Each day in Berlin, I rented a bike from a small bodega near my host Hannah’s building. Biking allowed me to cover some serious ground in Berlin, which worked in my favor as the city’s quite large and I was only there for a few days.
Since traveling, I have missed nothing more than my beautiful, beat-up, bright blue road bike (now slowly losing air in my grandma’s basement) so, blessed with sunshine and brisk autumn weather, I gleefully took on the whole of Berlin on a crappy, 10-euro, 3-speed rental.
Early on in my stay, I biked around to many of the key touristic areas: the East Side Gallery (see previous post), the Jewish Memorial, Museumsinsel, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Reichstag, etc. After I’d had my fill of tourist attractions (which tends to happen extremely fast, for some reason), I biked nearly all the way across the city, stopping and photographing street art, interesting buildings, and good city views. I self-toured through several of Berlin’s many boroughs, visited the huge Mauerpark flea market, rode through a lengthy, forested park (Tiergarten), and ate some amazing and relatively cheap food (none of it was German. They don’t understand vegetarianism in this country).
A key difference in my self-guided exploration of Berlin, compared to other cities: I had a full city map in-hand! Yeah!
Some touristy things…
“Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”
Hannah and I biked to the Jewish Memorial on my first day in Berlin. It’s one of the more powerful holocaust memorials I’ve been to. From the periphery, it looks like a field of solid gray columns of varying heights, all relatively short – reminiscent of gravestones. But when you walk into the memorial, you find that the ground is uneven, and the gray pillars are placed in a grid format, some towering over your head, some shorter than you. Some of the columns lean a bit to the left or the right. There are no markings on them at all. Like all genocide memorials, it is somber and hallowed.
Wikipedia has a good description of the memorial’s feel:
…the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
Walking through the memorial, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the shrieks of children, or see them jumping and playing between the columns in this vast maze. Hannah told me this is quite controversial; some feel it is disrespectful to run or play amongst the columns, while others feel it is a hopeful and positive thing that children can express happiness and enjoy their youth here.
“Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Naziism”
This is another memorial Hannah and I visited. It was in a lovely park close to the Jewish memorial, but set back a bit from the main path. I found it quite unique.
Inside the cement block was a television, steaming a video on loop. The film depicted various homosexual couples expressing their love for one another, with undertones of secrecy, but so much love. I think it is a beautiful memorial.
Other things I loved about Berlin
And last, my favorite picture from Berlin. I should mention that I have now seen 11 rainbows since beginning my journey. That’s 11 rainbows in about one month. I don’t count the rainbows that show in this photo, but I was so amazed to look at this picture and see them there after I took it.