Germany

Our travels through Germany were interesting because they were broken up between a few countries. We spent several days in Berlin with our larger travel group, but after leaving them in Budapest, we came back to Munich for a bit. Germany surprised me; because we had so many other countries on our list, I don’t think I expected Germany to be one of my favorite places. Now, it’s definitely near the top of my list of places I want to come back to.

Berlin

Things I didn’t know about Berlin: It’s the city with the one of the largest LGBT communities in the world. It has great public transportation. It’s a very open-minded city.

And I loved it.

We got to Berlin early in the morning after a flight from Amsterdam and enjoyed brunch together while figuring out what we wanted to do. That afternoon, we went on a free walking tour of the city (are you seeing a trend here?) and got to know it’s history a bit. We saw the main square, pieces of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, memorials of Word War II, the Concert House, and many more things in the city center. That night, we decided to go clubbing. The thing about going out in Germany is that there are kind of a lot of weird rules surrounding what that looks like. Some clubs require that you wear all black. Some clubs require that you look a certain amount of sexy. One of the clubs we tried wouldn’t let us in because it was hosting a “gay sex party” and “only sexy men” could get in. And on top of that, most clubs don’t really get going until about midnight or 1 am. Friends, I am not cut out for that kind of late night. But still — I had to at least do it once.

 

So we drank wine and played cards and headed out. We ended up at Suicide Circus, a tourist-friendly club with an obscene cover price. It had a lot of different rooms and was pretty much like any other club — dark, weird smoke coming from random places, people flailing about pretending to dance. The main weird thing about it was the music. I think only one song played the entire two hours we were there. It was a techno song with occasional changes or claps or beats tossed in, but otherwise remained static. Joana said it best: “It made time pass in a weird way.” Why? There’s no, “I’m going to use the ladies room after the next song” or “Dang, this is my jam!!” Just the same song, similar beats, and a lot of strange dancing. It was a unique experience, and we ended the night with some delicious street food. Joana got a Doner Kebab, which is honestly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten and became and obsession for all of us.

We slept understandably late the next morning and decided to explore the city a bit more. We went to the Topography of Terror, which is a memorial about World War II and was absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed reading about Hitler’s rise to power and how Germany changed through it. Afterwards, we went to this amazing little Lebanese place for dinner and ate our hearts out. We were all able to buy cheap bottles of wine at a nearby grocery store and spent the evening playing cards and hanging out together. It was so fun — which goes to show that sometimes the best moments are the mundane ones.

The next day, we went to the part of the Berlin Wall that’s a gallery and walked 1.3 kilometers of it. It was cool to see how different artists worldwide were inspired to paint the wall, and I think it inspired us a little bit, too. On our walk to the Wall, we passed this fountain that was full of people playing in the water. It was a beautiful fountain with statues and water spouts, and seeing people of all ages play in it was hilarious because it would never be allowed in America. Sami and Joana wanted to pop their feet in, so they tentatively approached the fountain only to be drenched by people with buckets. It wasn’t uncommon — it seemed that everyone in the fountain was determined to get those even remotely close to it wet.

 

What I liked about Berlin was how open it was. The people are friendly, but more than that, they are comfortable with sharing their troubled past so they can overcome. I think Germany is one of the countries that is best at understanding that history can repeat itself but it doesn’t have to — and it shouldn’t. There are so many World War II memorials in Berlin alone, and instead of pretending like the Holocaust didn’t happen, Germans acknowledge it with gusto and do everything they can to commemorate the victims and make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think there’s something really admirable about that.

Munich

We arrived in Munich about a week after we left Berlin. We took a lovely bus ride from Salzburg into Germany and got to our cute little airbnb on the outskirts of the city just in time for dinner. Something we’ve discovered is that Europe has really great Asian food — so we went to a Thai place to dinner and enjoyed playing some cards that night. (We’ve all really taken to the game Hearts because it lasts forever. We downloaded the app on our phones and play it on subway or tram rides.)

The next day, we took the train to Dachau, a concentration camp right outside of the city. We expected to spend two or three hours there. We were there for nearly six. The museum was extensive and all the grounds were available for us to view. It’s one of those experiences you can’t put into words. It’s heavy, sure, and certainly worth your time. I don’t know how to explain it, but seeing the concentration camp almost made it even more surreal to me that the Holocaust happened. When you realize that 2,000 people were cramped into barracks made to fit 200 or that bodies were piled up on each other every day or that innocent human beings were tortured by other human beings and you see the places where it happened and you can’t wrap your head around HOW, you just want it to not be real. But like I said in my blurb about Berlin, Germans don’t deny their past. They embrace it and educate and learn from it, hoping that remembering such awful things will inspire the world not to let that happen again.

We left Dachau a little brain dead after reading and hearing such horrendous things, so we decided to go to Englischer Garten to end the day on a lighter note. We walked around a huge, beautiful park and I think I saw more ducks than I’ve ever seen in my life (seriously, it looked like they all gathered together for a meeting). We found a beer garden on the lake inside the park and treated ourselves to bratwurst, fries, and of course, beer. The scenery was beautiful and the food was delicious. It was a great way to finish off our time in Germany. The next day, we were off to yet another lovely location: Zurich.

Things I’ve learned

  • In Berlin, there’s not really anyone checking to see if you have a train ticket. Do with that what you will when you use the public transportation. Same with Munich.
  • Too many things about the history of Germany to include in this blog post.
  • Europe doesn’t like air conditioning, apparently.
  • Sauerkraut is not a condiment. It’s a side. Order cautiously.

Tips for your travel

  • When you get a bratwurst in Germany, get the white kind.
  • When I Return: Spend more time in smaller towns in Germany, see other concentration camps, go on a Brewery Tour
  • If you’re going to Germany, go to Berlin and Munich. The cities have a lot of history and both have different feels to them, so it’s nice to experience both.
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