History class meets art class
04.17.2015 - 04.20.2015 55 °F
Guten tag, from Berlin!
After hostel life for the last few weeks, I needed a break from weird men in my bed and drunk people climbing onto the top bunk at 4am. I decided that I would book a hotel for the duration of my stay here to rest up before another long jaunt of glorious hostel life through Italy.
Having a bit of privacy and a good night's sleep has been great but the trade off is that it is not nearly as social. While hostel life is short on creature comforts, it is long on sociability and makes meeting people very easy. Useful if you are traveling alone.
No matter, Berlin has been both an educational and relaxing stop along my journey. Let's get to it:
I began by visiting a number of the WWII memorial and war-related sites around the city. There likely isn't another city so steeped in modern history that ties nations and people together, for better or worse.
The Berlin Wall was a powerful experience.
In a place called the East Side Gallery, a portion of the wall has been left intact and artists have covered it with art.
I also visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the Holocaust Memorial. The memorial is designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
What I found so interesting was Berlin's openness to the realities of what happened during the world wars and the atrocities that happened within that time. The openness and honesty seems to be rooted in a feeling that if talked about and known, these things would never happen again.
It's a heavy subject. My grandfather fought under Gen. Patton through WWII. He and his men blew the chains off the gates at Buchenwald - a Nazi concentration camp that was before then unknown. I remember asking him about it a few years before he passed and even then the memories were too difficult to talk about. He pretended to have something caught in his throat so his grandson wouldn't see him crying.
Some hours after visiting these memorials, I was at a cafe reading Cry The Beloved Country and came across an excerpt that seemed to sum up what I had seen that day. It read:
"There are times, no doubt, when God seems no more to be about the world."
I guess sometimes that seems about right.
But despite its checkered past, Berlin is a city that has emerged from the ashes and now boasts one of the most vibrant and growing street art cultures anywhere in the world. It is a movement that has been embraced by the people and has literally changed the face of the city. I took a four hour walking tour of some of the best street art in Berlin and learned a lot about the culture itself, the difference between graffiti and street art and the ways it has helped shape this city over the last few decades.
I even got to learn how to make a bit of street art myself at the end of the tour using stencils.
Oh, and fun fact. When your name is Matt Eagle, people tend to laugh at you in Germany. Mettigel is an old German dish of minced pork shaped to look like a hedgehog. In case you can't visualize that, it looks like this:
Berlin Victory Colum
Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church - Bombed during WWII and left in disrepair as a memorial.
Checkpoint Charlie. The name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.
There is a joke here somewhere.
Tried a bottle of Original Berliner Cidre. Pretty solid. The wine glass and candle light pushed it up to an 8/10.
And lastly, for my cigar smoking crew: I have been a bit lax posting these, but I want you to know I have been representing you well.
All in all, I have enjoyed my time here in Berlin. It is a city that I know would grow on me the longer I was here. All of the people have been very welcoming and friendly and I am grateful for the city's hospitality.
I wish I could stay longer but I have a hankering for some pasta. To Italy!