We landed in Berlin bleary eyed after getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning for our flight. (Danny never went to sleep) and immediately something was different. No less than 10 minutes after getting off the plane, we stood in line to buy train tickets, customs and immigration completed, luggage in hand. Right on schedule the train appeared, opened it’s doors and we were whisked away to the center of Berlin. It worked like clockwork. “German efficiency, welcome to Europe,” I thought.
There’s a lot to see and do in Berlin, but first on our list was actually the Egyptian museum. Crazy, I know, considering it has been two weeks since we stood in the Egypt Museum in Cairo. Of course we wanted to see Nefertiti’s head after reading the rather belligerent request for it to be returned on a billboard in the museum in Cairo. For the record, her head was very nice, but not nearly as incredible as we had hoped. In the Sudan we slept under the stars next to the pyramids of Meroe, almost all of which have been destroyed by an Itialian fortune hunter in the 19th Century. Taking the gold jewelry and treasure back to Europe, we assumed while at the pyramids that it had been sold and lost to history. You can imagine my surprise and frankly excitement when I stumbled upon her treasures in this museum. Like a kid in a candy shop I examined every piece with such excitement that I think I scared the guy next to me.
Honestly we spent most our time in Berlin at the museums, given that there are more than 70 of them and both of us are history buffs isn’t too hard to understand. We saw Checkpoint Charlie, remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, road our bikes around the Bradenburg Gate, the German History museum, the site where the Nazi’s famously burned books, and spent nearly three hours exploring the Isalmic Art museum in the Pergamon. By the time we left we were museum-ed out.
Besides the more traditional museums, we also spent a lot of time at museums and sites dedicated to World War II. As Americans it was interesting to see the scholarship and academic work on World War II from a German perspective.
Having hosted, traveled and met several German’s along the way, we were not surprised at the frank and sometimes painful displays related to World War II and the Holocaust. We found the Topography of Terror Museum, on the site of the old SS headquarters in Berlin to be particularly interesting for the displays told a complete history of the SS’s actions during the era with facts and images that we had never seen. We appreciated that the Jewish Museum didn’t focus only on the Holocaust when telling the story of Jew’s in Germany, instead providing a chronological history since the medieval period. We ended our visit to Berlin at the Holocaust memorial located symbolically near the Bradenburg Gate.
Somewhere in there we had time to grab a pretzel, a few beers and cycle all over Berlin. In fact the couchsurfers we stayed with kept us out late each night, not that we’re complaining, beer tasting in the park, barbecuing with friends, playing cards and having some rather deep political conversations. We thought Europe would be a relaxing break for us, but if Berlin is any indication we’re going to be exhausted by the time we leave this continent.