One of the amazing things about traveling is the realization that most people will never have the chance in their lifetimes to do what I am doing. Many of the people I have met in taxis or in shops have never left their home country. Most of my OWN family has never traveled outside of the US... maybe by choice, or (in my case) fear of the unknown. I am someone who finds a menu item I like, and I order it repeatedly. I love the familiar, but I am learning to let go of some of those tendencies while fully realizing that I cannot change who I am at the core. Rather than an endless checklist of "to-do" items, I am trying to just create new memories and trust that I am right where I am meant to be. With that in mind, I (CTM!) am in Berlin...a place I never "dreamed" of visiting.
Berlin is a large, spread out city. Most monuments are emotional locations that are a history of a very dark place both during World War II and the years following with the building of the Berlin Wall. I immediately felt the darkness here. The clouds were heavy and I don't think I saw anyone smile for 3 days. I found myself gravitating toward children laughing on the subway, a waitress who smiled (they don't include tips as they do the states) or a brief American song on a taxi radio (Uptown Funk sounds pretty good after a few days of German). It has definitely improved as the days have passed.
The Olympic Stadium (think Hitler/1936/Jesse Owens!) :
We decided to take the tour and not just a photo. The exterior was small, and concrete, and gray. We waited for 2 hours because they only had ONE tour that particular day. We spoke to the guard at the gate and found a perfect neighborhood food stand. We had no clue what we were ordering, but they were friendly and a nice man helped us out. After ordering God-knows-what, we saw him eating and ordered "fleischspiess" as a round 2. It was an excellent shredded beef that the locals all know about.
During the tour, our favorite spot was the chapel, built in 2006 for the World Cup athletes after they had requested it. The walls are gold leaf with each letter of scripture hand cut out of gold and translated into multiple languages. To think that Hitler was in this very place conducting the Olympics as propaganda, was eerie. During that time, the anti-Semitic signs were removed from around the stadium and the world saw a very peaceful Germany for about 2 weeks.
On another important note, there were NO restrooms open. In all seriousness, I think Germans don't pee because they don't drink water! On the tour, Dave found one (I had held it for almost 2 hours!). I ran into it and with deft swiftness was out in about 60 seconds. Unfortunately, it was just enough time for the 30 person tour to go through a door, down the stairs and (we figured out later), there were 5 choices on 5 different levels. We had been told at least 3 times that we were NOT allowed into certain parts of the stadium because of a contract with ACDC (that's a US band, mom!) Some of the doors were locked, and after attempting the others (which opened to more doors!), we panicked, went back the way we came, and quickly joined a teen group. Needless to say, we did not blend and when the guide said, "Wer bist du?", (Who are you?), we somehow felt in our own small minds that we had busted through into no-man's land and were going to be under arrest! Seriously, from the outside, this place looked like a prison camp! Early in the tour, I had "won" a prize for guessing the costs of the renovations: a backstage pass from a soccer tournament in May. Thank GOD I had that pass because I am sure it hanging from my tourist clothes made me look quite official! We ran back to the subway, laughing at our experience.