14 April 2015 – 16 April 2015
Berlin – Graz
EDIT: Extra special bonus, I finally got a map of my entire trip worked out. I actually just stole the generated map from the Rome2Rio site, but hey, it works. For those who aren’t sure, my starting point in Graz is in the south of Austria, and is the bottom of the loop. I then went clockwise around the loop to Vienna, backtracked and more to Berlin, and then back finally to Graz. Both maps show the same thing, just at different magnifications.
Okay, this is it, I swear. The final part of my spring break adventures around Europe. You’ve been reading about this for 2 weeks now, so it’s about time that I finished this up officially.
To be honest, this is where my memory fades as to what we did when in Berlin, so I’ll just go over the next exciting things that happened without worrying if I’m getting their order down correctly. We decided to go see a standing section of the Berlin Wall, which would be in a completely innocent area next to a cemetery and busy street if it wasn’t for the large concrete wall. Two things about the wall. Firstly, I didn’t know that there were sections that were still up, I thought that they had all been torn down by protestors or the government in the late 80’s. Secondly, the wall isn’t nearly as tall I thought it would be. It was certainly too tall for me to get over by myself, but I could probably boost someone to climb over. I guess that’s what the guys with the machine guns were for. You can actually see panels from the wall in random places around Berlin, but this was just a noteworthy intact portion that we visited. We then followed the path the wall used to occupy in order to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the famous checkpoint that separated the American and Soviet sections of occupied Berlin, stopping for a bit to look at an outside museum exhibit about Nazi Germany. Incase you haven’t noticed, Berlin is full of museums about its recent history. Checkpoint Charlie itself was pretty cool, mostly due to the famous sign that is still at its original location. The area around the checkpoint is very different though, as there are now office buildings on the corners, with just a recreation of the checkpoint shed in the middle of the street, with two mock American guards in uniform. At some point during this, we went back to our hostel, where we nearly had a 6-bed room all to ourself, except for one guy who came in after we were asleep. I didn’t get to talk to the guy before we left the next morning, as I was in the shower, but when I came out, my roommates were extremely excited to tell me about him. Apparently upon finding out that he shared the room with two Americans, he proceeded to tell Lauren his beliefs about what must have been every conspiracy theory in existence, including, but not limited to: Aliens helping Hitler during WWII, the current secret American occupation of Germany, American propaganda about the moon landing, and more. I was very upset to hear that I had missed talking to our guest, and Berk made it quickly clear that he was Turkish, and had nothing to do with these strange American people.
That day, we made our way to a different section of the city, and saw two famous landmarks that I had been looking forward to, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. The Brandenburg Gate used to be the entrance into the Berlin walls way back in the day, but now the walls are gone and only the gate remains. When Napoleon conquered Berlin, he marched through the gate, and decided to take the chariot statue on top of the gate back to Paris as spoils of war, which was returned to the Germans following Napoleon’s defeat. The original statue was destroyed during the Red Army’s occupation of Berlin, but a new model has been placed upon the gate. Like I said, Berlin has a lively history. Very close nearby, the Reichstag is the seat of the government of Germany, and was famously taken over by the Red Army, who flew the Soviet flag over it and blew up all swastikas on the building with TNT. Nowadays, the dome of the Reichstag has been replaced with a glass dome that lets visitors look down into the meeting room of parliament if they’re in session. We wanted to go into the dome itself, but the line to do so was outrageously long, and I was unable to book a reservation online. We did a few more things at some point in our stay, including seeing the American embassy down the road from the Reichstag, and the Jewish memorial right in front of the building. The Jewish memorial is very interesting. It’s made of tons of gray pillars of various heights all in rows in a plaza. Towards the center of the plaza, the ground slopes down so the pillars tower over you and it’s hard to navigate. The floor is very wavy, and it’s a very surreal place overall. There is an museum section underneath the exterior memorial, but the lines were too long, so we were unable to visit it.
Some other stuff we did while Berlin that I can’t quite place is wandering around the city for an hour one night looking for a cheap place to eat before we settled on an Irish pub. I’m 99% sure this was our first night in Berlin, and I had some very good chili. We had lunch at one of the restaurants along a strip next to the Jewish memorial two days in a row, and it was a very nice and relaxing time, even if our waitstaff were jerks the second restaurant we stayed at. I’m not usually one to complain about poor service, but everyone at that restaurant was completely rude. Thank goodness their curry wurst was good though. I will say that the weather was incredibly nice during the end of our stay in Berlin, which made up for being snowed on in Munich.
The last notable tourist stop we made was to the East Side Gallery on the opposite side of Berlin. If you’ve ever seen pictures of painted sections of the Berlin Wall, there’s a good chance that those pictures were taken from there. The East Side Gallery isn’t a typical indoor gallery, but instead another intact section of the Berlin Wall that has been painted over with murals. There isn’t really any information about the gallery on sight, so we weren’t really sure if these were hired murals or amateurs who took it upon themselves to to this, although we suspected the former. I took a lot of pictures of this place, which are all below in my own… Bottom Page Gallery. This was a really cool section of Berlin, and a good end to the trip, although it was a little frustrating to see so much ‘tagging’ and graffiti on the murals. I know that’s a bit hypocritical, complaining about people graffitiing graffiti, but it really takes away from the picture when you write your name in sloppy white spray paint.
I am so turned around now about what day is what. In any case, on the last day of our trip, we looked through some touristy souvenir stores before going with Lauren down to the train station, as she was going to catch a flight to do a quick trip to Copenhagen before heading back to Graz. Berk and I said goodbye to her, then continued looking around the city square for a little bit longer before heading back across the city to the bus station I arrived in where we waited for our overnight bus. Believe it or not, this bus was even more uncomfortable than the last. That’s one part of the trip that I don’t miss. We arrived back in Vienna early in the morning, where we got some breakfast and made our way to an entirely different bus station (my third Vienna bus station overall) and waited the few hours to catch a bus back to Graz. I will say, pulling back into Graz after over 2 weeks of travel never felt better. I’ve never felt more at home in Austria than returning to a place where I knew how to get around and where everything is located. I said goodbye to Berk at Jakominiplatz, and caught the bus back to my lovely little apartment.
Thus ends my tale. I can now officially forget all the details of my trip, as they are all chronicled here for everyone. I did my best to recall everything as completely as I could, but I’m sure I inevitably forgot some details. The events of this last post were just over 2 weeks ago, so I’ve actually been back in Graz for longer than I was ever away. I’ve also officially passed the halfway point of my trip a few days after I returned, leaving me with just over 9 weeks before I return back home. As much as I hate to admit it, the first half of the trip was always scheduled to be the more exciting half, meaning that the posts will likely no longer be weekly, as I’ll be too caught up in school to have much to write about. However, I will say that I am in the early process of planning two more trips sometime soon, one during mid-May, and other sometime in May/June. They won’t be nearly as long as this trip was, only 3-4 days max, but it will still be something to look forward to. I also apologize for dragging this stuff out for as long as I did, but it was a lot of events to go through, and I honestly used Spring Break posts to cover doing little since I’ve returned to Austria :). I can’t promise anything about when the next post will come out, but look forward to it in the coming weeks, where I’ll have to do a recap of everything that I’ve done since returning to Graz! Until then!