I know a thing or two about American presidents…
Wait, who have I ever been to be modest? I am pretty much a presidential trivia freak.
I’ve read a book on almost every one of the 44 men who have held the nation’s highest office. I even corrected my high school history teacher (a few times) on president facts.
For the most part, though, this extensive knowledge hasn’t done much for me. A good trick to impress the crowd, but I’m always out-done by the kid who can sink every beer-pong shot…
Still, I continue to learn more about presidents. This isn’t because of who I’ll win over with my sweet nothings of, “Did you know JFK wasn’t actually the youngest elected president?” and “Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were, in fact, fifth cousins…”
Instead, I live for the moments where my unnecessary knowledge actually is a bit significant.
Case and point: I knew not to utter the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
In 1963, topping off what would have otherwise been an inspiring speech to the citizens of Berlin, President John Kennedy made the mistake of saying, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Although Kennedy thought he was solidifying his support to the people of Berlin, the translation actually came out as, “I am a jelly filled doughnut.”
I knew my knowledge would serve me well someday…
Onward now to a little more Berlin and a little less dorkiness (eh, well, no promises).
After saying “Auf Wiedersehen” to Köln and seven hours of restlessness on a train, my group arrived in Berlin: The heart of it all in Germany.
We breezed through check-in at our hotel and dinner at a Doner stand, since we were all eager to see what the city had to offer.
First stop: The Reichstag Building.
The building was first constructed to house the parliment of the German Republic. In 1933, under suspicious circumstances, the building was all-but destroyed by a fire. In the subsequent war years, it was shunned by the Third Reich. Following the war, Bonn became the capital of Democratic Germany. It wasn’t until 1999, ten years after the “fall of the wall,” that the government was officially moved back to Berlin. Then, the newly rennovated building was returned to its former glory.
I love that the building now stands as testament to all the Germany has endured. It is a fitting monument to the people who worked to make Germany a better place, even in the face of evil.
The lower floors of the Reichstag are devoted to the German Parliament. However, the top-level is a public-accessable dome with a panoramic view of the whole city.
I decided to end the first day on a high note, so I turned in pretty early. And, by that, I mean that I began my trek back to the hotel at a decent hour. However, my hotel was located on the outer-reaches of ol’ East Berlin, or “Mongolia” in the words of my professor. So actually getting there was easier said than done.
No fear (or maybe a little when it came to the creepy people public transportation tends to attract), I made it back to my hotel and proceeded to pull a face-first flop onto my bed.
The next morning, after a less-than-inspired run with Rebecca, our group met up to head back to civilization the center of the city.
First stop of the day was Checkpoint Charlie, the former crossing point between East and West Berlin.
Based on the picture below, I’ll give you one guess as to which was the “American” side.
Hint: I don’t think Communists were so keen on McDonald’s…
We spent a bit of time touring the museum.
Pro: The staff was nice enough to provide English translation.
Con: I’m almost convinced the translations were provided by an illiterate three-year-old.
Having my dose of humor in for the day, courtesy botched translations, I journeyed onward.
The next stop was the “Topography of Terror,” where the primary offices of the Gestapo and SS once stood. It was chilling to think that some of the most twisted, horrifying plots against humanity were conjured up at the same place I was standing.
Suffice it to say that my appetite wasn’t exactly intact. That was until my food was placed in front of me…
I ordered a “Gemüse Strudel” (translation: vegetable strudel). The light and perfectly browned crust was packed with veggies.
It wasn’t dense or greasy, but it had a little more of a power-punch than the salads I had been frequently resorting to.
With a fresh sense of energy, I was ready to take on even more of what Berlin had to offer… Part II is tomorrow.