During my junior year of high school, I had the privilege of visiting Deutschland with members of my German class. The following were my adventures.
- This occurred in 1998 and I did not have a digital camera. Did they even exist yet? Anyway, hence the crappy photos.
- This occurred in 1998-please ignore the fact that I didn't know what it meant to wax one's eyebrows. But, the pictures are crappy, so you probably can't even see my Groucho Marxes.
- I was in high school and, therefore, forced to be the average tourist. This was before I broke out of my shell.
- My TRIP was delightful, not the historical facts about war included in this post.
I loved visiting Berlin because I was really interested in World War II History and I love Jewish people...so maybe Berlin wasn't the best place to visit for the latter reason, but you know what I mean!
Here are some famous sites that are a must-visit:
The Kaiser Whilhelm Memorial Church
Bombed in World War II, this church still stands half-ruined as a memorial to the futility of war.
The Jewish Sector
This area of Berlin was the Jewish sector of Berlin pre-Holocaust. It was also the most bombed area in Berlin during World War II. The buildings still stand as they were in the 1940s (at least they did 12 year ago). As you can see on the left side, people made cardboard cut-outs of children and placed them in the damaged apartments as a reminder of the horrors of war.
The Berlin Wall
It would be a crime to visit Berlin and not see what remains of the Berlin Wall! This was exciting to me because the fall of the Berlin Wall was the first significant historical event that I can remember actually living through and watching on TV. But, alas, David Hasselhoff was nowhere to be seen-except all over German MTV.
This wall was crazy! Until I visited, I did not realize the extremes the GDR went to in order to prevent massive defection to Western Europe. The Berlin Wall was actually two walls-an inner and outer-and in between there were beds of nails and anti-vehicle trenches. It was dubbed the "the death strip." Of course, the GDR called the wall the "Anti-Facist Protection Wall." Whatever GDR. I think you got your sides mixed up.
Now it's just a sign, but Checkpoint Charlie was the most well-known crossing point between East and West Berlin. There is now a museum which depicts the victorious and failed attempts of Eastern Berliners trying to illegally defect to West Berlin. Around 200 were killed by GDR guards while trying to escape East Germany-some callously left to bleed to death.
The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate is a historical gate which symbolizes Berlin and Germany to the Germans. It was built in the 18th century, but after suffering damage during WWII, was fully restored in 2002. This picture was taken before it was fully restored. The gate is also where Kennedy made his famous "Ich bin Ein Berliner!" speech. They do not sell jelly doughnuts there.
Sanssouci is the former summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia. If you love architect, this will be especially interesting. To me, it was just a big fancy palace with an extravagant interior:
The Chinese tea house was most interesting to me...and I had yet to desire visiting there! This little building is a fusion of Asian architecture and French art. The people figures are dressed in Chinese clothing, but have European faces.
Other notable sites in Berlin are the Opera Square, where the famous Nazi book-burnings took place, and the famous Humboldt University where Albert Einstein studied. The Holocaust Memorial for Europe opened there in 2005, but I've never visited so I cannot tell you what it's like.
Also, make sure you eat lots of yummy German bread and drink lots of Spezi (which is cola and orange soda mixed together).
And no trip to Berlin would be complete without Jamie and Rebecca posing with the famous German comic character, Astrix.
Oh yeah-and the first time I saw and heard N'sync was in my hotel room on German MTV in Berlin. They weren't popular in the US yet. They came on after The 'Hoff singing some German ballad and I said, "Hey I think those guys were on the Mickey Mouse Club." Didn't know they would become a boyband phenomenom.