Mittwoch - Unsere Zweite Tag!
Niel Cook- Today the morning came very early. We are all still dealing with jetlag, but we are adjusting well. We met Profs. Byrnes and Tucker at the subway stop at 8 and set off at our usual breakneck pace. We visited the Brandenburg gate, although there is construction in the square in front of the Gate. From there we moved on to the Reichstagsgebaude. This building was once bombed out, but has been reconstructed with a new, glass dome. The dome is supposed to symbolize a transparent democracy. Prof. Byrnes made a friend just outside this stop. The man, a political activist, ended his conversation by stating that we were the future, and that we should clean up our country and come back to save Germany again.
The top of the Reichstagsgebaude offered a beautiful panorama view of Berlin. The dome is accessible, and we climbed to the top for a group photo. We also were instructed here on the value of finding free public toilets in Germany. Prof. Byrnes misses no details. We also saw a monument to fallen Soviet soldiers before lunch. Some of us who could read and speak some Russian translated the memorial to read "eternal glory."
We went to have lunch in a mall in a passage under some buildings on Friedrichstraße. After that we had some free time to look around or shop.
We don't shop, per-say, but tend t stand around and wonder at how expensive everything is here. Most of us visited an Italian restaurant, and a few had a Berlin dish, the Boulette. This is a sort of ground beef ball that is seasoned and cooked. It is very tasty, but we are all still waiting on Döner
We visited the Gendarmenmarkt after lunch and went to the Deutscher Dom there. This is a building that was once a church but is now a museum of German history which pas particular attention to events of the 20th century. Finally, we went to the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie museum. Here we saw the history of the Berlin Wall and many examples of successful escape plots as well as East German brutality towards failed attempts. Most sobering for me were the automatic guns that were rigged to tripwires and would fire sharp shrapnel in a huge area if the tripwires were touched.
After our sightseeing was over for the day, we went to have a beer with Prof. Byrnes. We went to a Bavarian restaurant, where we met an Irishman who had come to visit Germany years ago and never made it home. He now works serving beer from Munich to American tourists visiting Berlin.
Naps were in order for everyone when we made it back to the hostel.
Getting up early and going all day has not helped our jetlag at all. When we finally got out to dinner, we went to an Indian Restaurant where we met a very nice waiter from the Kashmir in Pakistan. We also caught the attention of some local girls, but didn’t catch much else. After our dinner, which was delicious, a young man approached and started a conversation in halting English and slightly slurred German. He related some of his political views and it didn’t take him revealing his shaved head or the statement, "Ich bin ein Faschist" for us to realize we were talking to a neo-Nazi. At about that time we decided to call it a night, even though it was very interesting to see a part of Germany that is often covered up and glossed over. It was a reminder that we can not just pretend that unseemly things do not exist simply because we don’t want them to. Taken in this perspective, the message our friend from the Reichstagsgebaude might have been making can be simplified to "Don’t stick your heads in the sand and forget that things are going on around you. Take action and be a part of the world." Suddenly, he doesn’t seem so crazy.