We were staying at the Circus Hostel in Berlin. The subway or the U stopped right across the street from the hostel which was really nice. Our hostel was in East Berlin - which as I am sure you all know, was the Communist side. After taking the subway so much we got on first name basis with the chick and her dog who were beggin right at the top of the platform. She being Helga and the dog, Foo-foo. Just kidding - but if it wasn't her there, it was this other dude. So we got in and decided to start walking around. We figured that we could bang out a lot of the things that we wanted to see. We headed down to the Reichstag, the German Parliament and the place that "mysteriously" burned down. Hitler used it as an excuse to grab temporary power and he blamed the burning on the Communists (tsk, tsk, Adolf). The building is very cool and I got some sweet shots of it for all you Germanophiles/Duetschophiles. We then headed over to find a cache at a VERY imposing Communist monument to the Russian soldiers that died "liberating" Germany. The cache of course, was not there. This would repeat for about 10 different ones in Berlin. Next we headed over to the Brandenburgh Tor which basically became the symbol between the east and west. It must have been pretty crazy to only see one side of the gate for your entire life. The wall, which was really two, split the city and went around the Brandenburgh Tor. From there you could see the "Chick on a Stick" - which is a cool monument because the Prussians, after defeating the French, took some of their cannons, melted them and made the monument out of them. That's a pretty cool F U, you're our bitch now! Who knew it would be repeated again and again. Jess took a picture with the Berlin Bear - we made him do the peace sign. He held Jess pretty close - then wouldn't let her go, he asked for a tip and got it.
Like I said, geocaching here sucked. There were a ton that could not have been there - looking over logs, two that people HAD while we were there. Why they didn't say something to us is beyond me. Assholes.
We also went to Checkpoint Charlie - which is totally commercial now. It was cool to see the spot where we stared down the Russians for 40 years. There are big pictures of a soldier watching the others' area - the US guardhouse is there and on the east side is a timeline of how the whole wall and Communism fell. That night we went to some shitty Mexican place - owned by Indians. Afterwards we went to the hostel bar to listen to some Scottish folk kinda music. It wasn't so great but they guy bought everyone a shot of JD, which I choked down. I hate piss warm shots. The next morning, Jess gave in and accompanied me to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. It was the first concentration camp. It was very different than the death camps because it was used for other things. Its primary purpose was not to exterminate people. The ride there was a mess! We took a tour - but there was work on the tracks, so we had to get off, take a bus for a stop, then hop back on a regional train, get to the town and then walk to the camp. It wasn't as bad as I though that it would be. Don't get me wrong, it is very humbling and very depressing to be in a place where thousands of people were murdered. The camp was first used to round up the political enemies of the Nazi's. This included, very few Jews but included Communists (who got red stars), homosexuals (purple stars), Roma and other undesireables, union leaders, etc. There was a courtyard where everyone had to stand and were stripped down before they went inside. Anyone who showed any kind of leadership on the way to the camp were singled out and tortured within earshot of the other prisoners. They shaved your head for lice but also because it was not "normal" for people to have that kind of haircut in the 30s and 40s. The camp was set up in a triangle because they felt that this was the most efficient set up to monitor the whole camp. The main gate is guarded by Tower A - it is where you enter. It eventually continued to expand. It was used as a work camp - to make bricks for the massive buildings Hitler planned to build when he remodled Germany after conquering the world. Inside, there was a prison within the prison, where the worst of the worst were kept. Sometimes people went there because they just wanted a break from being in the overcrowded bunkers where everyone was.You were woken up at either 4 or 5 am and were given 40 minutes to eat, use the can and wash. There were hundreds of people per barrack and like 8 toilets. You do the math.
You were then called outside in the triangle for roll call. If they messed up the count they started over. I think she said the longest roll call ever was 17 hours - it was in the middle of February. Many didn't make it out. We then headed out to where the Communist monument was standing. After they took over, the camp was still in use, this time housing political enemies of the Communists. The monument shows only red stars and a few people standing aside, the Communists who were persecuted by the Nazi. There was no mention of the Jewish or any other prisoners. The Communists were masters of spin.
