Bonding in Berlin

In one month, February 2nd to be exact, a full year will have passed since my plane landed at Václav Havel airport in Prague, Czech Republic. 365 days will stand between me and my tearful goodbye from a city I called home for four months during my study abroad adventure.

My heart aches just thinking about it.

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How I act the second my mind wanders to my time spent overseas. I’m sorry if I sound like one of those annoying people who start every sentence with “When I lived in Europe…”

Image courtesy of zap2it.com

Now that it’s 2016, I’m embracing that “new year, new me” bullshit and tackling the last of the blog posts I have to write about my European adventures. They say you shouldn’t live in the past, but this feeling of nostalgia I have for the continent I fell in love with has propelled me into the new year. I’m much more grateful for this past year than any other ones before it.

My gratitude for 2015 not only stems from the fact that I was able to visit 10 countries while living abroad, but it resides in the friendships I forged with my four roommates. Our randomly assigned living arrangement worked out unbelievably well. We rode the Prague trams to class together, went out and danced until 5am together, and even traveled together.

And let me tell you. Nothing bonds individuals better than traveling together.

My journey to Berlin, Germany in April of last year (it’s still weird to think that much time has passed) is a prime example of the bond that can form when you’re thrown into a both a new city and a new country at the same time.

My roommate and I bought two round-trip bus tickets to Berlin for a long weekend, and what unfolded were four days of exploration, conversations, and laughter.

So let this post of photos taken of historically-rich Berlin serve as a virtual thank-you card to my roommate and now close friend Jordan for the unforgettable adventure.

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Our first meal in Berlin was Indian food in Kreuzberg, a borough known as the city’s hipster spot.
Bar ceiling
While exploring Kreuzberg, we checked out Bei Schlawinchen, a dimly lit pub with an assortment of objects glued to the ceiling. Despite its sketchy appearance, the bartenders were friendly and welcoming.
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The list of drinks available at Bei Schlawinchlen.
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Our tour guide explaining the significance of the Ampelmann, Berlin’s pedestrian crossing signal.
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Our tour guide also pointed out Berlin’s TV Tower in Alexanderplatz built by the Socialist Unity Party from 1965-69. On a sunny day, the shape of a gold cross is reflected off the steel sphere. This is said to be the “Pope’s Revenge” for the socialist party’s act of removing crucifixes from the churches.
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The Berlin Cathedral is the city’s largest church. It was built in the 1700s and restored after the WWII bombings.
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The Schiller Monument stands in Gendarmenmarkt, one of Berlin’s largest squares. It features four female figures that represent lyric poetry, drama, history, and philosophy.
Our tour guide explaining the significance of Trabi cars during WWII
Our walking tour guide also explained the significance of Trabi cars during WWII. The car became a sought-after utility item during the division of East and West Berlin; a wait for the vehicle typically lasted 11-15 years.
Remains of the Berlin Wall
Straddling the remains of the once-standing Berlin Wall.
A portion of the Berlin Wall that is still standing
A portion of the Berlin Wall that is still standing.
View of Checkpoint Charlie leading to Berlin's American sector
The view of Checkpoint Charlie leading to Berlin’s American sector. This was the most well-known crossing point between East and West Berlin between 1961 and 1989.
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Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe honors the six million Jews who were victims of the Holocaust and consists of over 2,000 slabs of concrete of different heights that undulate as a person walks through. The architect hoped to create the feeling of instability and groundlessness that Jews felt during WWII.
memorial blocks for victims of the Holocaust
Memorial blocks for victims of the Holocaust have been placed within the cobblestones that make up the streets of Berlin.
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The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Berlin and has come to represent German unity.
War Memorial to honor the lost lives of every war that has since been fought
The Neue Wache War Memorial honors the lost lives of every war and tyranny since 1993. The center of the memorial houses the sculpture “Mother with Her Dead Son” as a harrowing tribute.
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Here I am standing on the Oberbaum Bridge overlooking the River Spree that once separated East and West Berlin.
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Since Birkenstocks are made in Germany, Jordan picked up a pair that were about $60 cheaper than they are back in the States!
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This sign was on display in a cafe near our hostel in Kreuzberg. As a coffee addict, I came to appreciate it.
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While Jordan and I were exploring the city, a group of young boys approached us and started chatting. The two youngest were kicking around a soccer ball, and I joined in on the fun.
Yes, we'll take a liter of Long Island
During one of our nights out, we joined a pub crawl provided by one of the hostels in the city. On our first stop, Jordan and I split a liter of Long Island Iced Tea, an adventurous choice.
Hi, we love pub crawls
Look how happy we are with the Long Island.
Greek gyros in Berlin
The borough of Kreuzberg is known for its mixture of international food, so naturally we had to try Greek gyros.
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A portion of the Berlin Wall that is still standing has been turned into an art gallery known as East Side Gallery. Created by 118 artists from 21 countries, the gallery was painted right after the fall of the wall.
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In addition to the free walking tour, we went on a tour of the street art in Kreuzberg. After seeing the impressive works, I have a newfound appreciation for graffiti.
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The Cosmonaut mural was painted in Kreuzberg in 2007 by Victor Ash. When the sun is shining just right, the shadow of a pole appears in the astronaut’s hand.
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Our tour guide talks about street artist Jimmy C’s work that depicts a “peace-loving hoodie.”
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On our last afternoon, we walked through Berlin’s Tiergarten, a popular park that is centrally located in the city.
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When in Germany, you can’t pass up a wiener schnitzel. We dined at a Kreuzberg restaurant whose menu included this delicious main course of schnitzel with a mushroom cream sauce.
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You also can’t say no to German currywurst. The national dish consists of pork sausages seasoned with curry sauce.
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Jordan and I had smooth sailing until we realized that sometimes the metro can mess with your travel plans. We departed too late from our hostel and subsequently missed our bus back to Prague. After struggling and finally succeeding in buying new bus tickets for the same night, we relieved our stress with a much-deserved pitcher of Hefeweizen.

Months after I returned home and was still on a high from my study abroad experience, I discovered this music video that brought me right back to that weekend in April spent exploring the city of Berlin.

I’d be lying if I said my eyes didn’t well up with tears as I relived the trip through the scenes of Berlin in the video.  If you’ve ever been to the city, you’ll understand the nostalgia that it conjured up.

 

 

If you’re looking for a new destination to travel to in the new year, make it the city of Berlin. You won’t be disappointed.

 

-Morgan

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