At the top of Victoriapark, overlooking Berlin on a gorgeous fall morning. Hope everyone is doing well too!
Midterms done, vacation over, now it’s all getting very busy at university. The workload is intensive. The courses are all getting into the heart of their material now which is quite fascinating. I am finding it quite a refreshing experience to learn about a country’s past and be able to tour sites where events actually took place. Despite all efforts to disintegrate evidence of the Nazi and communist past in Germany and Berlin, quite a bit remains preserved and memorialized. Yesterday I visited the Tränenpalast, “The Palace of Tears” which is located next to the Friedrisstrasse Station. The Tränenpalast opened up in 1962 as a control/inspection center primarily for those wanting to travel from West to East Berlin. Very few East Berliners were granted the chance to travel from East to West because the SED dictatorship under the GDR state feared that East Berliners would flee. Again, the main purpose of the Tränenpalast was to provide West Berliners the chance to visit family and friends in the Eastern sector.
The building today still stands where it once did, right across from Friedrichstrasse Station. Today it is an exhibit that brings to life stories of actual experiences that took place there years ago when Berlin was a divided city. Why is it called the “Palace of Tears”? This name was given to the building as a result of the myriad of emotions that were experienced there by people.
As the years went on, people found themselves having to cope with the reality of a divided Germany. They took part in everyday activities and made the best out of a less than ideal situation. At the “Palace of Tears” the harsh reality of separation could not go unnoticed. People in the East felt anger, frustration and fear as some tried to smuggle their way into the Western sector by using forged passports. Only a very few people succeeded in leaving the Eastern sector this way, most people were discovered and imprisoned.
Walking through the exhibit made me hyper-aware of how invasive the SED was in people’s personal lives. Security cameras were virtually everywhere and spying of Westerners as they shopped or passed through controls was thoroughly done. The SED officials kept detailed records on everyone living in the Eastern sector and tried to do the same for those in the West as they were passing through. It is no wonder to me why Germans are so protective of their privacy now. In those days privacy did not exist.
Personal stories lined the walls of the building. Memories of people trying to leave East Berlin, of tears of happiness when being reunited with family and friends and then of sadness when the time came to go back home were shared. The thought of forced separation is unbearable to me and yet it was a reality for people not that long ago.
Living and learning in Berlin has been and is a humbling experience. The city is filled with reminders everywhere of the reality of what was. There are memorials, plagues, and exhibits almost everywhere you turn. OK, I exaggerate but my point is that the city has made sure to keep reminders of the past around in an effort to ensure that it will never be repeated. Berlin, one city now, was split in two not that many years ago. This fact alone never ceases to amaze me.
Whenever I feel away separated from friends and family, I am blessed to know that it is by choice not my force. The stories of people’s lives are heart-breaking but real. I have taken this as a chance to not forget how fortunate I am to be living at a time of peace and unity. Learning about this information is one thing when you are sitting in a classroom, reading the text. It is completely different to here not only reading, discussing, learning and questioning it all but also discovering and actually standing at the place that once brought so much sorrow, despair, hopelessness and fear into people’s hearts and minds. The Tränenpalast resembled the control fo the GDR state and the harsh reality of involuntary separation. I think that it is important to confront past realities and feel fortunate to be living and learning in a city that does just that.
“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.”- Andrew Zimmern
Den Tilsandede Kirke in Denmark. St. Laurence Church- the sand-buried church. It used to be a functioning church centuries ago. Now only the steeple is visible from all that the sand dunes have covered. Fascinating.
This week I am on vacation … On Friday I said goodbye to Berlin for the week and yesterday I said hello to Northern Denmark. Today … I woke up to bright blue skies and dunes all around. The weather was gorgeous. Not wanting to miss out on a beautiful day we walked down to the beach – the North Sea! We had to walk through the dunes to get there. The dunes are nature in a way I have never experienced before … They are absolutely gorgeous. I found myself captivated by the soft, rolling nature of the dunes. The wind blowing through the dunes made all the plants and grass dance in the most mesmerizing way.
I couldn’t get enough of it. Seeing all this nature- in it’s glory, in a different way than I have ever witnessed before was truly spectacular!
I find it very refreshing to step back from the busyness of the city. I love the energy the city contains but also find restorative energy in nature with its fresh air, moments for reflection and more laid back ways.
I hope you enjoy the pictures which are a taste of the views right around the corner from where I am staying this week!
Berlin… everyday I am here I find something that new that makes me smile and enjoy the city even more… if that is possible. I noticed a while back that Germans- they DASH! When the bus has arrived, even if they are a block away, if there is any sign of hope that they can catch the bus or train or tram for that matter- they DASH! This is not an exclusive dash that is only reserved for well-trained Germans ready to hit the gym. The “Deutsch Dash” (as I have deemed it) is carried out on a daily basis by business men, women, teachers, children… and now, alot of us study abroad FU-Bester’s have adapted and become familiar with the Deutsch Dash as well.
At first glance, I swore I would never do it, I mean another train, bus, tram always comes.. eventually at least.. but then before I even knew what was happening.. I too felt myself moving at speeds faster than walking with books, groceries, and coffee in hand. It looks like I am fitting in just fine here… “Deutsch Dash” – another moment conquered.
So far when I have participated in the “Deutsch Dash” I have made the bus. Of course this is not the case for everyone. I have witnessed valiant efforts falling to the wayside as a “Deutsch Dash” just wasn’t enough… the bus pulled away right as the dashing Berliner arrived at its doors. This is always an odd moment where defeat seems to be clear. So now the question stands, why dash? why not walk and wait?
Well every time I join in on the “Deutsch Dash” I laugh and find myself having a grand old time! So to each there own… but I think every once in a while, I am going to see who will win the dash, the driver or me?…
Today, it was me and my friend. Who knows what next time will bring 🙂