The beginning of the end.

Berlin was different from what I was expecting. I didn’t see any skyscrapers and there was a lot of construction. I didn’t understand until later until it was explained that the German people were still readjusting after being separated for so long. Many of the building haven’t changed from the cold war. The first sight we visited was the Bundestag or the Reichstag building, the German seat of government or parliament building. We went on a small tour and saw the parliament room and learned that it changes every four years to fit the seats available for each political party. I also didn’t expect them to be purple.  We saw how they have preserved the writing the Russians did when they captured the Reichstag building during the Battle of Berlin.  They wrote their names, locations and other graphite all over the walls and any place they could. They also tried to preserve the bullet holes and some of the other evidence of the battle. We learned that there are only tram cars on the east side of Berlin because tram cars were only in East Berlin. When we went to see the German version of their war museum, it focused on what lead up to and how the Nazi’s gained power. It went through the aftermath of the First World War, the great depression and how the Nazis came to power. It also showed how the aftermath of the Second World War and how Germany was under the Soviet occupation and how it was divided during the cold war. There was no museum that we had visited previously that showed how the Nazi’s gained power. It was very different from the previous countries museums to see the German perspective.  As we were spending time in Germany I realized that I don’t like sausage or a lot of German food but I did like the Weiner Stitzel. Of the other cemeteries, the Soviet one was very different, it was massive and grand but the only grave was the mass grave near the end under a massive statue of a Russian soldier carrying a small child, brandishing a sword and standing on a broken swastika. The Soviets believed that because all of their fallen were seen as equal that they don’t deserve individual graves, thus they have the single mass grave.  Overall from what I had gathered from the different museums and memorials in Berlin, the German people were trying to make penance for what was committed during the Second World War and are still adjusting to the fall of the Soviet Union. This was made clear at the Russian-German museum or the capitulation museum, the sight where the second signing of the German surrender occurred. This museum was the only one that I can recall that focused on the eastern front and the atrocities that occurred there.  That being said, I only saw the German atrocities committed on the eastern front and not any of the Russian atrocities the Soviets committed.

Of everything that we got to see in Berlin, my favorite sight was the civilian bunker that was not bombed in WWII. It was dark and cramped and put into the perspective of how crowded it was and how there were not enough bunkers to cover the 3 million Berliners during the bombing of Berlin.  There was about 25 of us on that tour and there wasn’t enough space. It was hard to imagine how up to 400 to 500 people squeezed into that bunker during the bombings.    This was an amazing trip that I am glad I was able to be a part of and I will miss my classmates and will cherish our experiences together. I am sad to go but now I am heading to my final stop before heading home to the states.

Now I’m off to Florence!

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