Date: Sunday, July 6, 2014 (for Friday, July 4, 2014)
Time: 9:41 pm local time (3:41 pm EST)
Place: Berlin (I think West)
I should be able to get through this post without falling asleep. I am absolutely exhausted! I’ve been walking around in the hot sun for hours!
We rode the train from Prague to Berlin, leaving at about 8:30 and arriving at about 1:30. Nothing much happened, but I am quite sure I dozed for quite a while. Dr. Wohlers, bless his soul, got us a compartment with six seats, and since Lisa, Kathy, and Laughlin decided to go to first class, there was plenty of room. Joel had taken a Benadryl, and so he lounged out on the three seats going one direction. It was fun to watch…
We went through the Sudetenland, which was a portion of (then) Czechoslovakia which was populated mostly by German speakers. This was one of the first places that Hitler conquered during the years before the war. He claimed that the German peoples (which had been spread hither and yon) had the right to have their own country. It was beautiful land with rolling green hills. It reminded me of Virginia or even the Smokeys (it’s just very, very hot).
We arrived in Berlin about 1:30 and walked quite a way to our hotel. It is technically a hotel, but really it is much more like a hostel. The rooms are nothing particularly nice, but they will do in a pinch as a place to sleep. They are safe, and they supply blankets, a pillow, and a towel. They do, however, not supply air conditioning.
Laughlin, Kaiti, Kathy, and I went exploring in the city (because Wohlers had told us not to stay in the hotel. Unfortunately this meant that I couldn’t do laundry). We had been told about the second largest department store in Europe. Wohlers gave us some sort of bogus directions, and a couple hours later we found it. It was a ritzy, overpriced place without a food court. We finally stopped and sat at an outdoor Italian café and enjoyed food. I got spaghetti alla quattro formaggi (four cheese sauce), which was quite good.
I had run out of deodorant a few days earlier, and had been trying (in vain) to not sweat. We stopped at a pharmacy and I asked if they had deodorant. They showed me two little tubes which were going for almost E16 (close to $25). I asked if they had anything cheaper (I should have asked for American), and they said I would have to go to a drugstore. They gave us bogus directions, too, and finally after about twelve miles (not quite) we found it. There I was able to get one tube (instead of two) for about E7. I didn’t feel very vindicated, but I was able to not stink as badly.
All the groups met by the train stop by the zoo, then we got on and went over to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is a strange monument. It takes up probably about an acre, and it is just concrete rectangular cubes (3D solids in the shape of a rectangle. I know there is a more technical term, but I’m too tired to think of it). There were no names, no plaques, and nothing announcing what it was. It was strange, but somewhat awesome.
We sat there and Lisa gave us a lecture about Germans and Germany. The biggest question she tried to answer was “Who are the Germans and what does it mean to be German?” The German people started out as a language group. The people who spoke Germanic languages began to migrate from Eastern Europe in the 200-300s. They settled in the north (Scandinavia) by the 400s.
The Franks were the first Christians, and by the 700s or 800s they were all German. From 1000 to 1200 there were technological developments (especially in agriculture) and the population increased. They moved back east to Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.
We skip ahead to 1814-1815 with the Congress of Vienna which ended the Napoleonic wars. The various empires were doing their best to shut down the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity that Napoleon and the French Revolution had fought for.
A man named Metternich came to power (I don’t have his position in my notes) and he very strongly believed that the Church and State needed to keep their powers.
The German Confederation was born during this time. It was the era of nationalism, industrialism, and romanticism. The 35 German states felt the need to come together, mostly under the “Prussian” Rule. Otto on Bismarck was a great diplomat, and he helped Prussia to gain prominence. By 1871 they had unified into the German Republic.
Bismarck was in charge, and so he got to say what was German during this time. He said anything that was Protestant and Lutheran, but he also made the times very secular. The state should have the power, but they should use Protestant ideals. I have the ideas in my head, but I don’t quite have the words to say.
World War I comes around, partially because of Bismarck’s alliances. Germany loses the war and is forced to take full blame for the mess and agree to pay reparations. They hadn’t realized that they were surrendering. They thought they were just agreeing to stop the war. They were forced to have no power whatsoever. Their new government didn’t have a Kaiser. Instead it had socialist and communist tendencies. Hitler was able to come to power during all the hysteria (which comes from the word for a woman’s uterus: a hysterectomy. They thought, basically, that it had to do with being weak, or one’s time of the month).
Hitler said that we need to get vindication for all they have put us through. Their borders had been shrunk, so Hitler said that they needed breathing space. He tried to bring all Germans together in one, large, country. The people of the time needed someone to blame, so they chose the Jews.
After the war the city of Berlin was divided into four parts (one each for Britain, France, the US, and Russia [or some form of the USSR]). Each country helped to rebuild each part of Germany. Britain, France, and the US basically had the same ideas, so their parts came together. East Germany, however, was Communist. It was split from about 1945-1989, though the wall didn’t go up until the 1960s.
In the evening (about 6:30, sunset is like 9:30) we went to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. It is a very informative museum, though it is a lot to slog through. There is so much information on every inch of wall (and it is in four languages: French, English, German, and Russian) that it’s hard to digest. At some later (and by that I mean much earlier in the day) date I may try to recount some of the stories. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it, but it also was a bit overwhelming. If it was a time in history I was more interested in, I would have liked to go and spend several days there.
I’m about to fall asleep! Love to all!
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.