So, here we are. Berlin.
The second city on my European jaunt. The first was Amsterdam. You can read about that here.
After spending two middling days in Amsterdam, I took the Deutsche Bahn IC train from the Amsterdam Centraal station to Hannover, where I changed unto the ultra-modern ICE Sprinter train to Berlin Hauptbanhof. Comfortable and fleet those ICE Sprinter trains. The whole journey took about 6hr 40m.
We crossed into Germany at the small town of Bad Bentheim. Silly me, I thought the town read ‘Bad Bethlehem’. A ‘Bad Bethlehem’ in Germany. Israel would like that very much.
German immigration police came on board at Bad Bentheim to check passports and right to cross into Deutschland. Polite lot. We were soon on our way.
I arrived Berlin Hauptbanhof at about 1:45pm (‘Hauptbanhof’ means ‘main railway station’). That station is a humongous glass and steel structure, one of the most spectacular architectural projects in Berlin. It also happens to be the most modern connecting train station in Europe.
I was promptly lost.
Question; why do many Germans pretend they don’t understand English? Many I approached for direction or information said they spoke only spattering English when in fact they spoke sufficient English to make good conversations.
Fellas, please leave me out of your beef with England. I genuinely need help!
I took the S-Bahn to Berlin Friedrichstraße Station (pronounced Friedrik-‘strassa’), which is a popular stop for tourists. My hostel was supposed to be close by.
On exiting the station, what should befall mine eyes?
Nestling against an exit of the station was an imbiss, snack shop that sold street food. If Berlin is the city for street food, then currywurst is its Mayor. Quite simply, there can’t be a Berlin without Herr currywurst.
I promptly ordered me a fare. Pork sausage (or Bratwurst in German), curry ketchup, curry powder, fried onions, mayonnaise and fries.
6,000 calories of Berliner goodness!
Having wolfed down my currywurst, I was now in the right frame of mind to find the whereabouts of my hostel. The day was sunny and beautiful.
Berlin, you and I are going to get along just fine!
So why am I in Berlin?
Simple. This was the capital of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The fall of Berlin signaled the end of Nazi Germany and its reign of terror in occupied Europe. Berlin was where the headquarters of the SS and Gestapo was and many other administrative apparatuses of the Third Reich.
A little history about Nazi ideology.
The basic elements of Hitler and Nazi ideology were hatred of democracy, communism and Jews. This was combined with a belief that the German people were superior to all other races. This warped ideology proclaimed biological inequality and the right of the “superior” German nation to dominate and decide the fate of the “inferior” nations, above all the Jews, Slavs and Roma (gypsies).
Hitler’s ideology necessitated the invasion and occupation of Europe, especially Eastern Europe, which he regarded as German “living space” (lebensraum). He proceeded on the liquidation of the “peoples of the East.” The liquidation entailed reducing fertility, increasing mortality and outright physical extermination. Especially of Jews.
Let’s pause for a moment here.
Do you see the parallel between Hitler’s depraved “Superior-Germany-must-dominate-inferior-nations” convictions and atheistic evolutionary theory?
Darwinistic evolutionary theory postulates that we are all beings of inconsequential existence. Accidents spawned by swirling mass of gas. A product of chance and matter. Random assemblage of chemical processes without rhyme or reason. There is no purpose to our existence.
Yup, you are a pond scum.
Further, in the atheistic Darwinistic evolutionary theory, there is no room for morality. No absolute sense of right or wrong. It is all relative. For a specie to survive, it must be the strongest around. It must eliminate inferior species, master its environment and evolve to a higher life organism. The inferior specie should and must die for the superior specie to survive. It is the way the cookie crumbles.
Why is such philosophy a problem? Because if it is true, then human lives have no intrinsic value. It can be dispensed with at whim. But a human life does have intrinsic value. Given to us by our Creator because we are Imago Dei – created in His image.
This intrinsic value is why we condemn murder. Why we loathe cruelty, and why we have sympathy for the weak. When we accept evolutionary biology beliefs as true, we accept that in essence there is no difference between a man and a cow.
