I’m doing a grand tour of Europe this summer over 5 cities. The first stop on my trip was Berlin, Germany. It’s a city with a very rich history and amazing culture. We visited a beer garden, tried to get into a club, and visited some memorials. The beer was good. I didn’t have a single bad beer there, but it was very plain - no sours or experimental things besides raspberry. I tried curry wurst and 2 kinds of potato salads. Anything with potatoes is heavenly, I had the best potato’s soup. It’s got some fantastic food and was a reasonably priced city. The east west divide was also really interesting with most of the historic stuff occuring on the east side. The divide is still really obvious in architecture and feel.
We spent an hour and half in line for a club called Sisyphos, and it was supposed to be a club anyone can get into, but we most certainly did not. The line was interesting. There was a guy with a shopping cart full of beer selling to the people in line. His prices were reasonable and the beer was warm but it was still good beer. My sister calls this “wegbier.” We had quite a few people cut in front of us or say they were friends with people up front. It seemed like it was completely arbitrary on who was allowed in, and the culture was honestly absolute trash. It’s an illusion of false scarcity. You’re honestly much better off going to the bar, and enjoying your friends’ company.
We finished the night after failing to get into the club with a gin bar and getting Dönner. The gin bar had currywurst infused gin which was really cool and interesting. They take their tonic water really seriously over there. There’s so many different brands of tonic water compared to here in the states. Dönner is also incredible. It’s the perfect finish to a night. It’s greasy, spicy, and will settle the stomach. A perfect fast food to end the night.
We did a really good Berlin walking tour through airbnb. It covered a lot of memorials. I’m only going to name the ones that affected and spoke to me the most.
The book burning memorial is very nondescript. You wouldn’t really notice it unless you were told about it. There’s a somewhat reflective window that shows your reflection and its difficult to see through. So you step back, and you see all these empty shelves. Enough space for 20,000 books that were burned by the Nazis. Knowledge that is forever lost because it was mostly research papers, things about feminist theory and how to live our lives. It’s a bizarre idea that someone wouldn’t want to explore these other viewpoints.
Back to the reflective nature, it makes you question your own thoughts on what you would do in such a situation where you were aware of active burnings of unique one of a kind writings. I honestly don’t know what I would do, but it makes you question all the different ways knowledge can be hidden or lost on purpose. Is it worse that it’s a public display or would a secret removal be worse? For me it’s a very tough call, but this memorial really spoke to me with what we see everyday and how things go wrong.
The other monument that affected me was “The mother with her dead son.” It’s a very simple statue with an open roof that leaves it exposed to the elements. The most common victim of wars are the civilians, never the intended target if its even justifiable to target them. It changes with the seasons, and wasn’t very busy. To me this is the best message that can be conveyed.
Overall, the monuments are insanely well done and very interesting. They seem to be a very ingrained part of their culture, and its incredibly healthy that they want to move on and do better from now on.
On my last day in Berlin, we visited a really cool flea market. There were lots of vintage cameras and pipes. I got a cinnamon gelato which was amazing. It was exactly like cinnamon toast but in gelato form. It was 2 euros. I have never seen ice cream so cheap back home. All the food has been much more reasonably priced over here for the quality. The portion sizes have been right too. We saw an amazing number of records, and the food smelled amazing.
Here’s a couple things that gave me culture shock in Berlin.
- There are still cigarette vending machines in Germany, and a lot of people smoke.
- A lot of people speak very good English and I wasn’t expecting that.
- At the gin bar, the bartender was super friendly and recommended a bunch of other gins. It’s amazing how easy it is for them to import stuff from the US, but it’s very difficult for them to import from Canada. The spirits are very good.
- There’s so many local liquors like Berliner Luft and some herbal liquor I didn’t make a note of.
- They recycle everything using a bottle deposit system, but they don’t have public recycling bins. Instead people leave empty bottles next to the trash cans for homeless people to collect for the deposit. The bottle deposit is certainly an amazing idea. I’m not sure how I feel about the homeless people part, I think it might be a little exploitative but I don’t know enough to say for sure.
Overall, Berlin was a great deal of fun. I would definitely visit it again. The public transit was great and it’s a very interesting and pretty city. It’s dynamic and growing with its history.