April 5th our bus got into Berlin, Germany at 9am. Immediately things were a little more difficult because everything was in german, but this time we didn’t have anyone to help translate for us, no wifi, no cellphone minutes, and people didn’t seem to speak much English. We eventually made it to our correct subway stop, where there was a shopping center nearby. Once there we found a few minutes of free wifi so we could look up directions to the place we were staying. Airbnb is a site where people rent out spare apartments or rooms in their houses to tourists and that is where we found this place, so it was a little more tricky to find than a touristy hostel. After unpacking we looked online to see the things we would want to visit in Berlin. A few famous things popped up and we marked them on our map, then something called Beelitz abandoned hospital came up. I saw a few photos then told Michael, ok we are going here. Since we were to meet my friend Ana tomorrow we decided to try to see the hospital today, so off we went back to the train station. Beelitz was about an hour outside of Berlin, but now we were determined to find our way to it. I mean, who just gets to see an abandoned nazi hospital just outside of Berlin? After making it to the farthest in town train, we had to switch to a Bahn, which goes outside the city. We had no idea where to go because it was the largest station with all the transfers, so we went to an info desk. I asked if the woman spoke english and she said just German, so I just pointed to the train number on my ticket, to which she responded with some angry yelling in German. I tried to simply gesture with her, but she was not having it, since I wouldn’t speak German to her. We left and outside there was a Dunkin Doughnuts where a younger girl was working. We asked her and she warmly gestured to the correct platform, despite not knowing much English herself. A little tip for anyone traveling Europe – typically younger people are happy to help and try to communicate with you, in addition to mostly knowing English, just so long as you are polite ask if they can help and are not presumptuous that they can speak English. After speaking with the Dunkin’ Doughnuts girl we found we had missed one of the last trains out of town for the day. We decided that perhaps sunrise would be safer to go tromping through an abandoned building in Germany, and since we know knew our way, we could just go in the morning. Tourist things were then set for the rest of the afternoon. We walked around the center and ate sandwiches and watched street performers. Then the next stop was the Holocaust Memorial.
The nameless stones were striking. I walked through the maze of pillars and ran my fingers across the cool smooth surface. How many people did this stand for? countless. It was a somber experience as I walked further and the ground sank deeper and deeper below. The memorial starts at road level, then in the middle it dips below, making the columns tower over you. It’s quite a somber experience. My thoughts were interrupted by laughing children playing tag through the endless rows. The laughter was a little eerie.
Walking around the Museum Island.
The last thing to see was the wall. We went to the East Side Gallery – this is where they built the wall right in the street between neighbors and families.
Metal posts lined where the wall once stood and a few of the fragments were still up and in tact. It was bizarre to think that a wall had once physically divided a city. Local walked by and seemingly thought nothing of what they were strolling by.
The underground station near the East Side Gallery.
A lot of stations in Berlin don’t have maps, so beware that you know what trains you’re taking before getting to a station. This one, was really desolate. No maps. No other people. Shattered windows. And only one sign. We got home about 8pm and I got to Skype Amanda and my parents. I miss everyone a lot. I’ve never really been homesick before. It’s a weird feeling.
Sunday April 4th we were off at 7:30am for the first train into Beelitz, Germany. Immediately off the train there is a few small houses and in the distance are looming buildings, surrounded by trees.
I’ll be honest. I’ve snuck into a lot of places. But this was different. We were in a foreign country. What if we got caught and thrown in jail because maybe the cop couldn’t speak English? What if they deported us? Can they do that? I had read lots of blogs that people had snuck in before, but I was just really nervous for some reason. I had detailed notes with a few friends in case they didn’t hear from me by midnight that night, so I felt that even if anything did go wrong, it’d be okay. So heart pounding, on we went.
The first building was a dash through the woods and into an open door. Once inside, every single sound seemed to make me jump. “What’s wrong with me? I’ve done this so many times, why am I freaking out?” I guess it was a combination of having no weapon, besides a tripod, and being in Germany, and the fact that is was an abandoned Nazi hospital all came into play. I always wonder how places get left like this.
I accidentally leaned against a wall and it crumbled all over me, scaring the pee out of me when the first piece hit me, feeling like a finger tapping on my shoulder.
The last building we had to enter through the cellar. A body suit had been strung up in the middle of the room. Just other people trying to make the place more creepy I guess. As if it needed any help.
After giving myself mild heart attacks all afternoon, I decided it was time Michael and I headed back to the station (by station I mean the one railroad track with a lone bench and old tattered sign reading Beelitz on the abandoned building behind it.)
Once back in town we met up with a photographer named Ana, and she took us for Falafal. I got Haloumi.
Next Ana took us to an abandoned Nazi airport. It wasn’t so terrifying because it had been turned into a park. It was sunny and warm and children were running around flying kites and playing with puppies. Yet another place that had been so terrible in history, that was now bringing locals together. We found an open spot in the cracked airstrip where the grass had begun to grow and took a little nap in the warm sun.
Ana wanted to take us to a rooftop bar called Klunkenkranich, because the view was supposedly one of the best in Berlin. So after the park, we went into town. Ana led us into an empty mall where all the stores were closed. We went up as far as the escalators could take us, then took to the stars that led to the parking garage. We hadn’t seen any signs for this bar and as we walked the 3rd lap of the garage’s circular incline, I began thinking, “There’s no way a bar is up here, if this is the only way up, and there’s no si–” My thoughts were cut off when I heard loud Indie music above me. Two more laps around the incline and the garage opened up to the rooftop, and up on the very top was a greenhouse/garden area with a bar sitting behind it.
Ana and me
It was a warm and beautiful day and a perfect close to the short time in Berlin.
My next blog post will be from Prague! For a current update, I am in Croatia right now.