Thursday, 19 December 2013

Alice's Adventures in... Berlin

 DAY 1: Whilst in Berlin, we stayed at a hostel in Friedrichshain, which, along with Kreuzberg, is often deemed the trendiest, most bohemian district. It's got more street art, abandoned buildings, vintage shops and vegan supermarkets than you can shake an organic fair trade celery stick at.
After scouring through a brilliant four floor vintage shop, Humana, located on Frankfurter Tor, Laura and I walked along the 1.3 km of the most iconic remaining section of the Berlin Wall- The East Side Gallery. It's pretty badly damaged by graffiti now, but the expression of hope for a better future still shines through.

 That night, with Jack, Charles and Dave- a trio of the most laid back and lovely lads- we headed off to Tresor, an infamous Berlin club converted from a disused power station. It's been playing techno music since the early 90s. There's a really great atmosphere inside, with the industrial setting and a heap of Germans simply nodding their head because it's uncool/ impossible to dance to the music in any other way. It's one of those places that's too hip for photos, but we managed to take a few sly snaps anyway. Ain't nobody tells me not to take photos on a night out. I'm afraid the rest of the night is a blur, but as an indicator of how messy the night was, my first words to Laura when I woke up the next day were: 'have I still got all my teeth?'

DAY 2: We zigzagged across the city on the U-Bahn, taking in the most famous landmarks and memorials: TV Tower, the Holocaust Memorial, and Brandenburg Gate. I tell you, considering its monumental size, that gate proved positively elusive. Due to a combination of confusing the U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines, lines closed for repair and getting off at the wrong stops, we eventually arrived as the sun was setting.

DAY 3: The Jewish Museum was our first destination. It's probably the best museum I've visited. Most of the exhibits are situated in a zigzag shaped postmodern building which consists of three tunnels, or 'axes', that represent the three realities of Jewish life: Continuity, Emigration and Holocaust. The exhibition that resonated with me the most was the art work of Bedrich Fritta, who sketched anti-propaganda whilst being held in Theresienstadt ghetto. He captured the realities of life in the ghetto, such as the Nazi 'beautification campaign', which involved a tidy up for a Red Cross visit. What really happened is shops were built selling good seized from the Jews, and hundreds of the inhabitants were sent to Auschwitz to make the area look less crowded.

A few hours later we found ourselves outside a barbed wire fence surrounding an abandoned GD-era amusement park, called Spreepark, with Jack, Charles and Dave. After spiraling debts, the park manager escaped to Peru with some of the park attractions. He was later caught for attempting to smuggle 21 million euros worth of cocaine back to Germany in the masts of the Flying Carpet ride. With the rumours of 24 hours security and guard dogs, we were nervous, but determined to check out the crumbling roller coasters and the Ferris wheel that creaks in the wind. Unfortunately we got spooked by a guy who threatened to call security. Laura and I had to leave to catch our train to Budapest, and we left the boys deciding whether they should try a second time. We later discovered they got chased out by an Alsatian.

If I had to choose a favourite city on my Europe adventure, Berlin would be it. I love the in-a-constant-state-of-falling-apart grittiness of the East. It's not trying to be pretty, it's not trying to be anything it's not. I can definitely see myself living there.


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