Like Cultural Routes, Berlin is a city that holds much more than one would originally expect. When I first applied to Cultural Routes, I had seen the many pictures, and imagined that I would be spending 3.5 weeks in Europe merely enjoying myself and “learning” a thing or two on the occasion. But man, oh man, have I realized how incorrect my initial assumptions were. I believe that Berlin is the perfect city to set the tone for Cultural Routes in that this city is MORE than Germany’s capital, MORE than a place that is known for its modernization, and much MORE than a city that only wants to showcase its best qualities.
After spending some time researching my city and talking to CR alumni about their own experiences, I am quite fascinated in having the chance to explore Berlin for four to five days. In talking to both Davis Donaldson and Will Beasley, I learned some interesting stuff in the brief time I got to hear from them. Despite talking to them separately, both of their descriptions of Berlin were very similar. They both acknowledged that Berlin is a unique city, in that it isn’t afraid of its history and wants to make amends for past transgressions by its creation of hundreds of museums (over 150) and memorials for the many deaths Germany caused. Berlin truly desires to right their wrongs and to bring their darkness into the light. How many cities can you name attempting to do the same? Berlin’s capacity to shoulder responsibility and man up to what it has done is such an admirable characteristic that other cities and all people should attempt to emulate.
Berlin goes above and beyond and showcasing all that they have done, good or bad. Treptower Park, Berlin’s second-largest park, is a Soviet memorial erected in 1949 following World War II. What is most interesting is that Berlin allowed the Soviets to create it and two other memorials in Berlin to express their grief for the mass casualties that took place there. Not only does it allow the Soviets to express what they wanted to be expressed, but Treptower Park is also the resting place for nearly 7,000 soldiers killed in Berlin. Having heard that this is one of the more popular parts about CR’s time in Berlin, I greatly anticipate seeing the artistic expression of the Soviets and having the chance to learn a thing or two from Berlin’s attitude in its recreation of past horrors.
As many people know, Berlin was also central to the tug-of-war held between the U.S. and the Soviet Union – a fight between ideologies of capitalism and democracy against that of socialism and communism. Although a unified city now, there are clear distinctions between what was once East and West Berlin. Will Beasley further mentioned that the divide of Berlin can still be clearly seen. Not only is there a drawn line to indicate where the country was split, but you can see the differences of each Berlin in the design of its buildings. Even 30 years later, this city is still not altogether whole.
When I am in Berlin, I want to learn as much as I can from a city that makes it easy to do. The historical side of Berlin in both World Wars and the Cold War have always fascinated me, and I cannot wait to see the many museums, parks, and memorials it has to offer. My goal is to remain eager in getting the chance to learn about something that interests me despite the fatigue the group and I will face in the first few days from doing so much.
There are a few things I plan to do to make the most of my time in Berlin. In the few days I have between coming home and flying to Berlin (when I’m not packing), I plan to brush up on a little more of Berlin’s history in order to be ready to receive the amount of information that will be thrown at me. When I do get to Berlin, I know that my peers will have many different viewpoints to offer and separate ways of thinking about all that we receive, and so I hope to be able to hear with open ears. I will put effort towards having conversations with those with me about the many things we see and question them further in the attempt to learn and to maybe offer a perspective they might not have. Finally, from hearing regrets of past CR members, I will earnestly take notes as I hope to preserve as much as I can of what I will learn.
Berlin is MORE than all that it has to offer because it also marks the beginning of an exciting journey that Dr. Pitcock and my fellow CR members and I will ensue on in a short time. See you in 45 days Berlin 😉.