Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Oh, the Black Swamp

The Reichstag

So Berlin seems to be a city with a lot more history than any that I've experienced before (that's not saying much). With the economic destruction wrought by reparations and subsequent hyperinflation in the 20s, the rise and fall of the Third Reich, and the division of the city by the wall and then reunification, there's been more happen here in the last hundred years than most other cities this size. The city is actively growing, expanding, but at the same time preserving the history present in the city.

Third Reich Air Force Ministry - the typical Nazi architecture

Me, being largely naive to the last hundred years' history sure learned a lot my first day here. Prussian, Nazi, Communist and modern architecture abounds all around. I cross the former wall line on a daily basis to go to classes. The building I live in is truly in the communist style of not having any more space than absolutely necessary for life, and the building seems to be built in the mentality of cheapest possible construction. Headed to the bus stop I pass traditional Third Reich buildings that look like prisons, and tower over you, making you feel truly tiny. It's a humbling experience in general here. My whole experience thus far has been an exercise in understanding how different ideologies can affect the economy, technology, and people of an entire culture.

View from my window into typical East Berlin

Within East Berlin where I'm staying, the population is noticeably older, presumably because the younger left before the wall was built, or shortly after it opened again. It is currently in the middle of massive construction projects all around as the city has been undergoing reconstruction for the past 19 or so years. Its a very exciting time to visit here. East Berlin does, however, have a lot of interesting sites and landmarks, and economically seems as strong or stronger than the former West.

The Fernsehturm (TV tower)

So far I've had nothing bad to say about my experiences here, in fact, it has been awesome. And this is just after 6 days. After four months, I'll probably come home a big Europe snob. I won't speak English anymore, insist on drinking mineral water and complain how no one in North America serves Döner Kebap. I look forward to telling everybody how I'm better than them.

I think my two weeks here shall be too short. Ich leibe dich, Berlin.

Brandenburger Tor by night

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