berlin in a weekend

I always thought that living in Europe meant lots of easy weekend jaunts to other locations in Europe. Well, not quite if you live in Trondheim, which is not the most centrally located city. But there are a handful of destinations within a direct flight from Trondheim and maybe I ought to make it my quest to visit every one! Starting with Berlin…

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I’ve been to Berlin before so I didn’t feel too bad that I was more excited about the food than anything else. Three days of yumminess: there were Chinese dumplings, ice cream, a 3-course French lunch, gyros (next time we will find the falafel man), multiple $4 beers – exciting when you come from the land of $15 beers!, a buffet brunch, and Thai. Next time I am back in Germany, I promise I’ll actually eat some German food!

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oh, and it got dark too!

But it wasn’t all about food – I did get my haircut and do some shopping too! Ha ha!

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Having done much of the “typical tourist” stuff on my first visit, I didn’t feel rushed to make sure I saw all of Berlin in just a few short days. Inadvertently, both of the tours I did this trip focused on Berlin post-WWII and both come highly recommended if you are visiting Berlin:

The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial is a former Soviet/GDR prison. Think The Lives of Others – a movie you ought to check out if you haven’t already. What strikes me most is how recent this imprisonment and interrogation was (the prison closed in 1990, on German unification day).  During recent discussion about Snowden, the NSA, and privacy versus security with Germans (among other nationalities), I thought it was interesting to listen to people opinions and see how they were potentially shaped by past experiences in their country (I read an article that also mentioned the impact of the GDR spy network on Germany’s reaction to the NSA leak). OK, enough political talk…

From prison, we moved on to bunkers. In general, the history of the US (and especially Seattle) isn’t “old” compared to the history of Germany, but Berlin’s version of the Underground Tour is a bit more recent than Seattle’s, exploring the Cold War bomb shelters of Berlin. Many were built right into the subway system and 1000s of people probably walk past them everyday without even knowing. These shelters were meant to just be temporary shelters to house people as they waited to be evacuated if Berlin was bombed,which actually wasn’t all that likely since the city was actually the crossroads between the two sides in the war. It is scary to think just how close we were to WWIII. Our guide told anecdotal stories about how cool heads kept us from nuclear war in the face of paranoia and radar blips. While (thankfully) the bomb shelters were never used, but the manual powered generators still work and the kitchen cupboards are still full of 1000s of colorful cups and plates.

I got to do the one thing I missed out on during my last trip – take a trip up to the top of the Reichstag, German’s Parliament building. Nice views, interesting building. You have to make reservations, but it is easy, online, and free!

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This trip to Berlin was my first trip out of Norway since I’ve moved here, and it was needed. As awesome as Norway is, it is great to get away sometimes. It is doesn’t hurt to go somewhere cheaper and with more variety (in the shops, the restaurants, the culture…). Heck, I’d go back to Berlin just for another haircut!

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(East Side Gallery / from my last visit / really cool murals on remnants of the Berlin Wall)

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