9.23.2022: Alex’s Summer Trip to Germany (Part 1)
Alex's Summer Trip to Germany (Part 1) Heading link
My trip to Germany started with a visit to the emergency room on my second full day there, but more on that later. I landed in Germany on June 30th around 9 am. I stepped off the plane, and smelled the air, and a wave of nostalgia hit. It smelled like my childhood summers in Germany. I headed excitedly through the fancy new airport in Berlin. After getting my luggage, I had some breakfast. I ordered in German, and the cashier understood me and responded in German. I was thrilled that my German skills were good enough. Sometimes, people will respond to you in English if they sense that your German is not strong, so I was happy I spent so many hours studying at UIC and by myself. It definitely hurts your feelings when they respond in English, but I’ve thankfully only had that happen a couple of times.
I waited for about two hours until my friends from London arrived at the airport. We did all the Berlin touristy things for four days before I headed off to my intensive language course. I will be writing a blog about what it is like to do an intensive language course, so look out for that soon. After being in Berlin for almost a month, I feel like I have a nice basic grasp of the city. I started to memorize streets and train lines. I did almost everything I had planned on doing. I, unfortunately, got covid on my last week of the intensive language course. While I am sad I missed out on more fun in Berlin, I am glad that I did not infect anyone because I was quarantined as soon as I started to feel unwell.
As I stated before, I needed to go to the emergency room on the second full day I was in Berlin, due to an allergic reaction. I googled the closest emergency room, and walked twenty minutes there. Before I left, I translated the words I would need to explain the issue in German. I was worried that if the nurses or doctors didn’t speak English, I would be stuck. I am very thankful that I looked up the words because the receptionist and the nurses did not speak English. I had to explain what was wrong in German, and they understood me completely. Thankfully, I was okay, and the doctor told me my issue was not life-threatening and would go away in a couple of days (and it did). I am really grateful that I had that experience. It reassured me that my German skills are sufficient in emergency situations. Now, if a real emergency were to happen, I know how to handle the situation.
I couldn’t end this blog without sharing my favorite aspect of Berlin. I love the public transportation here. There are four different types of public transportation that you can take to get around the city, and wow can you get around it fast. You can travel 5 miles in less than 30 minutes. While I was on the U-Bahn and S-Bahn (like the L in Chicago), I was in awe at how quiet the sound of most of the trains are. I am also privileged that I always felt safe on public transit even when I was alone. I also love how walkable the city is. The sidewalks are wide and every street has one. So many cities in America require a car to get around reasonably, and that is not the case in Berlin.
Some of my favorites of Berlin:
– The Jewish Museum Berlin. It is the best museum I have ever been to in my life. I loved how they focused on all aspects of Jewish life and culture. There are so many museums dedicated to the pain of the Holocaust, but I found it important to have a museum that also focuses on Jewish joy and everyday life. It was a powerful museum that I highly recommend you visit if you ever find yourself in Berlin.
– Schloss Schönhausen. This summertime palace of royals of Prussia was turned into a grand hotel by the GDR. The building just oozes history. It was so cool to walk through the halls knowing that it used to be a royal palace, but it also housed Fidel Castro and Mikhail Gorbachev. If you are a history nerd like me, you’ll love it.
– Holzmarkt 25. This massive outdoor market had over 20 food and drink stalls. Every wall had a mural on it, and it was decorated with art pieces. Situated right along the Spree River, you can have a nice meal with a beautiful view. I walked about ten minutes from the market to get to the East Side Gallery, a section of the Berlin Wall still up with murals painted on it.