Friday, June 20, 2014

June 20, 2014: A Trip to Berlin

* I would like to begin by apologizing about the font mishap on the last post (and this one, and probably future ones) that causes some of the font to be very light.  It seems that when I write part of the post on my iPhone, that part gets messed up when I try to post it, and I don't know how to fix it.  So, if you would like to read the words, but don't know how, simply highlight them and it will make the background appear blue, and you will be able to read the white words.  Again, I apologize.*
The Berliner Dom


#13 There is more than one way to day “lunch.”

#14 Berlin is a pretty cool city with something to offer for every taste.  If you’re ever in Germany, make sure it’s on your list.  But, when you are there, do what you want to do, not what everyone else wants you to do.  (or don’t go to Berlin.  Like I said, do what you want to do.  But, at least consider Berlin.).
#15 Sometimes, you can’t ask for a nicer day to be in a place so depressing.
#16 You never know when there might be an… adult (*gasp*) on your train.

            I think accents are fantastic.  I think it’s even more fantastic to listen to someone speak English who isn’t a native speaker.  Next time you are around a non-native, English speaker, pay attention to how that person words things.  Often enough, he or she will make a word choice that you, your friends, your family, and everyone else you know never would have chosen.  But, the word works.  It makes perfect sense.  You just never would have thought to include it in that sentence.
            It’s also interesting to pick up on the nuances of the other speaker’s English.  A lot of times, this has to do with the structure of the speaker’s native language.  The speaker will word things differently because that is how the sentence would be said in whatever other language.  I find it interesting.
            There is an individual at the institute where I work who really likes lunch.  Every day around lunch time, everyone will converse in German for a minute or two (I assume asking everyone else if they are ready for lunch), and then someone will tell me lunch.  This individual always gets really excited about the prospect of lunch, and when it’s time to eat, he will look at me and say, “looonch.”  I think it’s great.

the Brandenburger Tor and my little buddies,
Tigger and Shaymin who travel with me and
like to have their picture taken.
            My general rule of thumb when traveling is to make sure you get to do what you want to do.  Now, when you are traveling with others, it is considerate to take their wants into account, too.  I don’t mean drag your compatriots to every single old building in the area if they aren’t into architecture because then they aren’t getting to do what they want to do.  When you travel in a group, you will all probably have to make some sacrifices when it comes to activities.
            For example, last weekend in Berlin, they two people with whom I traveled likes to eat.  By eat, I don’t mean grab food and take it with them as they explore; I mean sit down at a restaurant and have a half-hour to hour-long meal.  That’s what they liked to do (and that’s not a problem).  What they didn’t have any desire in doing was souvenir shopping (again, no problem, everyone is allowed to like what he or she likes).  I, on the other hand, am not a big fan of sitting to eat while traveling (well, really, I’m not a big fan of taking the time to sit and eat in general. If all food came in a convenient, portable form, lunch would be amazing.  But, I do also highly value family (or, while at college, friend) dinner). *end side note*).  So, we did what any logical group of travelers with different interests would do.  I sat with them while they are some meals, they waited outside shops while I browsed, and sometimes, they say down for a meal while I shopped nearby.  (You don’t always have to stay in a group all the time).
            Anyway, back to what I mean about #14.  I’m not taking about the people with whom you’re traveling – I’m talking about the people with whom you aren’t traveling.  Nearly everyone is going to have a different idea of what you should do when you are at your destination.  I recommend listening to the ideas; after all, someone might have thought of something that sounds really cool that you hadn’t found on your own.  But, sit down before your trip and decide what you, yourself, and only yourself really want to do. Then, think about what kind of sounded fun, but you wouldn't be overly disappointed if you didn't do. I'm a big fan of lists, so this is when I get out the pen and paper or computer and write it all down: what's the thing; how do I get there; when is it open; how much does it cost?  I star the things I really want to do. Then, I do them! Even if someone else said it would be dumb, if I thought it looked cool, I go do it!  And guess what; I have yet to choose something that I didn't enjoy. Hmmm... I guess I know myself better than other people know me... What a strange notion...
            Here's a decently-recent example: Last summer while in London, my mum and I wanted to go to Stonehenge. Gordon, a relative of mine who lived near London, couldn't understand what would possess me to see a bunch of rocks.  But, I wanted to go anyway, so he helped me find a bus going there (I have some pretty good relatives), and it was one of my favorite things that I did last summer!  
            You are the only one who truly knows what you want to do. Do it.

Sachsenhausen concentration camp, minus many of the barracks. 

"Work makes you free."
This door greeted those about to enter the camp.
It reminds me of the book 1984.
            While in berlin, I went on a tour of the nearby concentration camp, called Sachsenhausen. It turned out to be a really nice day, although being in a concentration camp put a damper on things.  The sunny weather almost seemed to betray the mood… until I really began to think about it.  The people who lived, worked, and died in that camp did it every day in every kind of weather.  Their conditions weren’t really improved by nice weather.  I mean, during the winter, yes, there was frostbite.  And a chilly rain could give one pneumonia.  But, on a nice day – not too hot/not too cold – they still didn’t have enough to eat; they were still forced to work; and they still died. 

            Sachsenhausen is one of the smaller concentration camps, but, it was the first official one.  Although it was not a “killing camp” (“killing camps” such as Auschwitz didn’t exist inside Germany), but that doesn’t mean the conditions were any better.  It just means that throngs and throngs of people weren’t sent to the gas chambers every day.  People were still killed – there was a firing trench, a hanging noose, and a systematic killing routine for the soviet soldiers.  Apart from that, the guards had guns, rocks, large-wooden sticks, metal pipes, and anything else they could want to “keep the inmates in line.”
Sadly, this is exactly what you think it is --
furnaces for burning bodies.

            It was a very somber-ing experience.  If you every have the chance to go to a concentration camp, please do.  It might not be the happiest several hours of your life, but you will be paying respect to the hundreds of thousands who lived the most miserable days, months, or even years of their lives in a camp.  Apart from that, you will be learning about a tragic time in human history, and something that is still taking place all over the world today.
            You might end up with a rainy day, a cold day, a cloudy day, or a sunny day, but the weather won’t bother the camp’s effect on you.
            Hint: if you ever go to Sachsenhausen, pay the money and take a tour.  They don’t cost that much (mine was 13 euros/ 15 euros for a non-student and the guide went with us to the camp from the city, so there was no worrying about how to get there), and they will help you focus while you are there.  The camp contains a lot of artifacts, and it could be very easy to get overwhelmed.  A tour guide helps because you can ask him questions, and he will tell you about things you never even thought to ask.  If you feel like you still need more time after your tour, just tell your guide that you will be staying longer to do some looking on your own, and the guide will not mind.  Then, you will be able to look at your own pace as well.

            I’m traveling again this weekend, and, like I will be doing quite often this summer, I took the train.  I have been on three major (greater than 2 hrs) train rides in Germany since I have been here, and two out of the three times, there has been a small child seated near me.  On the way to berlin, she was in the seat in front of me and spent the entire trip talking/interacting with Cedric, one of the other students in my program.  The second child-train ride was on the way back from Berlin, and that child actually cried some as well as made general, small-child noises.  Neither of those times was really that bad.  Then, there was today’s train ride.
            Today, the front quarter of the compartment seemed to be filled with a group of adults who were all traveling together; at least, they were all talking to each other.  They were loud, talked nearly the whole time, shouted across the seats at each other… and there was also champagne or some other bottle with a cork involved.  By the end of the trip, my headache and I were ready to have the children back.

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