3. Berlin

Brandenburger Tor

We arrived early in the morning in the Berlin Train Station and we went to the hostel and dropped off our backpacks and went out again. At six in the morning or something I took this picture of Brandenburger Tor. It was great being there this early as it was almost empty and the city was still asleep. Berlin is a wonderful, wonderful city. I do find it hard though to pinpoint what exactly is so great about it. But the feel of it all is what makes it I think. More about the nightlife later but that combined with a massive city with a great mix of all things on earth and also that so much was destroyed during the war that Berlin is still re-building itself is making the city into something very special. And the people are really great too. Tons of tourists sure, but everyone seems joyous being there and the Germans (and foreigners) living there seems to greet everyone with an open mind.

The Berlin Wall

There were parts of the Berlin wall left on its original places. And it is way smaller and especially thinner than I expected it to be. We all know the history and all that so I guess that's pretty much all I will say about it. One afternoon we took the subway to a distant part of Berlin where an Alliance museum was placed. It was one of the better museums I've been too. Talking about the East/West shenanigans after WWII. Right outside the museum was this monument of the fall of the Wall. Given to Germany by Bush and I must say it's one of the best monuments I've seen. Not that it is particularly big or stylish. It has just such a profound meaning and the wall the horses are running over is actually parts of the actual wall. Which I think adds even more to this beautiful piece.

The day after we took a Walking Tour of Berlin. It was, when it comes to guides and museum going, the best I've ever taken! And we weren't even in one single museum. We were maybe 30 people, mostly my age, and the guide was this girl from Australia living there, also my age. This company holding these Walking Tours mostly hire students at the Uni for doing this for a bit of money. It's free but you can (should) give some tip at the end of the tour. Anyway, so yeah this girl was the guide and she was extremely enthousiastic but also very open and fun. Here's some pictures from the tour;

A Jewish Memorial. The "stones" are meant to make you, while walking amongst them, a bit disoriented and later like you are just walking and never going anywhere. Just like it felt at the Concentration Camps. It worked. We walked in two different paths and all of a sudden you lost the view of the other and then a few more seconds you were completely lost. (Not like it was a labyrinth, you could just walk straight and get out.)

Me And Emily looking tired. I forgot to mention it was extremely hot all these days of the trip. But it also rained almost everyday. Typical Summer weather in Europe. Heh.

Near this place, Hitler's bunker was once placed. Now, to quote the Aussie's words: "It is no more other than a car park and a tiny area of grass where dogs usually poo." Very fitting.

Berlin University and the square where the Nazi's burnt thousands of books. Very fitting monument here too. The picture on the right is of the Aussie girl and a pub where we went after the tour. Everyone got a free beer! Very fun night awaited. More under the pictures.

I haven't mentioned it yet but this day we met up with Fredrik, seen on the left above, who was the old class mate from Karlskrona with whom I went to Montreal with. He was travelling through Germany and managed to meet us in Berlin for a day, at least. Great fun to see him again.
So we sat at a table next to some Irish and other Australian guys. (Australians were everywhere, everywhere we went!) Must say Irish and Aussies are some of the nicer people you can meet.
Luckily the Aussie girl (yes, I have forgotten her name as you can guess by now.), placed herself on our table. And later she showed us another place. This massive torned up building where there were clubs and pubs and cool tiny restaurants. But very spartan and it didn't cost anything to enter. At the back of this there were tons of sand and destroyed debree where you could sit and drink and talk. So we did. It was extremely cool!
The building itself was a bombed out abandoned hotel. So for example the club on the second floor had no walls at some parts.
Next to the Debaser night it was the best night of the trip!

The night after was the complete opposite of fun and enjoyment. We went out to Sachsenhausen, the Concentration Camp outside of Berlin. We did have a guide from the same company, which made it a great experience in the sense that you really felt it and got to know more about it all. In a, wouldn't say lighter, but easier to handle sort of way. This time it was a girl from America. But just as good as Miss Aussie, but of course not with the "joyous" talk.

