Last Sunday my travel partner and I split up for the day. We only had a day and a half in Berlin and each craved alone time. She had a handful of things picked out to do and I was in the pursuit of something I couldn’t quite name. With that said, the last thing I needed to do was bring her along for my crazy quest.
I took the underground and just get off somewhere that felt right. I walked back above ground somewhere around Frankfurter Tor and Strausberger Platz along Carl Marx Allee in the old East Berlin.
I wanted to see the communist architecture. I wanted to daydream about what it would have been like to live there before the wall fell. I figured I’d find a bunch of people like me walking around the streets, but I didn’t. I really felt alone. Felt silly for snapping pictures of the giant tiled apartment buildings lining the street. Hours went by and by ,though, looking around I couldn’t tell I’d moved. The dreary buildings are copies of each other. Strange.
Sure, it’s been 22-23 years since reunification, but the history is tangible. Blessed with an active imagination, I found this graffiti lined park, took a seat and assigned myself a role.
It was 1985 and I was a spy for the west. With the fall in sight, my job was clearly very important. I won’t get into specifics but Jason Bourne has nothing on me. I looked fantastic in my furry hat and long wool coat, just in case you were wondering?
Kinda spy-like, huh? Maybe I need to toss the pink. I was feeling it, though.
Camille, my favorite travel partner, and I drove from Munich, to Nuremberg, to Dresden and ended in Berlin. I’m still forming my opinions on Berlin. All the friends we met along the way told us we just wouldn’t like Berlin as much as we did “their” cities. I loved their pride, and they might be right. Though, how much of a judgement can be made when only visiting a city for 2 days? My immediate judgement. It’s a city that feels cold and spread out. Maybe that’s exactly what it is and that isn’t necessarily negative. It was just a far contrast to the culture we experienced only days earlier in Bavaria where we joined people on picnic tables holding up head sized beer glasses until we craved the bed.
Sweetest roadside coffee break :: despite the cow odor coming from behind us
In Dresden Camille and I fell in love with our little hampleman
he he he
My half day walking the streets of East Berlin fit in perfectly with what turned out to be the theme of the trip.
Facts, dates and cramming so hard you’d have thought I was going to be tested upon return.
The day before Berlin Camille and I met this fun group in Dresden.
After an intense pool game, that my partner Robert (far left) and I won, we went to some trancy dance club where, sitting in a quiet corner, Robert gave me a little history lesson. The club had these old toys in glass cases along the wall, which as Robert tells me, are remnants from the old days.
Dresden was part of East Germany. He and I are the same age, so he would have been 7 when the wall fell. He was so good to let me ask question after question. He’s still letting me ask. Isn’t skype beautiful? Maybe he could/can tell how fascinated I was, and wants more people across the world to understand what people in the east went through. Once I properly explained how obsessed I now am with the stasi he told me a movie to watch. I just finished it. It ended with me staring at the computer with tears in my eyes. It’s called the Lives of Others and came out in 2006.
It’s a beautiful/touching film that was perfect to mark one week since walking the very streets where the movie was filmed. The movie also has actual shots of the stasi files, files that those who lived in the east are sure to be found :: their names and lives documented. They can find pictures, films and notes about who they talked to and where they went.
We also went to Nuremberg where Hitler built his giant Nazi rally site. They have created a wonderful museum, in the actual greek looking coliseum structure, that tells the story of how Nuremberg was used by Hitler. This one shot took my breath away. These are our American heroes sitting on top the big rally structure once it was seized. They look so proud :: so tired.
So, this was hardly a vacation. We did take time to enjoy the great beer culture. I have many new favorites that I’m trying to find here at home :: or somewhere in the country, at least.
Being a flower/plant freak I was was in awe of all the amazing geraiums and window boxes. Germany is so green. In parts so rural and beautiful. Everything was just so plush and alive, while my plants in Memphis are fighting for life during this heat wave.
I also got a big kick out of how hot Camille and I dealt with no a.c. We’ve both done plenty of traveling, but I don’t ever remember sweating like we did. She and I would wake up around 4 a.m. every morning and just look at each other. This was the scene in every one of our rooms. A very pathetic old school fan by our bed.
So, it was an amazing trip. In Dresden Camille and I were told we had to touch this statue thing that apparently brings a lifetime of happiness. It took everything we had, but we got our hands on it. The cities we visited have been bombed to hell and back. The people, though, are strong and clearly determined to not let their past get in the way of their futures. A beautiful lesson for me and Camille while in their country searching for beauty and inspiration.