Once we landed in Berlin, we figured out ANOTHER Metro system and made it to our hostel. (After this semester, I better be able to navigate myself around the entire U.S. without a problem. Haha) By the time we got settled, it was mid afternoon so we went and met up with Mandy and a few other girls who had gotten to Berlin the day before! We went to see the Brandenberg Tor, the huge 5 pillar gate that Berlin is known for. Then we walked past the Reichstag, which is the German Parliament building- there is a big, glass dome at the very top of the building which is used to transparency of the government. You can actually climb to the top of the dome and look down into Parliament but you had to make reservations a few days in advance :( After exploring for a little we all got dinner then went to see our guy friends from our program who were also in Berlin at that time. We all went out that night and had a great time!
The next day, Mandy and the other girls were leaving for Prague a day ahead of us so Bern, Morgan and I were on our own! We just walked around at first and found a park, which happened to be a "Gas Lantern Museum"- how weird! Haha Then we took the Metro out to see the 1936 Olympic Stadium, which was when Jesse Owens won all of his medals (Hitler refused to congratulate him since he was black). Now it's used for concerts and soccer games. It's a really cool stadium and they still have the swimming pool area in tact along with a huge bell tower that we actually climbed and got an awesome view of Berlin (which is actually the biggest city I have ever been to!) From there we went to see the Charlottenberg Palace which is beautiful- we didn't go inside but just walked around it outside, it was a gorgeous day! When we were in the courtyard of the palace, these adorable little kids walked through dressed up as princes and princesses (with their parents right next to them taking pictures hahah). I have a picture of them in my album- it was so cute, they were holding their hands as if they were royal and you could tell they were so exicted. I really wanted to go find where they got the costumes because I definitely would have made Bern and Morgan dress up with me and pretend we were princesses but luckily for them, we couldn't find it. Haha! Then we took the Metro all the way across the city to see the preserved part of the Berlin Wall, called the East Side Gallery. There were some graffitied sections but mainly huge murals done by professional artists. It was so cool! Really cool paintings - Kate, you would have loved it! Then, we found a Mexican restaurant for burritos (yum!) and then the three of us, after searching and asking so many people and being sent to a German theater, found a movie theater with English movies! It was inside of this huge, spaceship looking building called the Sony Center. Weird things about European movie theaters (or at least the one we went to) - there is assigned seating and everyone stays until the very end of the credits! Bizarre!
The next morning, we got up and packed and headed to the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." It's a huge maze of different sized cement blocks that take up an entire city block - still not sure of the significance of the design, apparently it was just an artistic choice by the architect. Underground is a museum with a Holocaust timeline, lots of information about all the different concentration camps, diary entries of victims, stories of families, and biographies. Very sad but really interesting. It said at the museum that if you were to read a short biography of each murdered Jew during the Holocaust, it would take you over 6 years- unbelievable. There's also a database at the museum where you can search a victim's name on the computer and you can see their record- where and when they were arrested, what camp they went to, if they survived, etc. After that we quickly walked to Checkpoint Charlie, the exit/entrance to the American sector during the Cold War, which was pretty cool but not much is there anymore- just people dressed up as soldiers who let you take a picture with them for 3 euros.
Running late as usual, we had to take the Metro back to our hostel, grab our bags, get back on the Metro and run to the bus station. We made the bus with minutes to spare- thank goodness we got there. From there, we took a bus to Prague to meet up with the others!
I liked Berlin a lot! It was a very cool, modern city and reminded me a lot of NYC! So, so big but a lot to see and do! I don't think you'd ever get bored there!