Dear Berlin, I love you (but not you Hitler)

Adolph_Hitler_Berlin

Berlin was a breath of fresh air after a long time of journeying in Vietnam, taking night buses and trying not to get scammed every day. It was a bit weird to be completely anonymous again, but nice all the same; I was able to practice Ashtanga in the park all three days that I visited Berlin without any interruption or even people staring at me which is something I have come to expect.

Berlin, Germany is a city of history and pain, which I must say is probably the vast majority of European cities. WWII history dominated the city, but in one of the most touching and personalized war exhibits I have ever seen (Austwitz was more personal, but the site’s history is also much more intense). Hitler and the Nazi regime were in full public view in one of the exhibits in the south of the city and the history of the wall was nothing short of incredible.

Berlin_wall
preserved portion of no-man’s land at the Berlin wall

The wall was up for 28 years; many people thought it would only last a few months. 1,000 people were killed in attempts to cross the wall and 5,000 or so were able to make it; but the fear and mental effects on the people were far more impacting.

It becomes pretty obvious that the Soviet Union was the driving force behind the creation of the wall; their tanks reinforced its creation and it wasn’t until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 that the wall was brought down. In addition, the people of Berlin were nearly all against its construction and it tore the city apart; government officials deliberately told the people there would be no wall and many thought it would only last a few days, maybe months. 28 years later, a church, cemetery, apartments, and countless lives were victims of the wall. The tributes to the people were personalized and specific; reading the stories brought you to the time period and it was easy to understand the grasp that fear had on the Berlin people.

There was another exhibit in the South of Berlin, near Potzdamer Platz that displayed details of the Nazi’s rise to power, making full view of Hitler and his regime’s eventual control over Germany, especially over Berlin. The feature picture of Hitler is from that exhibit. It is amazing to see the political climate that created the third Reich and the amount of control that it took over the German population. There was no explanations, simply facts and personal stories that allowed me formulate what it could have been like back in the 1930s and 40s in Berlin.

The food was great, but the Germans seem to eat about 90% meat (the other 10% is potatoes) which is just not my favorite style of food. I did end up having some Currywurst and Snitchzel, though I’m glad I don’t eat it on a daily basis. The people in Berlin were very kind and even though I didn’t go out at night, you could tell that there was a raging night club scene. If I go back, which I really hope to, that is something I will be doing my best to experience in full throttle. I needed to rest after two weeks of night buses and non-stop traveling in Vietnam.

I stayed in two hostels, both were good, though we stayed at the Pfefferbett and it wasn’t amazing; toilets flooded at night, their magnetic key system was absolutely horrible and the WiFi was bad, but it was pretty clean and the beds were nice. The East Seven Berlin hostel was stellar, clean, WiFi was great and the people who worked the hostel were very friendly. I definitely see myself heading back to Berlin in not too long, maybe for some music! That would be cool.

I recently put some new google Ads up on the site, I’m definitely going to keep them up because I think that they are completely non-intrusive and honestly, I’ve worked hard on this blog and think that I deserve at least some compensation for putting so much work into my writing and what it has become. Also, nothing is free; this blog takes money to maintain and I have been shouldering the cost completely. Think of it like I’m trying to get to the point where this blog is self-sustaining, because right now it isn’t.

So please don’t be turned off, understand that I have to eat like anyone else and I really want to get to the point where this blog sustains itself. Nothing is free. I am also completely out of space on my server so this might be my last couple of pictures for a while. If you are interested in supporting my writing, you can just send me an email @ [email protected]

Otherwise, have a great day, I’m off to explore Prague, possibly the most touristic city in Europe (seriously, tourists are everywhere here). More travel blogging on the way 😉

 

Returning to the West

Dhaka Streets_1

The past few days have been a difficult adjustment period. The accumulation of stress over the past few months was nothing short of monumental and I needed time to allow everything to process.

Budget traveling in Asia was fun, rewarding, and a life-changing experience. I would do it again, but I would have planned things much differently, spending more time in Myanmar rather than Vietnam and Thailand because of the touristic climates of the latter two countries. Vietnam is also particularly difficult as an American; there are massive amounts of propaganda about the war and people just aren’t excited to have you in their country. At least that was my interpretation of my experiences.

India was exactly what I needed; a combination of challenge and pure peace, allowing me to move far deeper into my yoga practice and mediation than I had anticipated. Nepal was a much-needed rest and I feel so lucky to have avoided the earthquakes and the devastation that they caused. Then Dhaka happened.

After I while, I realized that the east is so similar to the West; we are all essentially the same in our humanity and have differences and unique qualities that separate cultures, individuals, and groups of people. And in that uniqueness, comes a diversity that is relatively similar; there are always good people and bad people, people looking to take advantage of you and people looking to help you.

This is why perception is such an important part of the human experience; we base our decisions off of what we have experienced in the past.

Dhaka was so hard because of the way that their society is organized. People are willing to be completely wrong when trying to help you, as long as they can feel like they’ve helped you. They look up to white people and at the same time despite them. It seems that every sword has two sides.

Dhaka was probably the hardest day of my life, but it was also one that gives me the most hope. When people work together we can do anything we want. The way people worked together to help me was truly an incredible thing to witness.

I need to return to Myanmar because I was only able to visit Yangon, but the people were so nice. They went about their business until you came into contact with someone at a restaurant, or through whatever interaction and they were so kind. Far nicer than any country besides India, which I found to be somewhat similar. Thailand was close to Myanmar, but the people seem to be so sick of tourists. Though Bangkok is not really a city I am looking forward to visiting in the future, the north of Thailand was breath-taking and the locals were so nice. But I think they were as sick of the foreigner party scene as I was.

The came Vietnam, which I had always heard great things about. There is probably a lot racism against Americans because of the Vietnam war and the people seem to have taken on the victim mentality completely, like they are entitled to things because of it. And its hard to argue that they shouldn’t.

In the south of Vietnam I was scammed at every opportunity possible, there seemed to no stop to what people were willing to do for a bit of money. The only reprieve was from the people we were already staying with, who tended to be very kind and thoughtful and wonderful towards their clients. There were a lot of very nice people, but there was a lot of dislike directed at me for no reason by people in general. It was probably due to being American, which I think is obvious when I travel.

Coming back to the West through Berlin was great; the country is very in touch with its history and many of the exhibits of the wall in the city are completely eye-opening, full of facts and personalized stories, and bring the situation to life. It was nice to see both sides of the equation as well; how Hitler and the Nazi party came to power and why it was even a possibility in the country. A nice change from the one-sided propaganda in Vietnam.

Now I am in Prague, but spending the day recovering rather than traveling around. Two more days here should make for a lot of history and good food, site-seeing, and spending time with my family. I’m going to write an article on Berlin after this, so stay tuned for more experiences about the journey I am on.