It might sound cliché but it really is impossible to put into words how it feels walking around such an area and see all the things and hear all the stories. Sachsenhausen was not like Auschwitz in which the sole purpose was to kill as many jews as possible. This CC was more of an experimental camp. Doctors doing horrible experiments on prisoners. Plus it was also a jail for homosexuals and political enemies and so on. At the end they did use a gas room and a couple of ovens.
I must say I felt a bit uncomfortable taking pictures. But in another way as we discussed walking around there, it is important as well. The only place where I didn't take pictures (I took of the ovens even, as seen below) was the basements under the "hospital". We went down some stairs and into a dark room. It was lit up and everything was preserved. The tiles on the walls and the concrete floors. Stained with blood. Lots of blood. As this was where they kept all the dead bodies. It was so horrible staying there and I definitely didn't feel like taking pictures.

The buildings where they were held were demolished by the Soviets when they freed the camp. And most was destroyed. Apart from the hospital and the surrounding walls and gates and main building. Below are wooden panels that shows where the buildings were placed. And also the Soviet Monument of the liberation.

The "tour" of the CC took over 6 hours but it actually felt shorter. And in another way like forever. But the guide was fantastic and the whole experience was so compact in emotions and information that everything felt at the end like it had happened in one minute. But it sure left me with feelings and thoughts that I will carry with me through my life. I can definitely feel exactly what I felt being there by just closing my eyes.
Finally here is the bathroom, the destroyed gas chamber with ovens and a memorial area next to it.

So after this we went back to the centre of Berlin and enjoyed a nice dinner and not much else. It wasn't really the day to go out. We left the day after for Prauge.
What comes to me when I look back at Berlin is that, even though I haven't the pictures of it, the nights were amazing. Just so relaxed. People could be what they wanted, how they wanted and when they wanted. It's a very, very, very cool city.
And it's really heartfelt to see this city being what it is, even after all it has gone through. Throughout the hundreds of years, it wasn't only WWII that made this city fight and become what it is.

4. Prague

The people we met through our journey up 'til now all had said when we told them we were going to Prauge "Wow, it's such an incredible place". So the expectations were rather high. And, they weren't completely met. The positive things first: cheap, cheap beer (and almost everything else too), a freaking beer cost less than if you would buy a Coke! So going out in the two nights we stayed there was very cheap and it was fun nights. No question about it. But I guess we both had imagined some incredible New Year's day parties every night. And the city itself wasn't that beautiful. Most of the people saying Prague was beautiful hadn't been to Stockholm. And I think that's one reason why we reacted slightly different. Don't get me wrong, it's a beatiful city with all the oldness in castles and houses. But so is Stockholm, and it's more water in my capital city. They are similar but the water and people edges out Prague from the top I think. Now I feel I am treading on a thin line to sound very biased. But I am not! Okay I might be a bit, but Emily is definitely not. And she felt the same way. So I take that as some sort of fact. But anyway, Prague is what I am meant to speak about. It has one hell of a castle though. MASSIVE. We went up the clock tower and it just never ended with the freaking steps. And it was nothing to hold on to so you almost crawled on the stairs. And it didn't stop there, no, people were constantly walking down as well so you had to become a thin line to let them pass. It was hellish. And I am quite used to climbing castles and clock towers... You would think that once up you would get the fresh air and rest. But no. The balcony was thin as hell and it was a line getting out as well. So yeah, it was an awful decision going up that thing. Finally down on ground again was a fantastic feeling. My feet was tap dancing of joy.
Almost forgot the biggest feeling of being in Prague. It definitely feels more Eastern than West. When we arrived at the train station and tried to find our hostel it was definitely like Lost In Translation. Charming in its own way though. But at moments quite a "Let's calm down and take this very slow" situations.

View from the road up to the castle.

So to sum up Prague: It's a great city but it came right after one of the best in the world so it already started in a minus position. The hype was not a good start either. And that it rained constantly apart from the trip to the castle didn't make it easier. But, it is definitely a good city to visit for a weekend. I bet a Romantic trip there would be something extra for sure.
But it did make Emily and me able to gather our strength mentally (and excluding the tower) physically. And also for us to get closer and speak alot, I mean, focus on that, if you get what I mean. I feel I sounded way too negative about Prague though, but I am not. It's a great city, just not as great as everyone seem to think. I bought a couple of extremely cheap cds though so that almost makes up for it. Hah. I wouldn't mind going back though. It has something undefined that makes it interesting as a city.

We left for Venice and Italy in the evening. So we were on a night train which was quite the experience compared to the night train we took from Malmö to Berlin. This one was a tad more jumpy, to say the least. At times I woke up realising the train was laying half on its side taking a curve. It was pretty nervous at some points to be honest.