Saturday, April 26, 2014

Week 1: Touring Berlin

This week has been completely full of so many amazing things that I am not even sure where to start! We arrived in Berlin early Tuesday morning and immediately began touring the city. We got to know the area around our hotel and began to learn how to work the train system here in Berlin. After lunch and a short trip to the closest mall we were all given some time to relax and recover from the long day of traveling we experienced the day before. This rest was much needed considering all of the adventures we would go on in the following days!

On Wednesday we took the train to the Reichstag in the government district of Berlin. As we approached we had the opportunity to take many photographs of the Parliament building, as well as other surrounding scenery. Following a short tour around the area, we were able to go inside the Reichstag and walk into the glass dome located on the very top. The view from up here was absolutely incredible - it seemed like we could see nearly all of downtown Berlin! We were also given a short presentation over the functions of the government here in Germany and how it compares to the government in America. This was all extremely interesting and I loved learning about some the similarities and differences between our two cultures.

Thursday was probably one my favorite day of the whole trip to Berlin. We all ventured just outside Berlin to a place called Potsdam and took a guided bike tour through the entire town. In all I believe we biked about twelve miles! The things we were able to see on that trip were absolutely breathtaking. I was actually able to see the very place where Truman, Churchill, and Stalin met to divide up Germany after WWII. It was unbelievable. We also saw many castles and palaces from much earlier times that are still preserved throughout the town. I think we had a special experience by biking through Potsdam. It allowed us to see and appreciate many things that we may not have seen otherwise.

Friday we traveled as a group to Brandenburg Gate and went on a walking tour of Berlin. We learned the historical significance of several different areas throughout the city on this tour. We were also given the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Memorial located in that area and reflect on the emotions we felt during that experience. After visiting several other historical sites, such as a grand concert hall and the square where young Nazi students burned many significant German books, we stopped for lunch at another local mall downtown. We were given some free time following lunch to explore the city and experience some of Berlin in smaller groups.

Today is our last full day in Berlin before traveling to Werne for the rest of our stay in Germany. We made sure to get the most out of it! A small group of us left early this morning and took the train to the nearest concentration camp - Sachsenhausen - where we toured the entire camp independently for about two hours. This experience was one I will never forget and something that I have always wanted to do. There are truly no words for the emotions you feel while walking on those grounds. After completing our tour we came back to Berlin and met up with everyone else to eat at a local cafe in Tiergarten.

So far this trip has been nothing short of spectacular! I have seen more in the last five days than I ever dreamed possible and I am so grateful to be here. I am really excited about traveling to Werne and meeting my host family tomorrow night! I will be sure to post again after some more adventures!


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