Berlin is impossible to tackle in only two days.

We were very ambitious though and decided that if we only had two days we were going to make the most of them, from dawn till dusk.

Our first destination was Checkpoint Charlie. It is one of the more famous points of crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin.

The sign says, “You are entering the American Sector. Carrying weapons off duty forbidden. Obey traffic rules”.

Looking towards the East.

We walked up towards the checkpoint coming from the East, which was a good choice, because just before reaching the checkpoint there was an outdoor history exhibit. Learning about history in the safety of a classroom is always informative, but actually standing where the events took place gave me chills. Looking from East to West, I really felt like everything was suddenly put into perspective.

Throughout the city there are different colored bricks laid into the road. These trace the outline of where the wall used to stand. There Checkpoint Charlie museum is just to the left.

The Checkpoint Charlie museum was a little overwhelming. Imagine the entire history of WW II to the end of the Cold War, in four different languages, covering every single wall of the museum from top to bottom. I tried to read everything, but halfway through the first room my eyes were already swimming.

The best part of the museum was actually the stories about how people crossed the wall without getting caught. Some people swam, some people used zip-lines, others dug tunnels, one group actually built an entire hot air balloon and flew across the wall. The most popular seemed to be hiding in cars. The examples went from simply hiding in the trunk, to turning someone into the equivalent of a car seat. It was inspiring to see the lengths people would go to for freedom.

The last Kremlin Flag, hung on the side of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum.

After Checkpoint Charlie, we headed down the road a little until we came upon the museum called “Topography of Terrors”. Part of the wall has been left up in this area, and below the wall is some of the remnants of the headquarters of the Gestapo and the SS. All along the bottom of the wall is some more history, this time centered more around WW II and the cruelty of the Nazi party.

The museum and the old headquarters is below street level, while the wall is above.

A part of the wall left standing just above the headquarters.

Next we walked to the Jewish Museum, which is a must see for anyone who goes to Berlin. In fact, it was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole trip.

The first part of the museum is the most moving. It was built by Daniel Libeskind, who had a vision for the museum as a place where not only the things inside the building are important, but the building itself is critical to the understanding of Jewish history.

Upon entering the museum we had to walk down a flight of stairs that opened up into a crisscrossing of distorting hallways. Although the ceiling of these hallways are level, the floor is not. This made it seem as if the further I walked down the hall, the smaller it was getting. Libeskind calls these hallways Axis. There is the Axis of the Holocaust, Axis of Exile and Axis of Continuity.

The Axis of the Holocaust is a hallway with stories of those who had been influenced by the Holocaust. At the end of the hallway is an almost invisible door that leads into the Holocaust Tower. The Holocaust Tower is something I will never forget. The walls of the tower are completely smooth and there is nothing at all inside except for a small slit in the roof that allows only the faintest amount of daylight into the tower. The walls of the tower slope in until they reach a point directly under the light, which allowed me to stand between two of the walls and feel them pressing in on me. It was quite except for the hush of cars outside on the street. Standing there in the dark is hopefully the closest I will ever come to knowing what it was like to be trapped, to know that you were probably going to die, and yet the world is moving on without you and doesn’t even know or care that you exist.

The Axis of Exile led outside to a garden filled with blocks of stone. The ground was tilted and the stones were also angled, just enough to make it hard to walk without getting dizzy. Again, I could almost feel what it must have been like to be kicked out of your country, to flee, and to feel as if you were in exile. Sometimes I would see other people in the garden, but then they would disappear and it was like they had never been there in the first place.

However, there are trees growing on top of these stones, in which I felt represented hope and a new opportunity.

Lastly was the Axis of Continuity. This lead up the Sackler Staircase, which from the bottom looked as if it went on forever. This axis leads to two millennia of German Jewish history. However, before reaching the history exhibit, Libeskind forces everyone to walk through what he calls a Void. Voids are areas of the museum with nothing in them. They are painted completely white and there are many of them throughout the museum, but only one is open to the public. They represent death, which can’t really be represented by anything in this world. I felt like these voids really allowed each person who entered to fill it with their own feelings and beliefs about death. For everyone death is something different and therefore it shouldn’t be represented in any particular way.

Sackler Staircase from the top.

Walking through the only open void, the Memory Void, led us to an exhibit created by Menashe Kadishman. This exhibit is created out of 10,000 faces welded out of pieces of metal and dedicated to all the victims of war and violence. They are scattered on the floor and those who would like to can walk upon them, but not quietly. As people walked on the faces the clang of sharp metal rang throughout the entire void. I believe it was created to show people that no matter how carefully you might step your actions will still effect those around you.

The faces of the Memory Void.

The last and final axis was the Axis of Continuity. It was the permanent exhibit about Jewish history, culture and traditions.

After the museum we were all starving, so we went out to search for a little known restaurant called Zur Letzten Instanzwhich one of Addison’s roommates from Berlin had suggested. Allegedly, Napoleon Bonaparte ate there at one point, but really the food itself was worth the visit. The dishes were on the more expensive side, but the portions were large and it was probably one of the best meals I’ve had so far at a restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked into a side street, keeping it off the main track.

Inside was very cute and cozy. We were probably one of the few tourists there. The plaque on the table shows where Napoleon supposedly sat.

After lunch we still had half a day left, so we went to the DDR museum. This was another of my favorite museums. Unlike most museums, this one allowed you to interact with everything. There was nothing you couldn’t play with and although it did have some interesting history, it mostly talked about how people lived in the DDR, which I find really interesting.

By the time we left the museum it was dark and everything was closed, so we caught a tram back to our hostel, stopping briefly to check out the left over festivities from Oktoberfest.

The fest was located on Alexanderplatz. It wasn’t very crowded, but most of the stands were still out.

The Radio Tower.

Ari and I couldn’t resist the smell coming from the candy/popcorn stand, so we bought chocolate covered strawberries.

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