a side trip to germany

No longer are there cameras in every shop and on every store front. No longer are there soldiers, weapons strapped across there chest, standing at every other street corner. On crowded sidewalks there isn’t a fear of being run over by three children piled on electric bikes weaving drunken lines on the crowded walkways. On any given day it is no longer common to hear conversations in at least three different languages not my own. In line at the store, or waiting for a ticket I can now doze without the fear that someone will cut me in line. The sidewalks here, (Northern New England), have cracks like lightning bolts cut through the hilly concrete. There are no more long bus rides. The cold this winter is slow to arrive, nonetheless the feeling of the season makes reflecting all the easier.

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I have started to take for granted that the plans I make when I travel will never work out. While this sounds, and is, somewhat stressful it has opened many opportunities that I would never otherwise have had. To recap, the farm I worked/learned at for 2.5 months is called Hava ve(and) Adam. To join the program there I talked with 4 different people before sorting everything out (though this, I hear, is unusual, there were a lot of changes going on at the time at the farm). I was expecting to stay until my return trip on December 15, and could of if I felt like it, but as it turns out the folks at the farm only expected me until November 27 or so. After a few moments of “what the f*** am I going to do” I fell head first into an unplanned side trip.

I had the pleasure of traveling to Germany. I arrived in Berlin cocooned in many layers of summer clothing and as I stepped into the drizzly early winter weather I felt transported to another world. Gone was the desert landscape, the hardy plants with their dark green thirsty leaves; instead the world was replaced by clear, crisp clean air, tall and narrow evergreens dripping with morning dew, lining the sides of roads. My only disappointed upon arrival, the lack of snow. On my way out of the airport I was serenaded by and accordion player and on my way to the hostel I was assisted through the public transportation with the kind help of two elderly danish couples in their late-sixties and the map they kindly gave me. I was oddly jet-lagged despite only an hour time difference between Israel and Germany and once I arrived at St Christopher’s Inn Berlin, I passed out.

The first two days in Berlin were liberating. My hostel was in the Mitte district, and to my great pleasure, walking distance to the Brandenburg Gate. I was completely on my own schedule for the first time in months, the freedom was exhilarating! The first day I wandered down Unter den Linden to the gate, stopping at anything that caught my attention along the way. Walking down the street, I found myself immersed in mixture of new and old looking buildings that forms this part of Berlin, so very different than any city I know in the US or Israel.  In contrast to the current state of affairs in Israel, Germany felt like a monument or museum commemorating an unsettled past nestled among a modern and vibrant city.

The first place I stopped at was the Neue Wache. This stone building, originally built in the early 1800’s as a guard house, was damaged in WWII and later repaired as a memorial of those who died as a result of war. The building is now the grave for an unknown soldier and concentration camp victim, presided over by a statue of a women holding her dead son.  On the floor in front of the statue are wreaths and flowers. In the grey cold stone of this tomb the green of the plants provided a sharp contrast. Though I knew the busy street was just several meters behind me, inside the memorial there was only an echoing silence. Read more here for more information about Neue Wache Memorial.

It was such a lovely day I could not find it in myself to go inside any of the museums that I passed, but even without going inside there was plenty more to see. The beautiful buildings, to me, made the staying outside worth it. Some other sights I came across on the busy street: a women selling posters on the side walk, a book sale, Humboldt University, a wax museum and some modern building with a glass front and a snazzy looking BMW in the window. I intended to take photos but I was turned off by all the tourists posing with the BMW that I decided to take only mental pictures.

I made a list of museums I passed on my way to Brandenburg Gate but I have seemed to have lost it. Needless to say, if you are taking a walk through Berlin looking for interesting things, a jaunt down Unter den Linden is not a bad start.

When first entering the square where the Brandenburg Gate is situated the first 2 things that grabbed my attention was the gate and the giant tree decorated for Christmas. Though they were undoubtedly the central attraction of this part of Berlin it was the long row of flowers, candles, pictures and stuffed animals really caught my attention. To one side of the square, along fence, lay a sea of flowers. Though there were still many people posing with the gate, there were many more, heads bowed, remembering those who were lost in the recent violence in Paris.

Check here for more information on the Brandenburg Gate.

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The next memorial I came across was a memorial to the Sinti and Roma. Unlike Neue Wache, this memorial is open to the air, only separated from the rest of the Tiergarten Park by trees and bushes. As one steps into this memorial a violin plays a haunting tune from speakers set up in the surrounding tree. In the middle of the clearing stands a pool of still water. In in the center of the pool a triangular platform a single flower is placed each. At the entrance to this memorial a translucent wall, one side written in English, the other German. The writing on this wall told the story of the persecution of the Sinti and Roma during WWII. There is a beauty in the simplicity of this memorial, it invited visitors to pause a moment in their lives to reflect, which is what I found myself doing there. I have no idea how long  I stood there.

to be cont…

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