The thing with history is that we tend to remember the winners. Our textbooks glorify those who were able to rise up with scars that are beautiful they remind us of our world before the tragedy existed. While London endured 57 nights of raids and losing over 1 million houses its rebuilding has been so sustained that there are more memorials dedicated to the world wars rather than the evidence of war damage today. People fall in love with Paris, London and Rome because they healed so beautifully after a brutal battle defending humanity. So often we forget the cities that were left destroyed with blasted rubble and shattered dreams of a life that was once picturesque. While London had 57 nights of raids, Malta endured 14,000 bursting bombs and Warsaw was left with blood soaked ground and 85% of the city in shambles. Berlin however also endured over 60,000 tonnes of TNT over the five years of consecutive bombing merged with the intense fighting within it’s streets Berlin dawned a city centre that was around 80% destroyed.
For many years Berlin had been near the top of my list of places to travel. The story is magnificent and startling, haunting even to the most stoic of souls. I had heard through the grapevine that the city is sprawling but took that with a grain of salt. Sprawling in Europe hasn’t impressed me much. I was about to eat my words. The three of us girls scooped up our fourth at the airport as we attempted to take public transit from the airport to the hotel. Chelsea and I found ourselves at a loss, unable to understand anything that was displayed upon screens filling the stations with laughter as we rode up and down escalators leading us to all the wrong terminals. It took an impressive 20 minutes before we rage quit waiving our white flag as we hailed an uber.
Watching as the ever so famous Berlin wall passed in a blur through a window shrouded in darkness suddenly I realised how extensive this city was. Tucked behind the dark hues laid a city drenched in history waiting for us. However, the clock struck twelve and although Berlin is notorious for its vivacious clubs the week had beat us to the ground so we grabbed our keys and made light of that fact that the four of us would be neighbours for the next two nights.
Slowly rising the next morning with Christmas Markets on our mind. The wind was whipping so vigorously it seemed to have knocked the colour to my cheeks and slapped the music out of our breakfast joint. A party of four snug in the corner filling the atmosphere with wit and banter. Whist sipping tea and coffee a loose plan was devised. We bore some scars from trying to piece together Berlin’s public transit battling the cold so we loaded in an uber and dashed closer to the city centre.
We wandered the streets marvelling at the fact that gargantuan buildings were towering over our heads stained with stories of war and haunted with ghosts of Germany’s past. Tripping down the uneven pavement I could feel my heart become heavy in my chest as the scene before me became blurred as tears clung to my eyelashes. Within a seconds notice I had wheels of history playing in my head as I stared at the Bradenburg gate. A smile stretched across my face and for the first time in a long time I felt hope flow through my veins as the lights began flickering on the menorah. Beneath my feet was street that heard the echoes of hate witnessed a struggle of identity and a transformation into a place that displayed a menorah and behind it, a Christmas tree. I was stunned. My eyes were wide as they walked up the never ending tree where I found my reflection in a golden orb smiling surrounded by friends that I adored the meaning of Christmas this year would be different but it would be gorgeous.
Our fingers were being warmed by chai tea as we neared Checkpoint Charlie. Astonished by the original relics that hung with dust above our heads in clouds of breath frozen by father time. Begging for warmth we guzzled green beer and were given front row seats to people watching. Carbonation tickled our throats as we caught up with friends from London around a round table swapping beers and tales of strangers until outside was illuminated by festive lights.
A Christmas Market in Germany, there isn’t much like it. Hoards of people sliding between stands while bratwursts and baked goods tempt all the passerby’s. Stalls made of wood seem straight from a story book, garland and greenery embroiders the night that is lit by the Christmas spirit. Mulled wine warms one’s fingers through newly purchased gloves as the group of five huddles together until it is time to move on. Slinking through the night the group of five faded to three. With German beer and an Irish coffee keeping up warm the trio walked home finding ourselves enchanted by Berlin at night. The wind was gone and not a human in sight. We were feeling so small skipping underneath pillars and wandering through abandoned carnivals for adults. It was that walk that I found myself bewitched by Berlin. I had felt it’s powers and heard the echoes of it’s history but it wasn’t until the three of us were strolling down the sidewalk our voices drifting through the air like a melody that I found myself impressed.
On Sunday’s morn we split for breakfast and attempted to beat the rain for the day. Wildly dismayed when the carnival for adults was closed and we found the magic of the city was being veiled by wind, again. We wound throughout the streets we roamed the night before to show Chelsea what she missed. Without a single Starbucks in sight (closest one 13 minutes) we had near bathroom emergencies before we reached the Holocaust Memorial which was another powerful place. The memorial looks like graves rising from the ground that are designed in a confusing manner. The memorial wore eternal tears clinging to the structures that reflected the pain of the memorialised.
Unfortunately for us, we were in a race against time and we had to leave Berlin before we could explore it completely. We had a plane to catch and in an attempt to fill bellies before the flight home, we ate pasta and pizza at a joint across the way from our home. In a week so my week to Prague would commence and until then every second matters.