January 20th, 2015
Vero’s Flat Near Ostbahnhof, Berlin
Morning light creeps through the curtains as I wake up to a new day in Berlin. The excitement for Italy is building but I try not to let it taint my remaining time in Germany too much as I seek out new adventures to have today. I decide to make today about art and culture and make plans to see Museum Island and go back and walk through the Topography of Terror.
Museum Island, Berlin, Germany
Nestled on an island in the middle of the Spree River, which carves its way through central Berlin, is Museum Island. Home of five world-class museums dedicated to art and archeology. Its over a century old, the first museum was constructed in 1830 and all five were open by 1930. I decide to visit the Pergamon Museum, home of the ancient Ishtar Gate, a remain of ancient Babylon, along with other rare and exciting artifacts.
I grab an English audio tour headset and wind my way through the museum, marveling at the ancient collections, especially the Babylonian ruins that have been carefully excavated and put on display. The beauty and pageantry of the ancient civilization is in full light. Ancient Egyptian, Persian and Babylonian artifacts abound and hours go by in a blink as I immerse myself in ancient cultures. Once I’ve had my fill, I head out to go to the Topography of Terror, a much more sobering adventure for sure.
Topography of Terror, Berlin, Germany
Grey walls, grey sky, grey building. Rain is steadily falling now and the atmosphere seems fitting for the next stop. Inside the walls of the museum, an artistic rendering of the horrors of Hitler and his elite servants is laid out, a maze of exhibits detailing the escalation of the regime and its integral functions during the war. Numbers of victims are counted in the hundreds, then the thousands, then the hundreds of thousands as the exhibit reaches its close. As I noted before, just outside is a remnant of the last painful piece of Berlin history, the Berlin Wall, a symbol of a city physically divided after the collapse of the Nazi regime in an attempt to keep its power in check.
Now, these stories are in this cities past, remnants of where its been. Where it is now is full of promise, its artist community burgeoning and commerce on the rise. After I’ve had my fill of history, I head to meet Vero and some friends at a pub.
Prenzlauerberg, Berlin, Germany
After a quick stop at Vero’s we head out to visit some of her friends at a local bar. The atmosphere is warm, cozy and very bohemian. One of her friends is a German woman in her 30’s, who clearly acts very maternal towards Vero, asking how her German lessons are going and whats happening with her citizenship process. The beer is excellent as always, and thankfully everyone uses a lot of English in the conversation so I can keep up. Tomorrow night, Vero is having a bunch of the couchsurfers over for dinner and I’ve volunteered to cook burgers for everyone as a thank-you for allowing me into their world for a few days. All in all, the day was steeped in rich history that I’ll reflect on for a while and I can’t wait for my last day in Germany and then on to Italy!