The last leg of our trip was to Berlin, Germany. I was very excited to go to Germany because I have German ancestry. I was ready to attempt any German word that I knew, although that mainly consisted of “nein” and ”guten tag.” I expected to not be able to communicate with any of the locals and to have to resort to gestures and guessing. I was shocked that most people were able to speak English during a conversation. Ordering food was a lot simpler and asking for directions was less intimidating. I can honestly say I was a little disappointed there was not more of a language barrier. I wanted to be fully immersed in the German culture and seeing English signs, although useful, was kind of a bummer. I enjoyed when Professor Davidson would speak with the locals in fluent German. There is something fascinating about watching two people communicate and not knowing what is going on.
Although there were English signs and people were able to speak English, the German transportation system was the hardest for me to learn by far. You could travel by bus, train, or subway with the same ticket. There were so many different options, I never knew which was the best to pick and what options combined would get me to my destination the fastest (or at all). I was grateful for the times when Professor Davidson and Professor Steigerwald would travel with us. Even though I know I should not have, I basically followed them blindly while in Berlin.
Something that will forever be engrained in my memory is “mind the bike path.” If you walked in the bike path, you were guaranteed to get it. It was a common phrase for us to use because we loved combining the warning with “mind the gap” from the London Underground. It took a while for me to get use to, but I started to really like the idea of a bike path and wondered why this was not something commonly used in other countries, like the United States.
While “minding the bike path,” I loved looking around at the city as I walked. The history of Berlin was so evident, whether it was the remains of a bombed train station or the graffiti covering every surface. World War II and the Cold War were so prominent within the landscape and architecture of the city. It was so fascinating to see history right in front of my face. Seeing the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery were two times that I was staring straight at history and there was no ignoring it.
My time in Berlin will be a cultural and historical endeavor that I will never forget.