Monday, June 29, 2015

Days 13 and 14

Day 13: Sunday, June 28 2015

It was sunny yet again today so it looks like it's finally summer in Berlin! In the morning, many of us spent time at Salon Schmuck doing research. Salon Schmuck is this cute little cafe with decently priced food and good WiFi. I got a good number of little errands and emails done, so that was productive although boring.

 Fake American soldiers (above) and a preserved portion of the Wall (below) at Checkpoint Charlie.

In the afternoon/evening things livened up. I went and visited Checkpoint Charlie with a few other people from our group, which was informative. Checkpoint Charlie is a former Wall checkpoint that the Allies used to get into East Berlin during the Cold War. I had heard various opinions of Checkpoint Charlie (which is also a museum), one opinion being that it's a tourist trap. To be fair, this statement was well supported. Two men dressed as American soldiers stand guard at the former checkpoint, and for only two euros you can get your photo taken with these fake soldiers. Because a giant wall dividing a city where people died in attempts to cross are totally what I want on my Christmas card. The shops around the checkpoint definitely catered to this tourist mentality as well. None of us actually went inside the museum but I plan to do this sometime during the week to see if it can make up for the petty exterior.

After Checkpoint Charlie, I made my way to Friedrichstrasse for a planned group boat tour around Berlin. Everyone in our study abroad group boarded this cute little boat for a tour around the river(s). It was a very peaceful ride-- I really enjoyed it. We got to see a lot of iconic places in Berlin such as the cathedral, Museum Island, the Reichstag (my favorite building in Europe), and the chancellery which was a huge hit among us Angela Merkel fans.

 The Reichstag (above)
 The Chancellery (above).
The Pergamon Museum on Museum Island (below)

Naturally after our hour long boat tour, hunger set in. Manka, one of our program leaders, had planned to make dinner for us at her apartment so we headed over there after departing the boat. Dinner consisted of salad, pasta with either a tomato, meat and bacon sauce or eggplant sauce, daal, and of course bread. It was delicious to say the least, plus it was a good time to just relax and hang out with everyone.

With my stomach full (thanks, Manka), I made my way back to the hostel. At the hostel a few of us hung out in the courtyard and recapped the day.

Day 14: Monday, June 29 2015
Today was a relatively uneventful day for me. A few people in the group visited a German high school in the morning to learn more about the German education system. I opted to get some research and writing done in the cafe. 

After that morning work session, I headed to the Topography of Terror in the afternoon. It was a very informative experience, especially with regard to the more nuanced details of WWII. What I found to be particularly interesting was the post-WWII information the museum presented-- like how certain individuals in the Nazi part were prosecuted for their crimes. In addition, I learned that during the war the United States also had work camps for Germans. This was completely new information to me. The museum stated that working conditions were obviously much better than those of Nazi-run work camps, but obviously it was still forced labor. It's not like there was only one camp either-- there were quite a few in the US (see map below).
 A map of concentration camps for German prisoners in the US (above).
A remaning portion of the Wall outside the Topography of Terror (below).

After Topography of Terror, I went and had some shawarma, which was sub par, but cheap. In the evening I went for a nice venture walking around the river. It's getting much warmer out (it should be in the nineties later this week) so I'm preparing for some good weather!

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