The second half of my one week break was spent in Berlin. I really wish I'd been able to spend more time in not only Berlin, but Germany as a whole. Although some members of my party saw the language difference as a large barrier, I quite enjoyed being in a surrounding where English wasn't the first language. It's interesting to be in a country where being an American doesn't give you a free pass in society. We arrived at Schonefeld airport and began having immediate problems figuring out the transportation system. I did admittedly take German in high school which was only mildly helpful. After a small amount of struggling, we arrived at our hostel, "The Generator." This was a monster of a hostel, just huge. We threw out bags down and headed out to explore- this led us straight to food. I chose a traditional German hot dog- yum.
I opted for a short nap after we walked around. Almost immediately I noticed the massive amounts of graffiti that have overtaken parts of Berlin. Some may see it as trashy but it was quite impressive and gave a "face" to Berlin right away. We had a great dinner in the center of Berlin and called it a night somewhat early. The next day we woke up earlier to catch the "Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin." This was well worth it. The 4 hour bike tour covered the most famous sites in Berlin including: Check Point Charlie, The Berlin Wall, The Holocaust Museum, the site of Hitler's underground Bunker, and more. It was refreshing being outside and being shown the historically significant portions of the massive city. More dinner and exploring the night life ensued later on.
Our last full day in Berlin was spent at a concentration camp (Sachsenhausen) just out of the city. This was difficult and not exactly what I had expected. The site was originally used by SS officers for a camp and after the Soviets took over Berlin, it was converted into a Soviet "special camp." It was difficult seeing all the structures still in place and the audio guide provided testimonials from survivors of both camps. People were shot on site if they attempted to escape and outrageous medical experients were performed in the infirmary. 2 mass graves were also present on the site. The most difficult was going into the execution trenches where a large concrete block stood, filled with ashes. That's all I'd like to write about that.
Overall, I had an amazing time in Germany. I'd like to go back.