0457 Remembering my Month in Berlin (Germany 006—revisit)

Berlin Travel Blog

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This next city is a bit different.  I’m not really going with the intention of creating new memories or discovering new places. I already explored this city quite thoroughly and played music in parks and parkbenches all over the city.  I’m coming back as a pilgrimage to the place where my life changed quite dramatically 9 years ago.

 

I’m coming back to remember my Summer in Berlin.

 

It’s a good chance for me look back and reflect on all that has taken place in my life since that fateful year.

 

A look back at the year 2000…

 

1999 and 2000 were my “transitional years”… a lot of my ideals, priorities and goals changed dramatically during that time.

  And as I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life I made a lot of seemingly crazy and random decision.  My move to Berlin was one of the craziest of them all.

I had spent 6 months in Morocco and then a month in France hanging out with some musicians and house sitting for almost total strangers.  I was almost completely out of money. But instead of getting worried about it, I saw it as my golden opportunity… I’d always wondered what I would do if I were all alone without any money.  So this was my chance to see how tough I really was.

So instead of heading back to familiar territory, I bought a one way ticket to with almost all the money I had left… a ticket to Berlin…

 

I got off at the Zoogarten train station, and started walking… Through a Turkish neighbourhood… through the Bradenburg gate… all across former East Berlin… until night set in.  Then in an industrial sector in the northeast of the city I found a grove of trees, and just camped out for the night.

 

The next day, I felt like a new man.  I had passed the first test--  I had proven that I wouldn’t crack if I were in a country all alone with no money… So I decided to keep going… And for the next month, I hiked around East Germany, camping in the woods eating berries and apple and corn from the fields and occasionally splurging on bread and a can of beans.  I almost reached to Polish border, got lost, headed back to Berlin… headed east again and crossed to Kostrzyn, the “high water mark” of my adventure…

 

It was an incredibly liberating experience.  I proved to myself that I could survive all alone and I could completely disconnect from society if I wanted to. It was a turning point in my life, and a milestone I can always look back to to give me strength…


Fortunately, I didn’t decide to make this new lifestyle permanent.

  In the end, I borrowed some money, flew back to the United States, got a job, rented an apartment and started living a sort of  “normal” life… But I’ve always kept my Berlin experience in the back of my mind… and I know that, if I ever get sick of the rat race of modern society, I have it in me to break away and just hobo it all alone…

 

Back to the Present…

Now I’m back here in Berlin, coming to revisit some of them old campsites and tramping grounds of my 2000 trip.  I wandered all over the city, and was fascinated by all that I discovered here.  I’d like to also revisit Potsdam, Atlandsburg, Strausburg, Egersdorf, Kostrzyn--  other memorable towns from that trip--  but I don’t think that’ll be possible this time…

 

I head out of the bus station east, towards Zoogarten station where I’ll begin my pilgrimage.

  It almost feels like coming home to be walking the streets of this vast city.  And now that I’ve travelled Europe a bit, it strikes me that Berlin has the cheapest fast food in all of West Europe!  Doner kebabs run as little as 2 Euros here…

 

I pause at the ruins of the cathedral destroyed in World War II… a sobering reminder of the history of the city… then I continue up through Tiergarten, to take a few photos and clips of the monuments there. 

One monument that really catches my eye is the imposing Soviet Soldier Memorial, honouring the Russian soldier who perished while “liberating” the city… Hmmm… I wonder how Germans honestly feel when they look at that memorial? 

I would really like to have a frank chat with a German about how they really feel when they look back at World War II… but I don’t know that that’s going to happen.  I know Germans feel they need to choose their words very carefully when speaking of that subject with an American…

 

I continue on to take another clip in front of the Capitol building… in an area that was a huge construction zone back in 2000 when Germany was still in process of moving its capital to Berlin…

 

…And then up through the Bradenburg Gate… which I don’t find all that impressive as gates go--  but of course, very significant historically…

It’s a bit of a tourist trap--  I take a few minutes to rest and ponder in the interfaith peace room over to the side…

 

A protest against the transportation of radioactive material going on right outside the Bradenburg Gate quickly brings you back to the present day and present day issues.

 

I continue on east, past some of Berlin’s museums, government buildings and cathedrals.  There’s a wide open feel to this area--  not the compact feel that you get in most European city centers.  In fact Berlin doesn’t really have a single downtown, but rather multiple downtowns and landmarks all around the city.  You really need a lot of time to really appreciate the city.  I remember back in 2000 being awed by some of the massive WW II memorials way out at the edge of former East Berlin…

 

I reach Alexanderplatz, a focal point of protests in the days leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall.  There’s a big display about the fall of the Wall here, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary since that date.

  It’s a good chance to brush up on my Berlin history…

 

After travelling around East Europe and hearing so many people claim that they “were better off” under communism… its refreshing to be in a country that is unquestionably a post Cold War success story--  reunified Germany. 

 

I figure I’d better start heading back west… so I go south for a ways, past the tourist trappy Checkpoint Charlie and down into the cheerful neighbourhood of Kreuzburg…

 

At first I figure I’ll just hike all the way back to the bus station, but when I realize there’s no way I’ll get back in time, I hike up to the glitzy and very modern high rise/shopping area of Potsdammer Platz and grab a subway back west…

 

…And that’s my Pilgrimage Day in Berlin…

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photo by: CFD