The first week of study abroad started as soon as we arrived at the airport in Berlin. The first step after going through customs and claiming our bags was to exchange money. Some people chose to bring US dollars with them, while others decided to withdraw directly from the ATM.
After dropping our stuff off at the apartments provided for us, we headed off to Alexanderplatz to get sim cards for some of the students. Unfortunately, since it was Sunday, the store was closed. We then headed to eat lunch at Hackescher Markt. There were a lot of stores to choose from with a large variety of food options. In the end, I chose to eat the Döner kebab, which is a popular meal in Germany. Following lunch, we went to James-Simon-Park, which was only a few minutes away on foot. We spent some time here to do some sketching and cross-sections of the Spree River, which is the main river that runs through Berlin. The day continued following the river with sketching at certain times.
The second day in Berlin started at 9am sharp. We went down to the Berlin Wall Memorial, which contained pieces of the original wall. We got to see views from both East and West Berlin, as well as within the “Death Zone/Strip” that was located between the two walls. Even though only a few stretches of the walls remained, metal rods were installed in the ground to mark where the original wall was. Photos also showed the evolution of the wall from when it was originally something that looked like it would never go up, to a fully solid wall that was made with prefabricated concrete slabs. We then went on to visit the Chancellor’s house and the Reichstag Building, learning not only about their political history and use, but about their architectural history as well. As we continued down the street, we came to the Spree River once again, but this time, we were looking at two Parliament buildings that were connected by the “Ribbon of the Federation,” which is a pedestrian bridge. The Paul-Löbe-House was located in West Berlin, while the Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus was located in East Berlin. As a tourist in Berlin, we definitely had to visit the Brandenburg Gate. This area was also full of different embassies and tourists from all over were taking pictures in front of the gate. We then continued on to a Holocaust memorial site, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The site contains a more aesthetic component above ground, while the memorial with names of victims are located in an underground museum located at one end of the site. A smaller memorial for homosexuals is located in the park across the street that allows nudity in certain areas. As the day continued on after lunch, we visited many historical sites around the area. This day was the most tiring of all so far, as we constantly walked and talked about the history of certain buildings and areas.
Today we started at the Karl-Marx-Allee, where we were able to experience a park-like feeling within a city area. As someone who grew up in New York City, the feeling the Allee provided was like that of sitting in Central Park. The main difference between the two places is that the city outside of the Allee was not as busy as New York City. Even though there were a bunch of shops located on the first floor of every building, there weren’t enough parking spots for people to park in and allow them to browse through the stores. Therefore, the environment surrounding the Allee was much quieter. From there, we headed to one part of Tiergarten Park, looking at some of the architectural buildings that were either built after being bombed or survived the bombings.