Our first full day was all about connections: connections between places, time periods, cultures, ideas, and with our fellow CR10ers. My team today was Audrey Payne, Indigo Crandell, Jacob James, Jake Lynn, and Olivia Wales (Team Charlie!!!).
We launched right into our itinerary and were determined to get everything in….but of course we had a few detours such as in the Mall of Berlin to ride down a slide, eat some delicious crepes by the river, and into a TK Maxx to see how it compared to our beloved American TJ Maxx. We forged connections and built bonds while having a blast and exploring Berlin. However, many of these places we explored were far from lighthearted. The Brandenburg Gate, the Soviet War Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, Treptower Park, and the East Side Gallery were all perfect opportunities to delve into Germany’s history and begin questioning how this city has been shaped and continues to be affected by its past.
One thing I love about these places is that we were able to see two sides of the story. One of our focuses was on the struggle between the Germans and the Soviets, particularly during the time period of the Berlin Wall. Treptower Park was remarkable because it was built by the Soviets to memorialize those killed in the Battle of Berlin. A Russian memorial in the heart of Germany! Dr. P came with our group today, and the knowledge he shared was incredible—the symbolism packed into this site was overwhelming (you can read more about it in Jacob’s post from today!). We all gained a greater appreciation for the Soviet’s side of the story and learned how important it is to have empathy despite our own pride and prejudice (haha, Jane Austen).
As a ballet dancer, I am naturally drawn to art and how people use it as a path to healing. The fact that they have transformed a portion of the Berlin Wall into an art gallery speaks to the power of art and emotion in overcoming a crisis. As we walked along the wall, we saw many artists represented by their colorful and stirring work which, in a sense, covers the blank uniformity of the wall. By simply painting on concrete, the Berliners have made a statement of individualism and resistance to past oppression.
Another memorable site from today was “The Crier” statue which parallels the Soviet War Memorial and faces the Brandenburg Gate. This figure is shouting “Friede, Friede, Friede”. In classic American style, we assumed this meant “freedom,” but in actuality it means “peace” from an excerpt of a poem by Francesco Petrarch:
“I wander through the world and cry ‘Peace, Peace, Peace.’”
One of my goals from here on out is to relentlessly pursue peace in the world and try to see all perspectives. I feel so inspired by my peers and all they shared today both physically (my handy health app says we got 27,115 steps in today) and emotionally. We’ll be waking up in 5 hours to take on day 2…bring it on, Berlin.