I know this a bit late, but I spent five days in Berlin over the New Year period. And woah buddy - Berlin is phenomenal. I'm not even kidding. I stood outside the university Einstein used to lecture at. Under the Brandenburg Gate that Napoleon rode through when he was on the campaign for France. I stood in the little dingy carpark where Hitler took his last breath. I saw the wall. I heard the history, so much of the history that happened here. I saw the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe (that's its actual name), and it was actually kind of delightful, despite all it's meaning. The Topography of Terror was hard going, and a bit depressing. Especially because the Volk people loved Hitler before he went bat shit crazy. The default thought with Hitler nowdays is that Hitler = bad. Hitler = bat shit cray. But these people, they LOVED him. Like he was a rockstar loved him. They thought he was pulling their country into a new era, they trusted him, and it wasn't until much later that all the horrific things came out. Could you imagine? It was hard going. Even more so is that the building blocks and techniques Hitler used to kick off his 'were better than them' campaign still exist today, between ourselves, in our current day society. It was a very scary thought, and I had to take a moment to come to terms with that - it kind of knocked me for six and my brain was going a million miles an hour. I think part of why they show this and keep bringing up this mad history is so that people nowadays can learn from the mistakes that happened in the past. That even if the building blocks still exist in modern day society, we'll be able to spot if someone starts putting them together in a way they shouldn't. So yeah, part of this holiday was spent in furious thought for all that happened to kick off WWII. Berlin was pretty much at the heart of it, and so much has been preserved. So yeah, had to take a moment.
There were many moments, though. Like the idea that my Grandfather fought in WWII. He was in the fifth Maori Battalion. I remember vague stories about him chasing kunikuni, and eating puha (which the Italians he was stationed with thought insane, cause it was a weed there). This war was huge, and here I was, his moko 50 years later walking down the main boulevards of Berlin, across from the east side to the west side as I pleased. I stood where Hitler died like it was no big thing. My mind was a little bit blown. 50 years earlier and I probably would have been shot on the spot. He would have been shot on the spot. Mind blown.
Still, it wasn't all depressing history. I walked through the Ishtar Gate of Babylon! I admired the ridiculously ornate Great Altar of Pergamon. It was pretty insane (and also, the altar was mostly used for sacrificing animals + people to the Gods, so, yeah. There was that). I saw that bust of Nefertiti. She was all kinds of gorgeous. Insanely so. But otherwise the main attraction of the Neues Museum was the museum itself. The rooms that survived were gorgeous. I spent much more time admiring all the frescos and half destroyed details than I did the exhibitions. Apart from the hat, a medieval thing made of gold which inspired a lot of the wizards hat that we know of today, anyway. Or the secret hat, because we're pretty sure there are two (despite there being only four worldwide). In saying that, we probably shouldn't have been snooping between locked doors...
What else? We saw all the things. Check Point Charlie. Heard about JFK's speech, and how he accidentally called himself a Jelly Donut. We ate all the things (lots of meat + potatoes, but there were a few gorgeous places that hit the spot. Cookies + Cream a definite highlight, despite having to walk into back alley madness). We explored random alleys filled with street art and tried to find (and failed) the mysterious golden invader. I drank a fair few g+ts garnished with cucumber, rather than lime (the Hendricks way, apparently). We rang in New Years, and then walked through the mess New Years Day. We ate breakfast in fancy places that served poached eggs in glasses, and were hot chocolates came in jugs. We ate too much at Gendarmenmarkt (a Christmas Market) and enjoyed the christmas trees and mulled wine, even though it was well after christmas. We rode the trains, and walked and said a lot of 'dankeschön' and 'prost'.
It was a brilliant few days, and I had a lot of fun. Berlin, aye? Who'd have thunk it.
Full Disclaimer: All the photos with me in them (bar the last one) were taken by Liz + Rob.