The OneEurope meeting in Berlin coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Soviet occupation of the city. This was a very fortunate coincidence, because it allowed me to reflect on Berlin's history and the way it is deeply preserved. (It was primarily a great pleasure to meet again my beloved OneEuropeans (Hanna, Ivan, Cherian and Thomas), as well as to build new friendships (Michael, Tanya, Agamemnon, Mirea, Gareth, Fabio, Olivia, Jacob, Yana, Catalina and Cristi) while discovering Berlin's history by wandering through the city's neighborhoods.)
Berlin has never been a destination I planned to visit. The bad relations between Greece and Germany had created in me a distaste for that country. I also did not have high hopes for Berlin. This city has not been advertised particularly well through movies or books. However, these prejudices disappeared once I set foot in the city.
The bus took me from the airport and left me outside a Metro station. During that trip I had a small taste of the southeastern outskirts of the city. The metro then took me underneath the hotel in which I would stay with the other guys. On the map that was on the ceiling of the train I saw that I passed under Alexanderplatz. At that moment lots of questions came to my mind. What does the city above me look and feel like? Above my head there was a big surprise. A surprise I was going to discover day by day. Step by step.
Berlin is not just a beautiful city. Berlin is a city symbol, a guardian of memory, a place that was convicted for its guilty past and now is being built as a shining example for the future.
The eastern part of the city was the most interesting to me. I discovered the scars of war - walls full of holes from machine guns and burned building columns on the Museum Island. I was walking in these areas and I felt as if the war had ended just yesterday. The Germans maintained and still maintain the signs of the siege and the final defeat of Nazism. Elements of the past surrounded me during every step. Every burnt architectural feature I saw was accompanied by the creepy whistling of a bomb falling vertically from the sky with the sole purpose of removing human lives and destroying any human construct. In the scarred windows I saw the shadows of the soldiers who were trying to cover their opponent's shots.
I did not find memories only in the signs left by the fighting in the streets. I saw beautiful initiatives from city residents seeking to gain forgiveness from the future generations in many highly successful ways. For example, on the square Augusto Bebel where Nazi students burned books, today there is an outdoor open library with sofas where everyone can relax while reading under the Berlin sky any book he or she wants.
Berlin does not just pride itself in its old neighborhoods. The city is famous for the beautiful island of museums. One building is more beautiful than the other, and one exhibition is more interesting than the next. But for me the most interesting museum is the Bode museum. I don’t like it just for its exhibits but also for its purpose. It commemorates the destruction suffered by the cultural treasures of the city during the wars.
Besides the museums, the city is rich in historical places such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the beautiful park Tiergarten, the Cathedral Kaiser Wilhelm, Potsdamer Platz, the famous Berlin Wall, the impressive Berliner Fernsehturm, the picturesque neighborhood Nikolaiviertel and the sensational monument of the Holocaust.
I love Berlin because it honors its memory.
This is in stark contrast to my country, where the political period of the 60s, the seven-year junta and modern indifference managed to erase every memory trace of modern history of Athens and the rest of Greece. The oblivion for Greece, and especially for my own generation, was unfortunately unavoidable...
My five days in Berlin are unforgettable. A sweet memory which has been stored strongly in my travel experiences.