There's not enough time in the world to see all this city has.
05.04.2013 - 07.04.2013
View Semester Break, pt. 3 on kmclean's travel map.
This was our second time in this amazing city, and I still want to come back again! We were here in October with our group of Canadians after the “immersion” part of the year in Freiburg and got to see quite a few of the museums and sites, but I don’t think there’s enough time in one’s life to really appreciate all that Berlin has. This time around we went to the Dali exhibit and the Checkpoint Charlie museum, and took a couple of walking tours of the city to see some sides of it we hadn’t yet.
The Dali exhibit was great, and definitely worth seeing if you’re into that type of art. It’s permanent in Berlin right in Potsdamer Platz, so also convenient. Afterward we went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum, which was amazing. It should be called the “GDR escape museum”, but I guess the name suits it. Inside they have tons of things people used to escape the GDR, including cars rigged in different ways to make space and prevent sagging, all kinds of make-shift ziplines, and even a kayak a guy actually used to get out through the Ostsee. They also have a make-shift scuba tank built by someone who obviously knew what they were doing, since all diving gear was banned in the GDR to prevent people from escaping by sea. It’s insane what some people went through to get out. What’s more insane is how much worse it was in most countries, and how long it lasted. At least the East-Germans had somewhere to go; usually they’d be welcomed with citizenship, accommodations, and cash in West-Germany. It’s hard to believe what some people had to put up with.
The next day we did a walking tour through “alternative” Berlin, which was kind of just a street art tour, but it was really interesting. It came with a lot of history, and a lot of explaining about why Berlin is the way it is today. Now it’s a top notch place to live and you’d be lucky to afford a decent apartment near the centre, but after the war it was quite a hole. For one it had been almost completely destroyed, and every building was at least damaged, and second of all Germany split up. This meant difficulties reconstructing the city and a lot of check points. West Germany always worked hard to keep Berlin, though, since they never accepted that Germany would be divided for ever, and were not about to lose their capital. Anyway, during the division of Germany Berlin wasn’t such an attractive place to be, so the government provided incentives for people to live there like low or no taxes, living subsidies, and waiving the military service requirement. Of course mostly artists and students are attracted to this kind of lifestyle and Berlin evolved into one of the most alternative cities in the world. After the wall fell half the city, and the country, was full of buildings owned by a state that no longer existed, so the hippies moved over there and Berlin is now one of the coolest cities in the world.Unfortunately the epitome of this alternative spirit of Berlin -- Tacheles -- is under serious threat of being shut down now, and the entire district surrounding it of being turned into a high class apartment block with expensive cafés and high-end art galleries. Here's hoping!
There are artist squats and make-shift galleries everywhere, although unfortunately with all the money coming into Berlin it is becoming quite “gentrified” and losing its edge. You can still find some really great street art and of course the East Side gallery, which is unfortunately slowly being torn apart to let massive buildings and apartment complexes through, but hopefully they find some way to stop it.
We had a great time in Berlin seeing this other side of it and learning more and more. There are still things there I’d love to see and do, and hopefully we’ll be back again someday. This was going to be our last stop on the trip, but it turns out my uncle and aunt Russ and Sheila are going to be in Heidelberg over the next few days, so we’re headed there next before we get back to Freiburg for a while.