Being the history buff that I am, I was so pumped to visit the Berlin Wall and the Memorial for the Jews and everything else. Being able to actually be in this city, the place where so much unfolded during the twentieth century – it feels like you are somehow connected to its history, a step closer to understanding the events that happened here.
The first day was spent at the Reichstag which is where the German parliament meets for several weeks during the year. It has this incredible glass dome on its rooftop where you can get a 360 view of the city while walking along the spiralling ramp. The automatic audio guide and panoramic map you get when you arrive points out where the Brandenburg gate is and the Berlin Victory Column, as well as the many embassies adjacent to the Reichstag. Of course, we went to see all of these sights afterwards, but the most incredible one had to be the Memorial for the Jews. It is this huge square filled with massive concrete blocks of all different heights lined up in neat rows. On the edges of the square, the blocks are quite short, but the deeper you walk into the maze, the taller the blocks get, and soon you are swallowed by the dark grey slabs of concrete. Not only is it a great piece of architecture but that feeling you get walking through it – there is an overwhelming feeling of being lost.
Of course we also had to visit the Berlin Wall – or what is left of it at the East Side Gallery. Again, it is so hard to even begin to imagine a city divided into two, with police patrolling the border and shooting whoever tried to escape to West Berlin. We also went to the DDR museum which was an interactive museum showing what it was like to live in East Berlin during the Cold War.
Besides the history, the real fun began in Mitte with all the cute, hip stores and galleries waiting to be discovered. AND BUBBLE TEA OF COURSE! We saw these Chinese people drinking bubble tea and straight up asked where they got it from. And obviously we went back to get it TWICE in THREE days. Man, it was so good!
Anyway, back to the cute, hip stores. So basically in Mitte there are the Hackesche Höfe courtyards which house all these galleries and pop up stores displaying different boutique and designer goods which are stunning to look at. There was this store where you had to climb up a flight of graffiti walled stairs and inside it was filled with crazy artistic books and cool, funky prints – you could call it a bookstore but none of the art was really mainstream.
Sophie and Vicky were in love with this stationary store called R.S.V.P. which basically had curated pieces from all over the world. My favourite was the jewellery store of the brand Broke & Schön. It was one of those stores where I stepped into and literally wanted to buy every piece of jewellery that it sold because they were all so nice. Obviously, I did end up doing a little bit of shopping there.
All three of us loved Berlin for different reasons – it was historical and artistic, new yet old, traditional but progressive. The significance of Berlin also partially lay with the fact that it was the final stop of our grand Europe trip. Our last night together was bittersweet. Smile because it happened, cry because it’s over. The next morning, sending Sophie to the metro station at 6am was such a weird feeling. I don’t think any of us really could take it all in – that we would be separated for the next five months, on our own, without each other. Despite the pain of separation, I am so grateful that we went on this trip, no, on this journey together. As cliché as it sounds, we have learnt so much more about ourselves, about each other, and how precious this friendship is. We laugh, we cry, we fight, we forgive but we will always be friends.