Our visit to Berlin began with what seemed to become a trend: we arrived in the city and set off to find our way to our hostel. Transportation was relatively simple to acquire, but trekking through foreign roads that had sub-par street signs in foreign languages was difficult. Once that was taken care of, our Berlin adventure began. I think out of all the cities, we walked the most in Berlin, partially because it was so large and everything was spread out, but also because we simply fell in love with the city and wanted to see as much of it as possible. Luckily the weather was on our side and we had sunny days to enjoy.
We made it a point to see the remainder of the Berlin Wall in east Berlin, now designated East Side Gallery because of the various artwork painted on the wall segments. This, of course, was incredible. The varying perspectives on the remainder of the wall, whether encouraging love and respect, or showing animosity toward the divider, represented to us how powerful a presence the wall had—and as Mandy kept reminding me, this is a relatively recent occurrence, fresh in the stories of history. It was surreal to see how creativity was once again used to manifest closure.
As I said, our visit consisted mostly of walking. One night we walked to the Brandenburg Gate, a large archway on the edge of the city center, and visited the large Christmas tree there. We noticed a large column beyond the gate, way in the distance, considered walking to it, then promptly reasoned it was much too far. Turns out a walk through Tiergarten the next day (a park/garden) took us straight to the Victory Column, and we trekked the distance from it, to the gate, and back to the hostel (trust me, it was a long, long walk). We also enjoyed evening strolls along street medians lined with lit up trees, through ‘museum island’ to appreciate the solitary silence of an empty museum courtyard, and a runway of colorfully lit up trees (see Facebook photos, it sounds strange but it was really cool). Our favorite rest stop from walking, however, were these lounging benches placed along a canal of the Spree river, right in front of the Berlin Cathedral Church. With the sun shining and the wind mild, it was the perfect (and extremely comfortable) relaxation spot.
One of my favorite memories, though, was attending a fancy Christmas market (it cost €1 and had tents, for goodness sake!), where we ate a delicious, filling Italian dinner (ironic?) and enjoyed steaming cups of mulled, hot wine, or Glühwein, rather. As we sipped from our little souvenir mugs, listening to a choir of older men sing Christmas carols in English and German, I was able to appreciate both the place and the people—I never expected Berlin to be a favorite of mine, but it was. And I was so grateful for Mandy’s company and her matched enthusiasm for the city. We bonded so much over its similarities to Portland and how homey it felt, and it will always have a special place in my heart.