The German Excursion: Part 1 – GET HUMAN!

I had been in Madrid for about a month when I remembered that I had a good friend nearby. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a bunch of contacts to follow up on, in addition to the friends I know that live here already. But somehow, it slipped my mind that my good friend Bruno has been staying in Europe. Where, I didn’t remember, but Europe definitely!

I send Bruno a message on Facebook asking him where he was living. He said he had been in Stuttgart, Germany for a year now, but October was his last month.

I knew what I had to do!

While Spain would be enjoying a national holiday, I would use those days off to sneak away to Germany and visit Bruno before he left! Brilliant! Sure this isn’t the best time financially being that I still haven’t gotten paid, but if I wait longer Bruno will be gone, and I’ll have missed an opportunity to explore another country with a friend. I book my flight to Berlin and from Stuttgart, as cheaply as I can find it.

Cheap, however, does come at a price. I flew WizzAir, a discount airline in Europe. While okay, I mean it did get me to Budapest and then Berlin, I had to pay for my boarding pass – THIRTY-FIVE EURO – and the flight was… chaotic. People were loud, playing music from their cellphone speakers, a girl behind me put her feet on my arm rest, and you had to pay for water during the in-flight food service! On top of all that, however, my flight left Madrid at 9 something, and I arrived in Budapest at 11 something… to start my six hour layover.

I greatly overestimated my ability to handle a long layover. I remember thinking, “Oh, six hours is not so bad, could be worse,” when I made the booking. I neglected to consider the fact that some airports, most airports, are not huge and stores will close when it’s late. I arrived and everything was closed with the exception of a duty-free store, and one restaurant upstairs.

I took selfies without shame in the bathroom.
Fix his arm, he’s creeping me out!

I tried to sleep with the suggestion of my dad, but any time I heard a noise I got startled, so I couldn’t relax.

Eventually, 5 am rolls around, and the airport starts teeming with life. I try to eat something – nobody has the same definition of bacon, man! – and try to drink some tea for the caffeine – nobody has the same definition of chai lattes man.

Eventually, my flight boards and I arrive in Berlin, Germany at 8 something am. I catch a cab to my hostel because I overestimated my confidence with the bus system here.

My hostel was the Grand Hostel Berlin. The folks there were superhelpful, and when I asked for help navigating the bus and metro systems, they informed me that I could buy my metro pass with them. SO USEFUL. For my first time in a hostel, there were some things I wish I had considered:

  1. Bring a lock. There was a locker in the room that I couldn’t make use of, and thus had to pay 1.50 Euros for the safe in the lobby to hold my laptop.
  2. Bring flip flops to take a shower! I don’t know how I forgot about this, but once I arrived and went upstairs for my nap, I thought about taking a shower. I investigated the shower room and… no, nope, NAH. Don’t go barefoot in a communal shower. I ended up buying flip flops at a souvenir shop while I was out later.
  3. I sleep with noise, whether it’s a tv or sound machine, I need an extensive amount of noise to shut my brain up at night. I have an iPhone 7, however, which means I can’t listen to music and charge my phone unless I have wireless headphones. I should probably buy some soon. Or at least invest in some sort of adapter.

I take a power nap and start walking to meet Bruno.

I was worried she saw me trying to fit her into the photo, she turned around the moment I hit the shutter!
I meet him and his friends at the The Berlin Wall Museum, East Side Gallery.

Bruno’s still the dude I remember, albeit with a little more scruff on the beard and somehow seeming even more tall than me.

You can walk along the river and view the wall, and it’s decorated with murals. The art here is stellar, most painted in the 1990s (and later restored in 2009) and walking alongside the wall – which despite being taken down, what remains seems to go on forever – it feels… isolating still. The wall is so high, and the idea of arbitrary borders meant to separate humans is just … mind-blowingly bizarre to me. Walking around it made me feel insignificant, and it’s still an imposing monument to what happens when ideology gets ahead of humanity.

But the art gives levity to such an awful barrier. Some of it is reflective and memorializing the wall and what it stood for, other art is hopeful, and other art is… political.

 

This is one of the most famous murals on the wall, “Bruderkiss” or “My God, Help Me To Survive This Deadly Love,”  and there’s always a crowd ready to take photos in front of it. I didn’t have the patience to wait! Painted by Dmitri Vrubel, it depicts Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German leader Erich Honecker kissing.
This one by Christine Fuchs took me by surprise! I only got half of it, click here to see the rest of it. 
A lot of walls are covered by graffiti (which was one of the reasons that restoration was necessary in 2009). Everybody’s an artist I suppose.

“I remember.”
Another thing I noticed was that people take really… strange photos with the wall. Smiling and posing around art installations that protest for peace and tell the stores of those victimized by the wall and what it represented. On one hand, it disturbed me, especially seeing as I was feeling devastated. But with two more minutes of thought I realized that the wall’s destruction, while symbolic of the end of an era of separatism, was also symbolic of freedom winning over restriction. People can do silly poses with the wall because it’s down, so in a weird way, it felt inspiring to see.

We eat lunch later on. I got currywurst at Bruno’s suggestion and …. I’m gonna be honest, it’s not bad, but it shouldn’t be a thing. Sausages shouldn’t be sweet. YEAH I SAID IT.

Afterwards, we hit up a bunch of museums around the city to look at the architecture. I forgot that I was walking around with a bunch of engineers, with every building they all marveled at the construction. I just like how they look!

 

Neue Synagoge, rebuilt after damage in WWII.

Charlottenburg Palace
Later that night, we visited the Brandenburg Gate, which was having the festival of lights.

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Various images were being projected onto the gate. The show was fantastic… until the advertisement for Samsung emojis went up – and stayed up! – for five minutes.

* * * * * * * * *

At this point, I start feeling the effects of my sleep deprivation. I ask Bruno if I can take a nap before we go back out, and he says, “Okay, but a quick nap! We have to make it to Berghain!”

“Oh yeah, I remember…. that club you told me about. You sent me a link in Portuguese and from what I could understand, it’s just an electronic club that’s super hard to get into?”

“Yes! We have to get in! It’s my last month in Germany and first time in Berlin, it has to happen, it would be the best way to end my trip!”

Will Kris’tina and Bruno get into the mysterious Berghain? Will Kris’tina be able to stay awake long enough to party? Will they visit a grocery store and forget about the items they purchased? Find out next time on “German Excursion!”

 

Best,

 

Kristina

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