Woche der DDR
First of all, I just want to note that I would have posted this sooner, except for some reason the internet stopped working right when I decided to post it. Poof. Regardless, here it is:
We were supposed to go to this wall memorial type museum on Monday, but in Germany, museums are closed on Mondays. That turned out to be nice, however, because it gave us plenty of time to look at the East Side Gallery. This is a long chunk of the Berlin Wall that didn’t get taken down. This part was facing the East side of Berlin and was therefore not covered in graffiti like much of the side facing the West. Each section of this part of the wall was then given to different artists to create something that was symbolic or representative of an oppressive government or the like. It was a really cool thing to see this art just out on the street. The one thing that really bothered me, however, was that there was a ton of graffiti on the artwork. There is graffiti almost everywhere in Berlin except maybe government buildings and official sites, but the only time it has offended me has been at the East Side Gallery. It is one thing to decorate a building, but to write “I had the best trip in Berlin! Love, Camille!” in giant red pain across a piece of art is just disrespectful. Grr.
It was kind of nice to be home earlier than usual and just sort of relax and be at home for a while. Peter and I even made a trip to the grocery store.
Tuesday was a special day. We didn’t have class as usual because our tour of the Reichstag was at 11 and we had to be there for checkin at 10:15. The actual tour itself was interesting enough and I feel like I learned a lot about the Reichstag, it was climbing in the glass dome above it that was the highlight. Somehow we had the best luck and got to go up in it on our clearest day so far. The sky was clear and beautiful blue with light, fluffy, clouds. It was great for seeing out into and over the city and especially to lay down at the top and look at the sky. I loved doing that and think that should be a stop for any and everyone who goes to Berlin.
Following that adventure, we went to Höhenschönhausen, an old Stasi prison. The prison itself was operated under the Russians and the Stasi at different points of time and different methods of interrogation were used at different times. The prisoners held at Höhenschönhausen were all political prisoners. This means that they were either enemies of the state, tried to escape and failed, or said the wrong thing at the wrong time/place. We got to see the older prison that was built in a basement and was focused on physical abuse to get answers. The conditions were absolutely horrible in this part of the prison. When they were not being punished in water rooms or hot rooms, they were trapped in tiny, dark, cells without heating and no fresh air. Our guide even told us that many of them would have mold growing in their hair. However, not too much of that prison is as easily pictured as the whole place was made to look like a storage facility (with super locking metal doors?) when the new prison was built.
As the physical torture was turing out to be too easily spotted (look, they broke my teeth!), the new facility was built for mentally breaking their prisoners. During their time at this prison, the individual prisoners would never even see another prisoner. The isolation and the “rules” for sleeping and against being able to do anything but sit or stand during the day broke people very effectively. Additionally, this second facility had over 120 interrogation rooms specifically designed to mess with the prisoner’s head. It was a pretty weird experience. I really appreciated our tour guide’s repeated saying of, “We can see it, we can hear it, but we cannot imagine it.” It really put it into perspective.
Again a day with only one thing. We went to this cool DDR museum. A few years ago it got some flack for having too much nostalgia for the East. Since then they have added a section on the Stasi and the wall. It was a really cool, hand-on museum, otherwise. I liked that I could touch and see real things from the DDR and read about everyday life as opposed to just the Stasi or the wall. I know why they didn’t originally have those things in the exhibit. It was a super unique and interesting museum.
After that, since we still had time, most of us went to see the Brandenburger Tor at night and also to visit the vigil at the French embassy. It was very worth it to see the gate at night.
When I got home, my host family and I watched “ziemlich beste Freunde” (Intouchables), a French film, dubbed in German. It was a really good film and I highly recommend it.
Today I saw a friend from camp. We had free time after class and I met up with Karin, who is here with Luther. It was fun to see somebody I know from before. We met at the Brandenburger Tor and went to Potsdamer Platz and just sort of walked around to some of the Berlin things from there. Following that, I met up with Frances and Lexi and we saw Interstellar in German. It is a really good movie, but so sad!