Last week I left Spain for the first time in seven months. WHAT? Compared to my fellow teaching assistants this is not common. Where my friends have been jet setting around Europe for the majority of our grant period, I have been staying closer, preferring to travel around Spain instead. I’ve done this for a few reasons, but mainly it has been to save money for a month long backpacking trip that I have planned with my friends from back home this summer. We are fitting six countries and eleven cities into a month…I just pray my body doesn’t give out from exhaustion!
I thought seven months was long enough in Spain and it was time to take a little time away from the routine chaos that has become daily life in Logroño.
Berlin, Germany sounded like a fantastic idea.
Back in September, we, as Fulbrighters, were told that there was an annual conference in Berlin, Germany every year. They told us that Fulbrighters from all over Europe were always invited and Spain was no exception. Along with the majority of my friends, we all of course wanted to attend. Fast-forward seven months to us boarding a plane at 6:30 in the morning in Madrid for a weeklong conference in the heart of Berlin. My hands gripping my passport and my shoulders not conditioned for the heavy backpack…I know, I know I need to start training ahora.
Now that I have returned safely to my wonderful little Spanish city, I can honestly say that leaving Spain was wonderful. That is not to say I don’t love Spain, I do…but I needed a break. I needed to not be the rubia (blonde) american for a week. It worked. Everyone spoke to me in German (which I cannot speak a bit of) and no one raised an eye when I walked into a coffee shop (except when I forgot how to order coffee in English…whoops). It was amazingly peaceful.
What about Berlin? Was it perfect just because it was my first trip in a while? Worth visiting?
A B S O L U T E L Y.
Berlin is packed with a unique culture that is hard not to like. If I were to compare it to any other city, I would say it is a much larger New Orleans, LA. However, instead of soulful jazz music, it has bumping HOUSE music (I wasn’t totally a fan). What it lacked in my preference in music, it made up tenfold in food. I wish I could truly convey how wonderful it was to have such a selection of food choices, but I don’t think you can truly understand until you’ve had one country’s food for seven straight months with little variety. #stillloveSpanishfoodpromise We treated ourselves to Korean, Mexican, Kebab, and Currywurst throughout our week. My favorite by far being the Kebab. I will have dreams about it for the rest of my life.
Added to the great food, we were able to see the sights and learn more about the deep history that is easily seen all around the city. What I think I love about cities like Berlin and New Orleans is this feeling of depth to the city within its history. I remember leaving NOLA feeling similar to how I felt on my return from Berlin. It goes without saying that Berlin is historically rich, between the war, the wall, reconstruction and the counter culture population; the city is a hub of energy.
During the week we visited the majority of the significant places in Berlin: the Wall, East Side Gallery, the cathedral, etc. Of those places, the Holocaust Memorial, the Topography of Terror museum, and Sachsenhausen concentration camp were the most powerful and humbling experiences I experienced. These three places don’t warrant much explanation as to why they were so impactful, but their weight and influence on the city are definitely worth talking about.
For a city that is still rebuilding from the travesties that occurred only a few years ago, Berlin has every right to want to forget the horrors of the past. However, instead of forgetting these things, they have preserved it in a manner that suggests that rather than forget, they want to build and learn from it. This ideal can be seen everywhere around the city, but nowhere did I feel it like I did than in these three places. It was powerful. My heart felt hollow a
t moments. Many times my eyes watered and I was nauseated. But it was worth feeling because it made the positives, the growth, the rebuilding, and the hope…all that more significant. I was able to attend services at a Sy
nagogue after I visited the concentration camp as well. I was able to see all those positives within a four hour timespan.
I wouldbe lying if I said that Berlin was wonderful just on it’s own…the people I went with, the people I met, and the nature of the trip (first time out in 7 months), these things were all so perfect and I could not have planned it better. However, the energy, the beauty and the history of this city make it impossible to not like. If anything the food could speak for itself!
So in short, I recommend Berlin to any traveler wanting a high energy and historically significant trip. But also, I recommend taking your time here. Enjoy the eccentric people that walk the streets, try different neighborhoods, and eat anything and everything that smells good. It will be worth it.
These next few months I will be traveling 100% more than I had before. Sevilla and Portugal are next on the list, then a little time before my big backpacking trip. It could be the onset of spring in the air and the excitement of traveling, but these days are looking beautiful and I am so fortunate once again to be where I am!
Sending wonderful and positive vibes to everyone at home!
PS: I booked a ticket to come home July 31st…plan accordingly people!