Well, hello there kind internet friends. It has been a hot minute, hasn’t it? I’ve been a little quiet and I want to come upfront and apologize for it. I do truly love writing and traveling, but over the last few months while trying to focus on too many things at once, I lost sight of me and stopped taking care of my mental health. Which, my mental health has always kinda of been “meh” because I wouldn’t listen to my body and mind. How can you truly gush and bubble with passion at your travel adventures – or even simple aspects of life – when the one thing you’re not taking care of is yourself? It only leaves a shell of who you are, and you are exhausted. So this last little while has been some really heavy digging in my brain and soul, reconnecting with myself and my humans! Always do you boo, it’s never a bad thing to take a break.
Now as important as self-care is, that’s not why I’m here today!
If you are a history nerd like me, Berlin is your haven. I have a keen interest in World War II, the Nazi Regime, Hitler and the Holocaust. It literally baffles me and I could never get sick of learning about it. Berlin (or well, Germany but especially Berlin) has literally been ripped apart and put back together so many times. While exploring the city and talking to people, we discovered that Berlin considers itself a relatively “new” city. Here’s a little smash rough history on Berlin real quick:
- It was the capital of Brandenburg (1417) then later Brandenburg-Prussia, survived the THIRTY YEARS WAR (1618-48 – Berlin was ruined) and continued to grow rapidly into the Kingdom of Prussia. After some victories over France, the German Empire was established in 1871. Germany was POWERFUL. It remained powerful until the devastation of WWI caused Germany to become a republic known in 1918 as the Weimer Republic (Berlin – still the Capital – ruined, again). Times worsened with the reparations of the Treaty of Versailles. People were desperate creating the perfect environment for the rise of the Third Reich with Hitler’s brilliant government manipulation, a brutal Nazi regime, WORLD WAR TWO which completely devastates Berlin, again, but then after all that the world decides to take Berlin’s rubble and divide into West and East Berlin with a WALL since the capital was in communist East Germany.
That is some crazy history for one city to handle hey? I can understand why Berlin-ers consider themselves a “newer” city. They didn’t really break free into the world with it’s own identity until the later 1990s. Although Berlin may consider itself a newer city, it does not try to hide it’s very dark past. There are various memorials to victims of the Nazi regime scattered around the city. There is even the Topographie des Terrors which is a learning centre of the gruesome Nazi crimes built on the old site of the Nazi SS Headquarters. Down the street, right in the middle of downtown Berlin stands the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe to pay tribute to the Jewish lives lost during this dark era. (click here to check the memorial out in more detail). There’s quite a controversy surrounding the memorial as being inadequate to represent the magnitude of what happened to the Jewish community. Berlin has opened an incredible (and free) museum following several Jewish families journey through the Nazi regime underneath the memorial. I can understand how some may find the memorial inadequate, but I can only think to myself how can you truly and accurately represent the horrors that ripped through the Jewish, Gypsy, Homosexual, anyone-labeled-different population?
Ultimately, the memorial is made to be interpreted how YOU want to interpret it. The pathways are just narrow enough to walk them single-file. As you head further into the concrete blocks, they start to tower over you. You hear muffled laughs but can’t tell where they are coming from. You catch a glimpse of someone farther down but lose them. I had never felt so small.
And of course, one of the most iconic things of Berlin. The Berlin Wall.
Our Airbnb was a five minute walk away from Checkpoint Charlie (which click here if you don’t know what that is) and on the “East” side of the wall. It was really cool how different the architecture was between the Democratic West side and the Communist East side. I actually snapped this photo to just show the Soviet-styled apartment buildings lined up along the street. A snapshot of East Berlin.
It’s almost eery.
Where we stayed: https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/13369070
We enjoyed our location, but it was a really far walking distance to most places in Berlin. If you want a more central, nightlife stay I’ve heard that the the Friedrichshain area is good for nightlife but we did enjoy the more low-key vibe our area of Berlin had. It was in the heart of old East Berlin, a five minute walk from Checkpoint Charlie. We sat out on the lovely veranda and drank wine out of Christmas mugs that were in the room haha Berlin was beautiful.
Yummy places to eat worth mentioning:
Nick and I had consumed so much Italian food by the time we hit Germany that we just wanted anything else. But it can be hard because I am a pescatarian (mostly vegetarian). So pasta is easy and filling. ANYWAY. I had my first and best burrito bowl at Chupenga and it was so good. They had the most incredible Jackfruit. The Italian place below our Airbnb was also very good haha. Berlin does have a pretty cool food scene. We also had good Chinese in a sketchy little store that I don’t remember so I apologize.
One last REALLY, REALLY cool place about Berlin is the Jewish Quarter. There is a project there to replace a cobble stone outside a home where a Jewish individual lived before being deported and where they were later murdered. There is also the Jewish Cemetery, which is covered in rocks as respectful momentos of visitors. There is also a strip of buildings, where in the middle you can SEE that one is missing. This was from a bomb raid. Crazy! There were also bullet holes along buildings, clustered around windows. It was so powerful. We were brought through this area by a Sandemans tour, and we got so much more out of it that way then if we just went alone.
I could go on forever about Berlin. There is honestly something for everyone. We were huge fans of the New Sandemans tours offered in Berlin, that we did THREE! That was the most amount of tours we did in one city! If you haven’t heard of New Sandemans, check them out HERE because we did one of their free walking tours in 95% of our cities. Aside from their free walking tour in Berlin (which we loved – Rochelle was AMAZING), we dived further into Berlin’s history with the Third Reich Tour and one of my most memorable experiences, a tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Sachsenhausen was an unforgettable experience that will have its own blog post shortly. Explore Berlin with us by watching my video! A funny side note, we were literally in Berlin during it’s worst rainfall in 70 years or something ridiculous. We had one half-day of sun!
much love guys, it feels good to be back.