Berlin: the hip German city that sets itself apart: Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall are must-see monuments
Though Flensburg was technically the capital of Germany for two weeks, Berlin has been the official capital since 1990, and it's better known. Though I was only in Berlin for a very short amount of time, the city still left an impact on me, and it's a city I recommend visiting if you ever travel to Germany.
When I was travelling on Eurotour, our first stop was at Berlin, and we stepped in to what I could only take in as massiveness. Berlin takes up more area than New York City, but has less than half of the population. It didn't have the bustle that I would expect; our hostel was in the center of the city but everything still felt kind of relaxed.
Berlin is a city where there is a lot to explore, and I recommend being there for a time to see a significant amount of it, especially the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial.
The city is known for being hip, and there is a sort of atmosphere that hangs over some areas. It might be because the city is so massive and international. There is a park in the middle of the city where a lot of people go to relax, play music and have picnics.
Compared to other cities in Germany I have visited, Berlin didn't even feel entirely German, but considering we were served currywurst and plenty of guys were drinking beer, it still retains a part of the traditional German identity. This comes together in a backdrop of modern and old, with the Fernsehturm (TV tower) joining historical and new buildings.
In the middle of the city sits the Holocaust Memorial, which consists of concrete slabs of different sizes on a wave. The space the concrete takes up is meant to represent the volume of Jews that died, with a tiny amount of concrete representing each death. The monument is quite massive, so walking around in it feels unnerving. This is accentuated by the unsteady surface; it doesn't feel like you are going anywhere, but instead are trapped in grayness.
The fact that Germany has a memorial in the center of its capital is an extension of the overall mentality of the country — the people are determined to never forget, and its dark history is put out in the open.
After World War II, Berlin faced another horror—being divided by the Berlin Wall. This continued for approximately 28 years before the wall was destroyed in 1989. Today only a few remnants of the wall remain, and there is a memorial wall filled with artwork. It started as an open art gallery, and some of the paintings are recognized all over the world. There are a lot of political pieces, and I was personally impressed by the number of works taking aim at President Trump.
Getting to see where the wall stood, and hearing the personal stories of those affected, is an experience that is necessary if you visit.
Berlin is a city that has evolved from its past. The monuments and tributes are still there, and the stories are there to hear. At the same time, it has shaped itself into a city that is known as one of the hippest in Europe. I would say it is a great city to visit if you appreciate history, or if you want a quirky, international vibe, but it is not the place to go for a traditional German feel.