Monday, December 23, 2013

Berlin, Germany

I swear—I can’t keep up with these things. (This was what I wrote while traveling.. haha I wasn’t kidding !) We arrived in Berlin after a 5 hour train ride. (I should calculate how many hours we spent on the trains.) I was just happy. I got off into this huge train station. It had everything you would need and it was clean!! What is better than that?? It made you feel comfortable and excited for Berlin.

Berlin is huge. We went to check into our hostel. We got there by the S-Baun. It was free with our Eurail passes. Awesome. The bottom of our hostel or lobby I should say was a really fun looking bar. The rooms were really nice with privacy curtains, outlets, nice place for your belongings that locks up, and a personal light.  Ahhh.. this hostel was a dream. We went and saw the Berlin wall that night.

The next morning we shoved our faces with one of the best free breakfasts yet. Then we toured sachsenhausen; a concentration camp. George (our tour guide—who reminded me of Ben Sojka. He was really knowledgeable and passionate, scruffy, and about the same size.) He was an American, and from Missouri! Anyway, George really wanted you to understand the difference between concentration camp and a death camp. In concentration camps people were killed, yes. However they were labor camps so they worked them to death. The death toll of sachsenhausen is unknown. Low estimates of 35,000 and upward estimates of 55,000—for this particular concentration camp. Death camps like Aushwites  was where they took people for extermination. We were going to tour Aushvitzes in Poland (had our tickets booked and everything), but then found out Poland isn’t included in our Eurail passess. We had already spent so much on our Eurail passes that we didn’t splurge to go to Poland. I was bummed.

The time above is the exact time of liberation. 
"Work makes you free"

I was still happy that we got to go see a concentration camp. Maybe happy is the wrong word??? I just learned so much, and I was so interested in learning about the Holocaust in school. I think most of all I was going to see if I could get some answers or some reasoning to the questions we all have. Why. Our tour guide George did help shed some light on some of these questions. How didn’t the Germans know or why didn’t other people help/rebel? Why did people participate when they knew it was wrong?
George gave some explains like this:
--The kids were trained from young ages what to believe in schools, so now at older ages that had been somewhat brainwashed.
--Lots of propaganda
--People were given a choice.. go fight in the miserable freezing cold war or have a house given to them to stay in with their family and work for the SS. And whether or not you choose to go fight or stay there was going to be enough people that picked to stay 
--Repeatedly told or reminded people that this Jew has a job (or whatever it may be) and you don’t. How does that make you feel??

The concentration camp was silent. George talked of course, but people just listened and I think we were just taking it all in.
After the war Germany started destroying some of the camp sights. To try to hide the evidence sort of thing… George told us, but I forgot what made them stop. It is apart of history and they should be able to just destroy everything and act like nothing happened. They did apologize for their doings. I don’t really have any words—unbelievable. 

After the concentration camp we went and saw the Holocaust memorials. There were multiple memorials for the different groups that were targeted. The couple that we saw were for the Jews, Gypsies, and Homosexuals.

Gypsies memorial. It was really peaceful. 

Jew memorial.

The homosexual memorial. In that box was a video playing of homosexuals kissing. 

A cemented slab covered in gum. Lots and lots of gum. 

Jess and Sophie looking wonderful.


That night we grabbed a beer and burger at our hostel. It was the greatest burger that I have eaten since I have left Iowa. (and like the 2nd or 3rd time I had eaten meat on this Eurail trip. I actually am starting to miss meat) If that wasn’t a pick me up, I don’t know what would be!! It was a kraut burger with German kraut and mustard.

 The cute stop and goes of Berlin 
 Getting on the train as the sun comes up

We got up at 5am to leave. We left on time, got to the train station early and even had time for breakfast. Ahhh, so this is what it feels like. Wow, we are really getting the hang of this (now that we only have a couple train rides left..) Good job guys. We get to the platform and there is a 20 minute delay. Ok, not a big deal. We sit and watch the rest of the sunrise. It was beautiful. The train comes and people start getting on so we follow their lead. I get one of the best seats I’ve had on a train. It reclines a bit, and it was just top notch. Oh my gosh.. these next 5 hours will be me sleeping like a baby. I get all situation and comfy. Headphones in. Eyelids closed….. Tap on shoulder. It was Jess. “Abby, um we are on the wrong train. This isn’t going to Amsterdam.” Hahhahaahaha what??? Nothing surprises me anymore. We truly are the worst backpackers. We get off at the next stop, which is still in Berlin, just a different station. Well we need to get back to the first station so we can get on the later train to Amsterdam—unless… Unless our train will stop here like this one did. Ha! It did! Wow. We are too lucky. Our train stops 10 minutes later and we all double check that this is the correct train. The seats aren’t the same as the last train. Bummer. Hey it reclines a little bit! Upper!

Now, lets just hope we can make it off at the correct stop….