During my studies abroad, I spent 10 days in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany and had the most fantastic time!
We spent our first 6 days in Berlin, which is truly a very cool city. As I’m sure you all know, the city is very historical, particularly in everything that happened there in the mid-late 1900s. And then after all of that happened, the city was bombed and virtually destroyed. Since then, it has almost fully recovered and they have rebuilt the destroyed buildings to resemble what they used to look like. During our 6 day visit, we went on a three-hour long tour of the city where we saw just about all of the main sights- the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial and Museum, the place that Hitler committed Suicide (secret underground barracks), which is now just a parking lot, Checkpoint Charlie, several Nazi buildings, Alexanderplatz, The Berlin Wall, the Berliner Dome and many others.
The hostel we stayed at was the best ones I have ever stayed at. It was relatively small and all of the staff remembered us and were super friendly. The hostel hosted a bar crawl one of the nights we were there, which was a ton of fun! It's such a great way to meet new people from all over the world and to explore places you might not have explored otherwise. Berlin has this amazing underground bar scene with super unique bars. One that I remember in particular is a bar that had tables and chairs on the ceiling- as if we were upside down.
All of the food we ate was incredible!!! Think sausage, sauerkraut, potatoes, spaetzle, etc. Germany also has a very large Turkish population and therefore many Turkish restaurants, which were just as wonderful as the German Restaurants. What was really cool was that we found some online forums where other people who have visited or lived Berlin gave advice on where to eat (authentic German restaurants) in the city, so we were able to eat with the locals and experience the real Germany. I now try to do this with every trip I take, because locals know best!
The last four days of our trip were spent in the beautiful port city of Hamburg. It is apparently the city in Germany with the most billionaires, so a very wealthy city. We also went on a three-hour long tour here and walked all over the city. We learned a lot about the history of the city from its discovery, to when it actually became a city, to when it was bombed after WWII up until present day. The city wasn’t as badly destroyed as Berlin, but it did suffer from significant damage and they also rebuilt the buildings to resemble their first design. While there wasn’t as much to do in Hamburg as there was in Berlin, we always found something to do and truly enjoyed ourselves.
One of my friends requested we go to Bergen-Belsen Memorial (a former concentration camp), where her grandfather stayed and was rescued from. It was incredibly sad, and I learned a lot about the Holocaust that I hadn’t known before. The camp itself was demolished soon after the end of the war because it was completely uninhabitable, so none of the buildings stand today. However, they have a really informative museum where they display images and videos that were taken by the British Army upon arriving at the camp for the first time, right before they liberated the victims. A part of me wishes I could go back and un-see some of the videos I saw because they were so incredibly horrific. The main message of all of the memorials like Bergen isn’t that the Germans should feel bad, but for everyone to always remember what happened and to make sure that something like that NEVER happens again.
On the last day, we went to a toy train museum, which holds the world’s largest miniature train system. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but once I got there and saw how much work the owners put into the exhibits and just how HUGE the whole set actually was, I realized how cool it is.
Germany is one of my favorite countries- I feel so at home there and I can't wait to go back to visit other cities!