After graduating from college, my best friend and I decided to backpack through Europe for three weeks. So after months of planning we found ourselves on a plane, jet set for Berlin, Germany.
We arrived around 8am on a Wednesday morning then caught a taxi to East Seven Hostel where we locked up our backpacks and took a stroll through the streets. The first thing we noticed was how lush the city was; beautiful greenery everywhere we turned. The second thing we noticed, were our allergies. You could literally see the white pollen dancing through the air, tickling your nostrils and blurring your vision. Needless to say, Christina and I were extremely grateful for our last minute packing decision to bring Allegra and Zyrtec! The city wasn’t too hard to navigate, although we aimlessly wandered for two hours trying to orient ourselves. It was an absolutely beautiful day with a light cool breeze.
After grabbing some coffee to combat our jetlag, we decided to rent bicycles and ride through the city, stopping at monuments along the way. Berlin is decently spread out, so biking was the perfect way to see most of the city in a relatively short amount of time…we highly recommend it!!! Riding through Tiergarten was one of my favorite experiences and I wish I had my dog Keira with me! She would have loved the green, leafy park! We rode to the Berlin Wall, the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg gate, Alexanderplatz, and many other sites. Definitely a wonderful experience although maybe we should have put on sunscreen haha! We ended our first night with dinner at a Biergarten and the Berliner Kindle Pilsner was fantastic.
The only rough part of our first day in Berlin was the jetlag. I got 4 hours of sleep in a 48 hour time frame. I wasn’t able to sleep on the airplane or the night before because I was so excited about our adventures.
Our second day in Berlin, we took the train to a small town named Oranienburg which houses the Sachsenhausen Nazi concentration camp. It was built in 1936 to imprison political threats but it soon became a labor camp. Upon entering the gates to Sachsenhausen, prisoners were greeted with a sign that read “arbeit macht frei” which translates to “work will set you free,” a false pretense of hope for the victims of World War II.
It’s hard to describe the eerie atmosphere that encircled the camp or the knots that formed in our stomachs as we stood upon genocide’s graves. To read about the Holocaust in history books slightly distances you from the gravity of the horrors that occurred under the Nazi regime. However, once you step foot beyond the gate you see the gas chambers where many suffocated, the remnants of ovens where emaciated bodies were cremated, and the pits where firing squads slaughtered an entire race, and suddenly history is brought to life before your very eyes. It was a very sobering and emotional experience, tears were definitely shed throughout our tour.
“Those who forget about the past, are doomed to repeat it. That is why we must remember the Holocaust and never let it happen again.”
We returned to Berlin with an appetite and decided to try this authentic German restaurant that our tour guide had recommended. Once we found the place (we must have walked circles around it at least 3 times) we ordered Berlin meatballs and potatoes with a cold pilsner. It was incredibly delicious! If you ever travel to Berlin, this restaurant is a must!!! The name is Zur Letzten Instanz and it is one of the oldest restaurants in Berlin, dating back to the 17th century. To appropriately end our time in Berlin, we grabbed beers at a local bar and relaxed after a long day on our feet.