Berlin. A city of crucial significance in modern history.
Perhaps it’s because of the fact that China has been striving for reunification ever since WWII, just like Germany. Or maybe it’s just the fact that I love international politics. In any case, I have always had a strong desire to visit Berlin. A week ago, my wish was finally realized.
Because a couple of friends and I wanted to visit Wittenberg and Potsdam before our excursion to Berlin, we set out from Jacobs early Friday morning, a day before everyone else. We first visited Wittenberg, or to use its full name, Wittenberg Lutherstadt. As the name suggests, it was here that Martin Luther first published his 95 Theses that shook the entire Catholic world. We visited the Luther house, admired the castle church where Luther first revealed his 95 Theses to the world, and walked around in this small East German town. Unfortunately the weather that day was quite horrible, so I don’t have any photos to show you.
We reached the city of Berlin at around 8:30 pm. The first thing that struck me as we left the train was the huge size of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof (Main train station). Having only been completed about 10 years ago, it was by far the largest and most modern of the German train stations.
Aside from the Hauptbahnhof, my overall impression of the city itself is, oddly enough, a city under construction. As we were walking towards our hostel from the train station, we saw construction sites everywhere. We would later find out that the part of the city we walked through was inside the boundaries of what had once been East Berlin, which explained the massive number of construction projects.
Early Saturday morning, we took a train to the nearby town of Potsdam. Known primarily due to the Potsdam Conference in 1945, Potsdam is a very serene and beautiful town, featuring acres of rolling woods and magnificent castles. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the original Potsdam Treaty or the house in which the Treaty was signed due to time constraints, but it was very pleasant to take an early morning stroll through the beautiful parks.
We returned to Berlin around noon to meet up with the rest of the group. At the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, we were greeted by the sight of a demonstration in progress.
As we later found out, the demonstrators were hoping for NATO to intervene in Syria.
After we met up with the group, we embarked on a bus tour of the entire city. We weaved in and out of traffic throughout the city, and some of the most famous attractions in the city. We were, however, only able to stop at a few of them. This only strengthened my resolve to revisit this city before the end of the semester.
On Sunday morning, we visited the famous East Side Gallery. This was one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. Now, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the East Side Gallery sports original graffiti from the Cold War era, as well as more recent paintings and drawings. Here, two German girls leave their own print on the East Side Gallery.
In the afternoon, we were given a tour of the Reichstag. The Berlin Reichstag houses the German Bundestag or Parliament. Having been renovated and redesigned many times in history, it is an epitome of the combination of history and modernity that Berlin embodies. The exterior of the building retains its pre-Third Reich looks, while the interiors and the glass dome atop the building embrace a more modern appearance.
Being a complete history nut, I of course enjoyed the guided Reichstag tour immensely. The Parliamentary member archive room, in particular, left me with a very deep impression. Here, each Parliamentary member since the Weimar Republic has his or her own box. As Adolf Hitler was a Parliament member before his appointment as Chancellor, he, of course, also had a box. It was obvious, however, that tourists have done their best to change the fact.
1933-1945 was the darkest period in German history. The absence of any parliament members during this time period is made obvious by this black box.
After the tour was over, we were left to explore the dome on our own. The first thing to enter my sight as I walked into the dome was this:
This giant cone was situated right over the plenary chamber. Comprised of mirrors on the exterior and a giant ventilation system on the inside, the cone provides the plenary chamber with both natural light and fresh air.
Once we reached the top of the dome, the other ChemEs and I decided to show some ChemE spirit. Can you tell what we are trying to do?
The view from the top of the Reichstag was amazing, and sunset from atop the Reichstag was nothing short of spectacular.
We left Berlin the next day. Although we spent close to 3 days in the city, I still felt that I had barely scratched the surface of all that Berlin represents. I am going back there someday. Count on it.