ‘Topography of Terror’. This basically told the story of the rise of the Nazis, and there was a LOT of reading….so much so that I think I skipped over 1931-1933. I thought the most interesting part of the museum was the display on the Nazi propaganda, and the best picture was of the American soldiers with ‘Easter eggs for Hitler’ written on rounds they were firing into Berlin.
I kept walking along where the wall used to be and ended up at Checkpoint Charlie, which used to separate East and West Berlin. It’s become a tourist trap, which is better than what it was 30 years ago so that’s all right.
I can’t really say much more about Berlin. I didn’t find many good restaurants, and the best place to hang out ended up being the hostel I was staying at. I did try to go to the Ramones museum, which would’ve been cool, but the guy working there decided to close early…earning them a negative TripAdvisor review. Overall, this was just another ordinary city. It amazes me how much more beautiful Munich is than Berlin…same country, but damn, Bavaria is so much more amazing in every way.