The next stop was station Z (zed), it was your last stop. You went there if you were already dead or if they were going to kill you en mass. There was a small barrack area where they would shoo you in and shoot you. There was an outline of a barrack that no longer stands and that was also a place where they would put in a ton of people and shoot them. We also went over to another place where there were pretty much only the foundations of buildings - they were crumbling but you could get the basic layout or the place. You could also see what was left of some of the ovens. Outside of the buildings there were mounds where they used to dump the ashes. They have marked the areas. Also in the buildings, there was aspot where she explained how they used to carry out executions. They put you in a room and let you see the "doctor" who was really an SS guard. He gave you a brief "examination", checking in your mouth for fillings and then marking you if you had some. You then went into another room and they asked you to stand against the wall where the old school thing was so they could chek your height. As it came down to your head, a slot opened at your neck and the SS guard shot you. Quick and clean. The walls were double thick so the other prisoners who were sitting in a room with loud music coudln't hear the others get shot. It was done in part to make it more efficient and less personal for SS soldiers who were having difficulty carrying out their duties.
That being said, it was still a very amazing experience to have gone. Being a history major and actually getting to see these places is pretty unbelieveable. It's understandable why people didn't speak up and you have to wonder if under similar circumstances you would. It is still going on today in numerous places in Africa and Asia and yet for a number of reasons governments remain quiet and do not monitor the actions of others.
That night after eating, we decided to do some laundry. We went to check out the place and find out the prices. This crazy guy is telling us what the prices are in German. We tell him we don't speak it and he giggles this crazy laugh like a derranged leprauchan. He looks like one too. He's dressed in a pinstripe black suit with a white bucket hat/fedora which has black stripes on it. He's either really gay or a drunk because he has a lesion on his upper lip and if he's gay it's herpes and if not, he just fell and shmashed his face on the concrete. I don't know and I don't want to find out either. We say thank you and head back to the hostel. Despite our better judgement, we head back to the derranged leprauchan and put in our laundry, I have a beer with me because you can walk all over the city and drink - which everyone does do and they're all fucking hammered by 9 pm. We put in the laundry and he's giggling again - almost like the Joker on the old Batman TV shows (BAM!) He's telling me something about my beer and I'm like you want some, get a cup. But he says no good, points at the beer and giggles again. We get outside and talk to some guy who speaks English, agree that this dude is bonkers and sit down. Only we don't realize that the beer I have is different than the one he serves in his cafe - which is attached to the laundromat and apparently that's what he's barking about. So the guy who speaks English comes over and says that it is against the leprechaun's policy to let you bring alcohol from other places and drink them infront of the cafe. We can go inside and drink our own booze and continue to play Rummy. So I tell the leprechaun no problem, next one I'll get from you and he's cool with that, because as the English speaking guy tells us, we're friendly. I don't want him getting too friendly.
So we get another round and he comes out and starts to talk to us and we're all making due, us in English, he in German and we find some kind of happy medium between until he whips out, "NY is no sexy". And I go, What? "Yeah, is no really sexy." Now, not for nothing, but the hottest chicks in every gene pool from around the world come to NY to be models and NY is no sexy. Dude, you're crazy. Eventually we get to some understanding that NY buildings are really high and it's cold and there are a lot of young people in the city and he's like close to 55 or 60, so NY is no sexy.
Miami is sexy. We now know the answer to the million dollar question.
Now we're both laughing and I'm saying the phrase in my head to the Right Said Fred song "I'm too sexy". We tell him that NY is the best and he needs to get over it. We tell him maybe he needs to head down to the Village next time he goes to NY but he doesn't know what we're talking about. We finish up our drinks head inside and fold our laundry.
Folding laundry is no sexy, I tell Jess. The first of about 800 things I would say is no sexy befroe we leave Berlin the next morning. Everything is no sexy, the soap, the giant Communist TV tower we can see from our window, packing our packs, my smelly Keen sandals (are definitely not sexy) and the 5 euro all you can eat breakfast.
We're off again to the former Soviet satellites - Latvia and Estonia.
Even they are no sexy!