Berlin was a beautiful city, commanding such a great level of history that it was hard not to come home without something to think about or something more to research.
The city itself was stunning, the winter sunsets elongating the light so that everything seemed a little more special. The history of the city, oh so rich, was also incredibly commercialised. The hats modelled on Stalin that a young child was wearing on a pram provokes the questioning of: to what extent has history become a commodity for public consumption? Naturally, some sights like the Brandenburg Gate are incredibly touristic but the depth of history, and recent history, in Berlin has in part led it to becoming a tourist trap and I’ve been pondering on this ever since going. Who sees its history as a tourist experience?
On that note, if you want the best of both the tourist experiences and the consumption of historical artifice, here are a few recommendations:
- Asisi Panorama – a 360 degrees panorama of what the Berlin Wall was like, the exhibition is supported by photos from people by the wall, stories of the wall and the ability to write something on graffitied room. It was so simple but one of the best places we visited (in my opinion) so definitely worth a visit if you’re going! It’s also right next to Checkpoint Charlie which is a bonus.
- The Reichstag – the dome in the Reichstag gives you a tour of pretty much all the buildings in Berlin so it was great for an overview/tour. Worth going to first as it definitely gives you a perspective over the whole of Berlin.
- Deutsches Historisches Museum – I could’ve spent hours in this museum just taking in all the German history. It’s kind of like the V&A and charts the history of the country from the Middle Ages all the way till the fall of the Berlin Wall; there’s even part of the Bible that Luther translated. It’s a gold mine for any history lover. The café in the museum was also super cool and we shared apple strudel and I tried rhubarb lemonade – it was one of those little moments that you kind of want to eternalise.
- The Victory Column – it was only €2,50 to go up the victory column and the views of Berlin were so stunning. The weather was gorgeous and, yet again, it was one of those moments you want to eternalise.
- East Side Gallery – naturally, one of the most touristy things to visit in Berlin but it’s a must. To see how the Berlin wall is remembered and the creation of new art and the way part of history is seen in the public eye as something so beautiful yet was ultimately so destructive. Thierry Noir, alongside other artists, repainted the wall in 2009 recreating the works that were vandalised after many years of display. Regardless of the artworks beauty, it stands as a reminder of the separation between East and West Berlin, clearly shown in the mass of political art that graces the wall.
- Potsdam – if you’re a history junkie, a guided tour of Potsdam is well worth a day out. We spent about half a day here, went to the palace where they held the Potsdam conference, all the history associated with the place seemed to materialise around you. The Dutch Quarter is also very pretty, alongside the surrounding lakes.
And it was also the moments that aren’t captured, the moments that are. The moments I stressed about being late (college trip probs, usually more lax), the moments eternalised in a video, photo, film. The moment when we were in the hotel bar/lobby at 1:30am and our teacher had to be called, breaking my perfect student status whilst simultaneously augmenting my rep of being ‘uncool’ given the tears shed in front of her at 2am. That was a low. But then in hindsight it was one of those memories to laugh about. Not quite the teenage rebellion I was after.
The city also, surprisingly, provided me with the motivation I needed to actually start properly revising for my A Levels. Don’t get me wrong, I have begun but I have not been in the right mindset or had the right plan to get going. This half term has been the perfect balance between work and seeing friends and I haven’t been comparing myself to those who are going places and doing things because everything is relative. It’s the first February half term in a few years that I’m not losing my mind over mindless things. An achievement in itself. I’m not sure if I’m doing enough work but I’m not waking up with the feeling of wanting to go back to sleep again as an escape so I think that counts for something. And I don’t think you can ever feel like you’re doing enough work at A Level. Fact.
The few days away also made me think about this summer, like a lot. Inevitably, it won’t be like last year. But one has to look to change as being a good thing. I’m going away with friends to Spain the first week of September, Reading festival is booked, myself and my mum are thinking of going to Lisbon and I might (hopefully will be) be visiting one of my best friends in France. I also won one of the interrailing passes which is so great but I don’t think I’m going to take it. I can’t go on my own, but equally I think if I did then I would be going for purely the places. Berlin made me realise that you could be anywhere in the world and if you’re with people that you have a good time with then it really doesn’t matter where you are. So I don’t think I need to go around Europe this summer if I’m not going with the people that I want to. There’s still room for a few spontaneous trips no doubt. Summer is looking like it is on the up.
I’ve also starting complying with my self care tips. Instead of using Forest, that great app that prevents you going on your phone, I’ve been using Flipd. It just happens to be… an even greater app to stop you picking up your phone. It’s only such because you can set it for longer than 2 hours (like if you seriously didn’t want to go on your phone you can set the timer for 8 hours). But I’ve found myself going on my phone less and less and my mind feeling clearer and actually reading for pleasure in my revision breaks versus looking at people going skiing on Snapchat. Equally, I don’t think it has to be positive all the time and it is important to recognise that and why. So I’ve started journalling and writing my thoughts, the happy and the more melancholy.
A few stories from Berlin, and a little life update. I hope you’re all having a good February, a fabulous 2019 so far and if not – today is the perfect day to change that. Have you ever been to Berlin and if not would you like to visit?
lots of love, eleanor xx