Archive: March 2008
"All Too Recent"
Sunday, 16th March 2008, 19:00 GMT
A crazy week (and a bit) in Berlin. The 20th century had its fair share of history, and the past week (and a bit) has allowed me to explore just a small part of that in greater (and quite horrific) detail.
Towards the end of the semester, it was looking more and more likely that the beer kegs were drying up, the mirror balls were being taken down for their spring clean and the holidays were approaching. A sublime idea indeed therefore to spend a week in Germany's capital, Berlin, with a small group of close friends in a nice, cosy and inexpensive hostel.
Although Berlin is certainly not the most beautiful city in the world, what with the tremendous amount of building work constantly being conducted, the history that is still visible, is uniquely tremendous and one in which I felt need be strewn one more time across the www.
Berlin Zoo - 4th March 2008 - ©2008 andyholland.co.uk
Although Berlin Zoo wasn't the first thing on our to-do-list whilst we were there, I've decided to start this entry with a picture from that day in order to begin on a lighter note. This particular snap was taken within the petting area, in which you are allowed to purchase 'feed' for the animals. This particular variety of animal here was too intelligent for its own good. Knowing that the box (pictured) dispensed food, he (or she) proceeded to chase us round the zoo, forcing us to put the 20 cents into the slot so that he (or she) could shove its head into the exit shoot! Hilarious! Not only could he (or she) not wait for us to get the food from the shoot ourselves and then hold out our hands for him (or her), but he even tried to help us turn the knob! Animals are indeed intelligent, hilarious creatures!
Speaking of intelligence... The human concept of historiography. According to Wikipedia, it was the Greeks who first began writing history*. That human ideas, cultures and events be recorded for future generations to study, examine, analyse and indeed learn from was a frequent topic of conversation as we walked through the historical streets of Berlin.
Overview of Berlin's History (On Tour)
To begin our adventure in Berlin, we decided to embark on a walking tour of the capital with a Japanese-Swedish model named Maria (the one with the highlight around her head). The tour in fact followed a quasi-route along the former Berlin Wall, visiting the great landmarks of the city: the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the new Holocaust Memorial, Hitler's Bunker, the Luftwaffe HQ, the former SS Headquarters, Checkpoint Charlie, the Book Burning Memorial, and Museum Island.
New Berlin Tours - 7th March 2008 - ©2008 andyholland.co.uk
Despite her style being extremely OTT, her knowledge was very good and refreshed the memory from the historical readings of Berlin's too recent history.
New Berlin Tours - 3rd March 2008
A visit to Berlin's Sachsenhausen concentration camp was also one of the first things on our to-do-list. Although not at all an exciting and wonderful experience, it certainly was one I don't regret. Although Sachsenhausen wasn't intended to be an 'extermination-camp' as such, the poor living conditions and brutality that the prisoners were subjected to often resulted in fatality. Most of the 'exhibitions' on display are simply horrifyingly gruesome.
Morticians slabs, piles of extracted gold teeth and extermination bunkers are not sights I wish to view again. It is pretty upsetting walking around the various parts of the site (which is incidentally... huge!) and the history certainly "hits you". Despite this, I would recommend a visit for anyone. It is part of too recent history and the more who remember the horrific past, the greater potential we have of never letting it happen again.
For The Victims of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp - 1936-1945 - ©2008 andyholland.co.uk
Berlin Pub Crawl
Despite telling myself never to drink vodka again, a Berlin vodka and orange pub crawl was just clearly too tempting an opportunity to miss. After the previous couple of days of exploring the history of Berlin, we decided to lighten the break by having a right old knees up. After having an hour of unlimited beer drinking from the keg, we consumed various "offers", including Jägermeister, sours, cocktails and various vodka drinks, whilst touring some of the quirkiest of what Berlin's nightlife has to offer.
Although the night started out as a very fun experience (meeting numerous interesting people along the way) it unfortunately ended rather vodka-inducingly tragically. After trying to climb the Berlin wall (perhaps - it was certainly a wall), I misplaced one of my superbly expensive gloves on the other side; making it back to the hostel with just one toasty-warm hand. The moral of the story... don't drink vodka, or if you must, wear the cheapest accessories possible.
Berlin's TV Tower rises high above the city - ©2008 andyholland.co.uk
Even though we only stayed in Germany's capital for a week, it was certainly enough to get a feel of the history and culture prevalent there. It is a unique city with lots to offer. In some ways I feel humbled to be able to appreciate it without living there. On the other hand, it is often the case; one can become unappreciative of the place in which one lives.
Enjoy the pure beauty of the the home town, look for its unique quirks even though you may see them everyday. As Europe becomes ever-more westernised it is these quaint quirks that keep one city from not looking like the next: we should appreciate them whilst they last...
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