So, here I am. 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 (‘Hauptbanhof’ means ‘main railway station’). 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’.
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. That station is a humongous glass and steel affair, no doubt one of the most spectacular architectural projects in Berlin. It is a grossly modern station and largest connecting train station in Europe.
I was promptly lost.
Question; why do many Germans pretend they don’t understand or speak 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. Me, I genuinely need help!
I took the S-Bahn (city rapid railway) to Berlin Friedrichstraße Station (pronounced Freedricht-‘strassa’), a popular stop for tourists. I was feeling my way around the rail service in Berlin and wanted to wander around before finding my hostel.
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.
I quickly got in line and ordered a fare. Pork sausage (or Bratwurst in German), ketchup, curry powder, fried onions, mayo and fat fries. 6,000 calories of Berliner goodness! If I die, I die!
Having wolfed down my currywurst, I was now in the right frame of mind to find the whereabouts of my hostel. I hailed a Uber. The day was sunny and beautiful.
Berlin, you and I are going to get along just fine!
So why am I in Berlin?
Simples. 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 brief 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. The way Hitler saw it, Jews, Slavs and Roma (gypsies) were at the bottom of the food chain and must be rid off.
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.
Let’s pause for a moment here.
Do you see the parallel between Hitler’s depraved racial convictions and atheistic evolutionary theory?
Let me break it down for you like MC Hammer.
Darwinism and its evolutionary theory postulates that we are all beings of inconsequential existence. Accidents spawned by a swirling mass of gas. There is no purpose to our existence. We arrived here by ‘natural selection’ ; the stronger adapted to its environment and survived. The weak died. That, in fact, the stronger ‘superior race’ must eliminate the ‘weaker’ and ‘inferior race to march on in the evolutionary journey.
But mankind can always, well, push natural selection along if it tarries beyond reason? We can help nature artificially select the right stock to march on in the evolutionary journey. So was borne the field of German eugenics. The genetic engineering to isolate and ‘breed out’ the weak and inferior race so they would not contaminate the superior gene pool of the Germans. The world will then be populated by the unquestionably superior Aryan race.
Further, in the atheistic evolutionary theory, there is no room for morality. There are no moral absolutes. Right and wrong are relative. The possession of morality may well be a weakness that prevents a specie from advancing.
Why is Darwinism or evolutionary theories a problem? Because if it is true, then human lives have no intrinsic value. No transcendental qualities.
But a human life does have intrinsic value. Endued to us by our Creator because we are Imago Dei – created in His image. It 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, when you come to think of it, may not be a ridiculous proposition after all. I’m sure you have come across many cows that can play a concerto, write books or code programmes. I’m also beginning to suspect that all that Neil Armstrong “one-small-step-for-man-one- giant-leap-for-mankind” business must have been a scam. Clearly, it was Matilda the Cow who first stepped on the moon what she probably said was “one small step for a cow, one giant leap for all ungulates.”
Embedded in evolutionary biology beliefs are concepts of racial discrimination, subjugation and death. You should know what you are signing up for.
OK, back to Berlin.
Of particular interest to me in Berlin were 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 places, in addition to 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, I do worry for your happiness.
Take a look at the pictures below. Oh Berlin, you are so good to me!
You may perhaps think that this Jide bloke likes food a lot. I can’t deny that I do. Only the living eat, people. Only the living.
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 the 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 reputation that must be verified. I commissioned myself for the task.
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 deep breathe.
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 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 is also visible here.
If there is one regret that I have about my visit to Berlin, it was that I only planned to stay two days in the city. You need a lifetime to see and enjoy Berlin. Such an amazing place. It is a city doing a great job of undoing the evil of the past. It’s a city that seem to be saying ” yea, we screwed up royally in the past but we are not going to let that define us. We will rise above our past and be a great welcoming city.” The colour of my skin wasn’t apparent to me in Berlin. I could have been Herr Alade from Roundtheblockdorf.
I am coming back to Berlin. I am!
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.