Which isn’t a far=fetched idea really. Because I am certain you have come across many cows who can play a concerto, write a book or code a programme. All that Neil Armstrong “one-small-step-for-man-one- giant-leap-for-mankind” business? A sham. It was Matilda the Cow that first stepped on the moon and what she said was “one small step for a cow, one giant leap for all ungulates.”
Atheism and evolutionary biology beliefs are philosophies of discrimination, subjugation and death.
OK, back to Berlin.Needed to get that out of the way.
Of particular interest to me in Berlin was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, the Topography of Terror, the Mauermuseum and the remnants of the Berlin Wall.
Well, those and food and photography.
I had only two days in the city so my itinerary was cramped.
What were my first impressions of Berlin?
Well, Berlin is open. And straight-talking. And cosmopolitan. And hip. And punk. And inexpensive. And artsy. And German. And Turkish. Indeed Berlin has the highest number of Turkish people outside Istanbul.
Which, pardon me, must inevitably lead to talks of the Doner Kebab.
I’m sure you can swear that you’ve eaten some wicked kebabs in your life. And you may very well have. But if you have not eaten Doner Kebabs in Berlin, well, what have you been doing with your life?
Take a look at the pictures below. Oh Berlin, you are so good to me!
You may perhaps think that this Jide bloke like food a lot. You are wrong. I love food, not like. And I’ll have you know that calories don’t count in heaven!
But I digress again. Back to memories of Jewish persecution.
The Holocaust Memorial is a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust – the Nazi mass execution of Jews, Roma, Slavs and other nationalities. It consists of 2,711 concrete slabs erected in a grid pattern on grounds that slope. The memorial looked like a cemetery to me although the designers of the memorial says it is not.
As the memorial is on a sloping field, once you go in, the concrete slabs begin to grow taller into pillars until they completely consume you. The memorial becomes one massive maze. The pillars become smaller as you approach the exit. Quite a design marvel.
But it was sobering in there. The memorial evoked a feeling of loneliness. Of being lost and nameless.
Next stop was the touristy Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. Holocaust stories aside, I was still a tourist and touristy things are well in order. I wandered round the Mitte district a bit.
In the evening, it was time to look for…the Burgermeister.
In Germany, a ‘Burgermeister’ is chairman of the executive council (or cabinet) in many towns and cities. But let me be clear. I was not in Berlin to meet politicians. The Burgermeister I was looking for is the Burgermeister. The famed burger joint in Berlin.
I sought it. I found it. It was located under a subway in the artsy Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. In an old disused public toilet from the 1920s (how cool!)
It is said that Burgermeister makes the best burgers in the whole of Germany. Hundreds even vouch that its burgers are in the top three of the best burgers in Europe. Now that is some mean reputation that must be verified. I obviously could not trust anyone else to do justice to the task. So I commissioned myself.
I quickly got in line (there is always a long line at the Burgermeister). I ordered the chili cheese burger and fries.
I took a bite.
Oh Berlin, I have been an idiot for not coming to you sooner!
Next day, it was time to visit the East Side Gallery, the Mauermuseum and the Topography of Terror.
The East Side Gallery is the open-air gallery of murals painted directly on a 1.3km-long remains of the Berlin Wall (you do know about the Berlin Wall, right? Right?!) It sees over 3 million visitors each year. I had to see it.
The Mauermuseum, right next to Checkpoint Charlie (you do know about Checkpoint Charlie, right? Right?!), chronicles life in the Soviet-run ‘German Democratic Republic’ or East Germany. You will see exhibits of the dangerous and brave measures East Germans took to escape to better life in the Allied-run and prosperous West Germany.
The Topography of Terror is both an outdoor and indoor Nazi Germany history museum. A very long segments of the Berlin Wall in its original state was also visible here.
I’ll leave you with some more of my pictures and memories from Berlin.
Next stop, into the heart of Bavaria – Munich!
Please click here for Munich.