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A Day Through a City of Ghosts

Posted By Denebola On September 30, 2010 @ 5:01 am In Centerfold | Comments Disabled

Trains are definitely my preferred mode of transportation; you don’t have to fly thousands of feet above the ground, and you don’t have to worry about sinking.
The train ride from Prague to Berlin was the longest I have ever taken, a whopping four hours of iPod-listening, charade-playing, and This I Believe II-reading. Arriving in Berlin, was the obvious highlight. For me, it carried a sense of homecoming. I am of German ancestry on both sides of my family, and visiting the country where many of my ancestors came from decades ago was an amazing experience.
Our first night, teacher directors George Abbott White and Jamie Rinaldi took us for a walk around the city. I had expected a city filled with buildings like gingerbread houses and advertisements for beer, but I could not have been more wrong. Germany is incredibly modern, mainly because its oldest buildings were built in the 1950s. Instead of beer ads, there were ads for Apple everywhere, and the buildings were towers of glass that lit up. The youthfulness of the city is one of its most appealing aspects; it draws people from all over the world. Being fascinated by world cultures, I could not wait to experience not only a taste of German culture, but cultures of people from all across the globe.
One of the best parts of Berlin is the presence of its history, ghostlike, in everyday life. Pieces of the Berlin Wall are scattered all over the city. The largest section of the wall still standing has been converted into an unofficial museum, covered with the works of graffiti artists from all over the word. In the heart of Berlin, there’s a small section of the wall still standing, which has informational signs every few feet. Tourists sign their names on the wall, and our group was no exception. Literally leaving a mark on a piece of history was incredibly powerful.
It would not be possible to visit Berlin and not pay respect to all the lives lost in the Holocaust. The first night, we walked through the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, built on the site of Hitler’s Chancellery, a bit of irony I found quite haunting. The memorial is comprised of hundreds of cement rectangles that start at around waist height, but as you progress further into the stone labyrinth, the floor descends into a kind of bowl, and the immense blocks reach well above your head.
We walked through the memorial during both the day and night, and the two experiences were strikingly different. During the day, local teenagers sit and eat on the blocks, casually chatting.  At night, ghosts seemed to follow our every step through the cement maze. The experience morphed into a lens through which I saw post-World War II Berlin, an experience I never thought I would have. I learned so much about the city simply by taking a stroll through the monument.
Another highlight was climbing to the very top of the Reichstag at night. The Reichstag is the German capitol building, a beautiful piece of traditional architecture with a twist: a giant glass dome on the roof. People can take an elevator to the roof and then climb ramps encircling the dome. The views all the way up are astounding, and we were lucky enough to see a beautiful sunset on our way to the top of the dome.
The entire stay in Berlin was amazing, from the sights to the hotel to the food; every aspect of the program was enjoyable. Berlin has so much to offer, and I truly hope to return there someday to revisit what I have already seen and explore some more. My- only regret is that I couldn’t have stayed longer.

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URLs in this post:

[1] Native Berliner helps make Newton South Prague program in Central Europe a success: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/native-berliner-helps-make-newton-south-prague-program-in-central-europe-a-success/

[2] Exhibits celebrate 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/11/25/exhibits-celebrate-20th-anniversary-of-the-fall-of-berlin-wall/

[3] Enjoying the vista in Italy: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/09/23/enjoying-the-vista-in-italy/

[4] Countering Stereotypes: Germany: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/countering-stereotypes-germany/

[5] The Winding Paths of Prague: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/09/30/the-winding-paths-of-prague/

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