This weekend I went to visit some friends in Berlin. I turned in my last submission for third year – essay for Theoretical Archaeology and then skipped town for a few days
Gregor is currently on placement in Hamburg and Sophie is on placement in Berlin. They’re both architecture students are are working in architectural firms to learn about careers in the field and gain work experience. But, with weekends off, they decided to put up with me for a few days. Thanks guys!
I arrived in Berlin Friday evening after a bit of a delay in Frankfurt. Getting to my AirBnB from Tegel was easy enough and only mildly annoying with my phone almost dying en route. Gregor met up with me at the U-Bahn station and we joined Sophie and some of her work friends at a bar for some drinks.
Just to describe the scene a bit… the bar was located on the ground floor of an block of flats and must have been a converted shop or flat originally. It was entirely lit by candles which cast shadows onto the red walls. The ceiling trim was a frieze of vines and human faces. It was a nice space of couches and chair with tall and short tables. The most incredible part was the bartender circling the room who appeared just when you finished your drink, ready to bring you another. Not only that but he would take massive orders of drinks and bring each quickly without fault. Incredible. Honestly, the only explanation I could come up with was the bartender had to be Bacchus.
The next day all three of us met up for Brunch and then took the U-Bahn to see the Brandenburg Gate and the Holocaust Memorial. Both are located in the center part of Berlin. The Brandenburg Gate is quite famous and I’ve included a photo below. The Holocaust Memorial consisted of raised concrete blocks which rise in height as you walk into the center of it. The ground also rises and lowers like a wave as you walk. It was actually really disorientating and created a true sense of claustrophobia, which I am pretty sure was the intended purpose of the memorial.
After, we walked toward where Checkpoint Charlie would have stood (the real one was taken by the Americans and is currently housed in the Smithsonian… classic America.) The weather was rainy in the morning on Saturday but cleared up by the afternoon. We spend the rest of the afternoon walking about the center of the city and onto Museum Island. Gregor pointed out the columns of the Neues Museum which still had evidence of machine gun splatter from the Second World War.
Maybe it’s just my American naivety but seeing the physical evidence of conflict really made me stop. I grew up reading the history and I always knew about what had happened either learning from my father or in school, but I think it’s a different thing entirely to see the bullet ridden columns lining the portico of the Neues Museum in person. However, while the scars of conflict are still there, the area around them is green with gardens and full of life and music.
On the Sunday, we visited the upstanding bits of the Berlin Wall, a few markets in the old Soviet part of Berlin, and the Altes Musuem on Museum Island. The Berlin Wall has been turned into a canvas for public art and in one of the markets, an old Soviet storehouse and grain tower had been converted into an outdoor climbing wall and bouldering room. Just 40 years ago, that area was blocked away and now people are creating art and climbing walls.
Maybe it’s me being an annoying History student and reading too much into things, but I really do believe we need to understand and remember from which we came and be aware of the world around us to know what to do and where to go next. The city also showed that from conflict can be growth, change, and education. Gardens can grow again and walls can climbed and painted.
I am super thankful to Gregor and Sophie for putting up with me for the weekend and showing me around.