By Yelena Wermers
College student, blogger, theater geek and music lover who is currently studying abroad in London. Follow Yelena’s blog here.
| Spring break had been going swimmingly and wonderfully, until this point. We woke up at 3:30 am in our hostel to be out by 4 am to catch an early flight to Berlin. We always travel early because, first of all, it’s cheaper and second of all, it gives us more time in the city.
However, when we arrived at the airport in Florence, we found out our flight had been rerouted because of the winds. This meant going by bus from Florence to Pisa to catch a flight to Rome. We always originally had a layover in Rome, so it was no big deal. Just a little annoying.
The airline failed to tell us that we wouldn’t make our flight to Berlin. So as a group of exhausted teenagers, we went to another line and rescheduled our flight, which was leaving five hours later than originally planned.
In the end, we lost our first full day in Berlin, arriving at 5 pm instead of the originally planned 11 am. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we were all exhausted, and the over 12 hours of traveling and waiting had us all on edge.
We also wanted to see things since we now had limited time.
The first thing we did was check into our hostel, which was nice, but definitely a downgrade from the experience in Florence. (Like I said, we’ll probably never have another experience like that.) We dropped off our bags and asked the people at the front desk for recommendations for authentic German food.
We ended up going to this cute little German restaurant that was just three blocks from the hostel. (I’m kicking myself for not remembering the name of it.) It definitely seemed authentically German. We heard no English in the restaurant (besides our own) and it seemed as if people were doing business in the restaurant.
After dinner, we walked an extra few blocks to Alexanderplatz, which was once the center of East Berlin, but is now a shopping center and transit hub. We stopped inside the Primark before the Alexa shopping mall caught out attention with its bright and colorful design on the outside.
From there, we walked past the train station and along a street that was lined with various restaurants and souvenir shops. We also passed a movie theatre and noticed translations of movie titles were different. For example, the movie known as Patriot’s Day in America was just called Boston, which makes sense.
This road was marked as a “historical” path or something along those lines, so we followed the red footsteps towards the town hall, which looked beautiful lit up at night. We took a few pictures and continued toward Fernsehturm de Berlín, which is a television tower and serves as a symbol of Berlin. Today, the tower is the second tallest structure in the European Union.
The next day, we started at the East Side Gallery, which is a memorial on a remaining piece of the Berlin wall. It features 105 pieces that serve as memorials and expressions of hope for a better future. The artwork was all wonderful, regardless if I understood what each piece said. Here area a few of my favorite pieces:
The worst part about the wall, besides what it stood for, were the gates in front of every piece of art. In the past, the artwork has been destroyed, but it almost felt weird looking through a gate at a wall.
After a cute little breakfast, we walked to the Parliament building, where we met up with our roommates Colleen and Emilia who had just arrived in Berlin.
Together, we walked towards Brandenburg Gate, one of the best-known monuments in Germany and home to many major historical events.
A few blocks down from the Brandenburg Gate is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. At first, it just looks like a large grid of concrete blocks of varying sizes. However, when we googled it to see what the artist’s intentions were, it changed the way we experienced the memorial (if I’m being real with you). The two most important things we took away from the interpretations of the memorial were:
“According to Eisenman’s project text, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”
“Mr. Thierse talked about the memorial as creating a type of mortal fear in the visitor. Visitors have described the monument as isolating, triggered by the massive blocks of concrete, barricading the visitor from street noise and sights of Berlin.”
We went beneath the memorial to an exhibit that featured stories of victims and survivors, letters, family dynamics and how they were separated/if they survived and so on.
After, we went to Pottsdamer, which is another shopping center, then to Checkpoint Charlie. In the center, there were more pieces of the Berlin wall.
We walked through the center before reaching Checkpoint Charlie, where we read about the Berlin wall. The sign that was outside is not the original sign (the original sign is in a museum just down the street), but seeing where the sign would’ve stood was interesting.
The next morning, we made it to Amsterdam by 9 am. We couldn’t check into our hotel until about 2 pm that day, so we were stuck with our backpacks.
The first thing that we did was go on a canal boat tour because the weather wasn’t bad, and because we wouldn’t have to drag our backpacks around Amsterdam. It was a nice and educational experience, but one of those things I would do only once.
From there, we hopped onto the transit and went to the Van Gogh Museum because it was starting to drizzle and we still had all of our stuff on us. We were able to check our backpacks at coat check and enjoy the museum without the extra weight on our backs. Seeing Van Gogh’s work was nice, but I feel like they could’ve done more with the museum and that there was a lot of wasted space.
As for the Dali section, most of the work consisted of drawings from his early stages of surrealism. A lot of his work lined up with the mention or theories of Freud. There were frantic looking sketches on paper and programs, along with a couch set up and a version of his famous clock.
From there, we headed to the hostel to finally drop off out bags. We ate a quick dinner in Rembrandtplein Square and then went to meet up with friends for a quick drink before we walked through the Red Light District.
I really wasn’t sure what to think about the Red Light District. I understand everything and how it’s the world’s oldest profession or whatever, but I think that I didn’t like it. It wasn’t the prostitutes or anything that bothered me, it was just the atmosphere and how people seemed to treat them and act in the area. I don’t know still. But, I am glad that I got to walk through it.
The next morning we had an early wake-up call to go to the Anne Frank House, which we were all extremely excited about. I don’t know what I expected Anne Frank’s house to look like, but I was definitely surprised by the exterior. On top of that, it was smaller than I had imagined. Well, some areas, not all of them. Specifically Anne’s bedroom.
We saw pages of the actual diaries that Anne wrote in. They circulate the pages in order to preserve them. We also got to see the actual bookcase that hid the stairwell.
Afterward, we went to the Iamsterdam sign for pictures. However, before we took our pictures we found a stand with stroopwafels, a food Rose was looking for specifically. Let me tell you, the stroopwafel changed my life. It was messy in every which way, but worth it. Basically, a stroopwafel is made from two thin waffles with a thick, caramel-like syrup in the middle. You can buy them in bags, but we wanted to find a fresh one.
Post fries, we found ourselves at the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, where we watched tourists feed pigeons. We decided to walk along the canals before heading back to the hotel because we had to pack for yet another early morning flight!
Overall, spring break was a great time, despite the lack of any “break” or relaxing. I have to say that my favorite city was Florence, based on the experiences I had, and the FOOD. I’m all for another European spring break. 2k18 anyone?
About the Author
Yelena Wermers is a sophomore studying marketing at the University of Pittsburgh who is currently studying abroad in London. She is outgoing, loves to laugh and is addicted to social media. She enjoys traveling, listening to music, attending concerts and sporting events and hanging out with friends. Follow her at www.instagram.com/yelena.wermers (@yelena.wermers) or follow her blog here.