August 26th, 2003
Berlin. Rockin city. Again, I expected it to appear much more industrial, but in fact, it was incredibly modern, and quite the club town.
Sheila and I arrived in Berlin Wednesday night, and after killing a couple hours laying about in just one of Berlins hundreds of parks, we met up with the guys that Uwe had arranged for us to stay with, some friends of his. He explained it as "they are a part of the same fraternity as me, but at a different school. I know them, but I didnt go to school there.". Well, this fraternity house was more along the lines of a mansion. One of the most amazing houses I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the guys there did not speak English as well as Uwe, so we werent able to communicate with them that well. In fact, we had a hard time figuring out who knew Uwe there. At one point, we reasoned that it was completely possible that we had our directions wrong and that no one here knew him, and both sides were just playing out this scene trying to figure out whats going on. In the end, his name came up in one conversation, but that was really our only clue that we had the right house.
We really had only one full day in Berlin, so we spent it doing the speed-tour of the city, going around to all the famous places. Brandenburger Bridge, the Riechstag, Checkpoint Charlie, Potzdamer Platz, Berliner Dom, and of course, the remnants of the wall. The wall has been down for 14 years now, but the city is still a bit divided. The majority of Berliners that I met dont mesh well with the people from the other side. The west Berliners seem to think that the easterners arent open enough, and have racist attitudes. Although the east Berliners I met seemed to be pretty open-minded, but none of them cared much for the west Berliners all the same.
There is a stone memorial along where the wall used to sit. It runs right down the center of the street, and the stones are set in to the pavement. Its off to one side, so people arbirarily park where the wall used to be. The sides of the street look no different than each other. One of the west Berliners was telling me that the west poured a ton of money in to the east to make it more presentable, for tourism and just for city image. There is a small secton of 200 meters of the wall that still stand as a reminder. The back side has been turned in to a museum of sorts, detialing the events of WW2 and those that followed.
>>>I really knew very little for the reason of the existence of the wall or the exact circumstances to cause its falling, but have since learned and will include this here for anyone else who might not know. After the end of WW2, the victorious alleid forces were left to control sectors of Germany. Thus it was divided in to 4 parts, one for France, Great Britan, the USA, and Russia. The 3 sectors controlled by France, GB and USA were all free states, whereas the Russian one was obviously communist. Berlin lied wholly within the Russian sector, yet because it was the capital, it was decided to divide Berlin in to 4 parts, one going to each country. So, that left a communist East Germany with a city inside its borders that had free sectors. Refugees from the all over East Germany were defecting en-mass to the free sectors of the city of Berlin. So the wall was infact built by Soviet order in 1961 to go around the entire perimiter of free (west) Berlin to keep refugees from going in. People who lived within the wall in west Berlin were still free to travel to the rest of the world, but east Berliners were not allowed inside. 5000 people attempted escape they years it was up. About 1000 made it, 154 were killed, and the rest failed in their attempts. The wall came down in 1989 when communisim and the USSR came to an end and other borders began to open up.<<<
Berlin is now fast becoming one of the most visited cities in Europe. Once the new train station is done, it will make Berlin pretty much the capital of Europe. Truly is an amazing city.
That night, we went out clubbing with some of the people from the house. It was a Thursday, which means that most of the really big clubs arent open, which was just fine with us. We werent up for that big of a night anyway. I have met so many people that have said that Berlin is one of the best clubbing cities in the world, but that the scene is very underground and secretive. Something I think I'd like to find someday, but not when we only just had a day.
We left the next day for Hamburg to visit Sheilas friend Daniela. We have gotten pretty used to driving in to big cities by this time. We just keep driving along the highway until we see the sign that says "Zentrum" which means the center of the city, make it there, then find out where we are using the city-center map in the guidebook. We really made such a rapid tour of Germany, seeing 6 or 7 towns in 2 weeks, it really did feel like a Zentrum a day.
Its a nice day outside, and I am having trouble sitting in here, so I be short on Hamburg, which I *really* like a lot. Its a beautiful city, also with a good underground clubbing scene. Daniela is pretty well connected, so we get in to most of the clubs pretty easy. Hamburg also surprisingly has a beach. Being a shipping port, there are a lot of waterways, one of which is a beach, which had a nice reggae party the other day.
Ok, yeah, pretty short for a city I could go on about. But like I said, weather is too nice.
I am leaving Hamburg in the morning to head to Denmark.
Hope all is splendid with you.