Day 16, 07.09.2009
Checkpoint Charlie–the infamous crossing point between East and West Berlin, a symbol of the Cold War. It was almost surreal walking back and forth past the giant sign that says, “You are now entering the American sector”–translated into Russian, German, and French–, without a second thought. Simply unreal to think that there was a time where American and Soviet tanks had standoffs on either side of this sign. And here I am, being a tourist: taking pictures of “officers” dressed in Russian, German, and American uniforms and buying “original” pieces of the Berlin Wall.
There was one “American” officer who had the strangest accent–like 1940’s English/New Yorker accent–and who was selling “passports” with the original stamps for each country/sector like the DDR and stuff. I coughed up 7 Euros for my passport to freedom.
Escape stories in the Checkpoint Charlie Museum are riveting. One man was shot 10 times trying to escape–can’t remember if he was successful or not. There was also a woman who hid in conjoined suitcases and another man who hid in surfboards. Highly recommend paying the €12.50 to walk through the exhibits.
My friends each bought a fuzzy Russian hat and a North Korean hat, respectively. They were late in meeting up with the rest of the group, so H. Birkelbach and H. Reynolds’ punishment for them was that they had to hand over their hats for the rest of the night. They were 20 minutes late, and H. Reynolds flipped out on them: “When we say viertel vor zwölf [15 minutes before 12], we f*ing mean viertel vor zwölf.” Hadn’t seen him that angry the entire trip thus far.
We then wandered to Museuminsel [“Museum Island”]; our goal was the Pergamom museum. If there is anything you must go to, this is it. I am by no means a museum or history buff, but for the several hours you could spend in the Pergamom museum, you will become one. Even if you don’t bother reading a single plaque, it is such a spectacular collection of ancient history.
The Ishtar Gate and Processional Way were reconstructed here with their original bricks. The Processional Way lines an entire corridor of the museum, towering over us at somewhere around 14 feet high. Colored with most royal of blues, majestically laced with golden lions.
Another highlight of the museum is the Pergamom Altar. It was originally situated at the top of a hill that overlooked the Aegean Sea. To walk up the stairway, past the frieze depicting battles between Olympian gods and the Giants, and look down once you’ve reached the top, with the vision of a sparkling, deep blue Aegean Sea has such grandeur to it. This was all, of course, done with sweaty palms, shaky hands, and wobbly legs because people were sitting by the railing and I had nothing to hold onto. I can’t imagine what ancient life would have been like for an acrophobic.
The Market Gate of Miletus is another magnificent marble monument to explore. Most of it was destroyed in an earthquake, so its reconstruction involved new material. Fantastic to walk through nonetheless.
The Islamic Art Exhibit was also really cool–tons of intricately-painted domes and prayer rooms. I was on my own for most of the time we spent in the museum. I have a habit of going through museum exhibits rather quickly… I had seen most of the museum 20-30 minutes before our designated meeting time. So I sat on the steps and waited; my feet were tired anyway.
Afterwards, I really wanted to go to the Berliner Dom, so we did. Just…gorgeous. In a really outlandish, gold-everywhere, decked-out-in-more-shiny-things-than-a-chandelier kind of gorgeous.
We went to a Turkish restaurant for dinner. So much ethnic food I had never had! It was really good. I was hooked on this pita-bread-thing. There was also some great dinner conversation. One of the guys kept staring at the lights because he thought they looked like boobs and at these two girls sitting across the room because he thought they were lesbians..?!
And in a slip of the tongue, he called my friend and I “him”s and told my friend that he couldn’t believe she was a woman. Wait–what? Whoa. She was about to rip him apart when he quickly followed with “…I can’t believe you have the burden of bearing children”. Okay then. After the meal, we somehow decided to call my friend (who’s female) Geoff Nikolsky because apparently Geoff’s a pretty gay name and she’s the “gayest” “man” alive. I’m quite positive our group collectively shattered and violated any fragment of political correctness in the month we spent together.
H. Birkelbach arranged for us to go to an acrobatic show by the name of SOAP at the Chamaeleon Theatre and it was awesome. It’s kinda like Cirque du Soleil, except it’s on a smaller stage and everything is soap/bathtub/washing related. All the girls enjoyed it immensely because, well, there were hot, athletic guys running around doing crazy ballet moves. One of the acrobats grabbed onto a pole and raised his body so that it was perfectly parallel to the ground and hold it for minutes.Insane.
The girls were giddy and the guys slightly disappointed because there were no hot girls. I thought the lady acrobats were amazing too though! One of the guys and H. Reynolds kept arguing that all of the guys were probably gay because straight men can’t do ballet. You just gotta roll your eyes when you hear that kind of stuff.
There was also one hilariously inappropriate intimate scene between…feet. Oh the sounds. First it was cute because the foot that was supposed to be the guy gave flowers to woo the “girl” foot but then it moved onto…feet banging. All of us were gasping for air because we couldn’t believe we were allowed to watch a show so raunchy as 11th graders.
The same smooth talker from dinner also spent the evening taking stalker-y pictures of our city guide and sang songs as he did so about chicken and tickling. Definitely one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. He told us how he burned down a part of the forest near his house with his friends and how the entire fire department had to go and put it out and the police actually came knocking on his door–but he was able to convince everyone that he had nothing to do with it. Oh my.
And it gets stranger from there: at band camp, he dressed up in a suit of armor and beat his friends with a sword while they slept (…if I remember correctly). There was also one time where he was practicing knife-throwing and threw a knife at a tree, only to have it ricochet and embed itself deep in his arm, slicing through all the fatty tissue. He even showed us the scar. There was also a story about a guy in his band who peed in bottles–I can’t remember the context but so strange in any case. He also used to box and taught me and my friend how to punch correctly.
My roomies and I couldn’t wait to get back to our room so we could have our nightly girl talk. Before our group separated for the night, we were told by our interesting friend to “have fun ;)”. Guys are weird, but teenage boys are so much weirder.