|Berlin is cool! My guide book says this: "Don´t wait any longer to see Berlin (pop. 3.4 million). The city is nearing the end of a massive transitional phase, developed from a reunited metropolis reeling in the aftermath of the Cold War to the epicenter of the EU- and the Berlin of five years from now or even two years from now will be radically different from the Berlin of today." I think they hit in on the head. East Berlin especially has this cold, gothic, spacious, diverse, energetic post-apocolytic Mad Maxx vibe to it. It is a spread-out concrete jungle of graffiti, mohawked punk-rockers, cheesy, hopping night clubs and cold Soviet socialist architecture. It is hard to believe that the wall that completely surrounded West Berlin was only torn down 15 years ago. You can still see some of the old-timers in the East sitting around in their overalls drinking beers and smoking cigarettes wondering what the hell happened. East Berlin is the new hip place to be. It looks like it is either in a state of massive construction or deconstruction, it is hard to tell which. Old buildings being torn down, renovated, and new ones being built. West Berlin, on the other hand is just another expensive, busy, modern American-like city.
And then there is all the history behind Berlin. You could spend weeks trying to go to all the museums and see all the sights. One interesting place I went today was the Soviet War Memorial- or in other words Stalin`s socialist propaganda. It is a huge intimidating memorial built after the war to show the strength of Russia and the socialist system. When I went there, there was 4 people, a skater, a couple and myself, and we dwarfed by this huge park of concrete. Another cool museum is Checkpoint Charlie, which tells all of the stories of how people escaped from East Berlin to West Berlin.
In some ways I feel like my travels are just starting. Stockholm and Copenhagen were nice but easy. I had people to stay with and everything was modern, everyone spoke perfect English, very Western cities. Now I enter the world of hostels, busses, trains, and (hopefully) exotic locations. The upside is that you meet some very cool travellers. One guy I met at the hostel was a young guy from Seattle and had just finished walking across Spain for two months with a donkey and two Danish girls. He was only planning on being in Europe for two months and then he met these two girls who were joking about travelling around on a donkey. That joke turned his 2 month vacation into a 6 month vacation. His night at the hostel had been his first shower, first night on a bed, and first meal not cooked out a big pot in 6 months. Now that sounds like an adventure. I was talking to another young guy from Holland who was asking me where I was from. When I told him Alaska he proceded to draw a perfect map of Alaska with the following places properly labeled: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Ketchikan, Nome, Barrow, Prudoe Bay, the Priboloff Islands, the Brooks Range, the Seward Peninsula, the Bering Strait, the Beaufort Sea, Little and Big Diomede islands, Circle, Whitehorse and Dawson in Candade, the Arctic Circle at 66.5 degrees, Kodiak, Shismaroff, and Denali. He has never been to Alaska mind you. When I told them a person from Alaska couldn`t do that he said he just likes maps alot.
Another good thing about hostels is that it is easy to meet people to go out and do things with. Speaking of that, gotta go!
"George Bush taking credit for the Berlin Wall coming down is like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise." Al Gore, 1992