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Berlin, the Former Home of Both Communism, Democracy, and The Wall June 11, 2012

Posted by Joshua Price in Travel Log.
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On our way back to Metz from Prague, we stopped for a day in Berlin, a very large city.  I wish we could have spent more time in the city, but there are time limitations to every trip.  The first thing we did was visit the Reichstag building, the home of the German Parliament.  This building was affected by Allied bombing in World War Two and much of the upper half of the building was totally destroyed.  After the war, the building was rebuilt, culminating in a glass dome on the top of the building.  Symbolically, this glass dome represents the openness of the parliament to the German people.  As one architect stated, “It’s about time that the German people can look down upon their government.”  This glass dome includes a spiral ramp that takes you all the way up to the top.  From the floor at the top of the dome you get a beautiful view of Berlin led by an audioguide that is supplied in many different languages, including English.  From the bottom of the dome, you can look into the parliamentary chamber and see the blue chairs that the representatives sit in when parliament is in session.  The chance to visit this building and walk up to the top was a great introduction to Berlin.

As we were leaving the Reichstag building, we found the path of the Berlin Wall near the Brandenburg Gate.  I thought it would be interesting to say that I was in both East and West Berlin at the same time, so I decided to straddle the line, marked with stones and take a picture of my feet.

To hear about the berlin wall is history class is one thing, but to actually stand at the location where the wall once stood is a very meaningful experience.  Today, I can walk from one side of the line to the other easily without being searched or even impeded by a gate, I can just walk side to side.  But, just 22 years ago that wasn’t the case, people would risk their lives to escape East Berlin.  The hid in the trunks of cars, in old welding machines and literally inside the front seat of a car to get through the various checkpoints that connected East and West Berlin. Others were brave enough to make an attempt at climbing the wall, flying a balloon over the wall or making an attempt to escape East Germany by using a gas powered submersible device to swim from the shore of Germany to hopefully be rescued by a ship that would take them somewhere other than back to East Germany.  These hardships were highlighted in The Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the more famous checkpoints.

As an American, it is easy to take the freedom to travel virtually anywhere in the world for granted, but this really opens your eyes to the fact that this is not a universal privilege.  There are many people today that face the same hardships that were faced in East Berlin during the time of the Berlin Wall.  Our trip to Berlin, though short, was quite meaningful in that it forced me to realize the incredible freedom I have as an American citizen that many other people simply do not have.  Why do I have these privileges?  Because I happened to be born in the United States. I haven’t done anything to earn or deserve them, yet I have them anyway.  Seeing firsthand the disparities in the world opens your eyes to the fact that we are truly blessed to have the privileges we do and we must remember that every other person is just as deserving to have the same privileges regardless of where they were born or how they were raised.  Berlin was certainly the most eye-opening experience to date that I have had in Europe.

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