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Travelogue: Berlin Left A Hole In My Heart

After a few days in Amsterdam, Berlin came almost as a rude shock- a mix of ugly, grey concrete structures and garish malls. For some reason I kept seeing Singapore in the late 80s everywhere, and I did not expect to enjoy Berlin, much less fall in love with the city. The people seemed terse and indifferent, but I did not fully comprehend then what they had gone through to achieve liberation. 

While I had enjoyed my history classes in high school, I dropped it as an examination subject because I could never attribute the right dates or years to events (and I remain terrible at remembering birthdays). My knowledge of history is patchy at best, and as an adult I am playing catch up.

In our three short days in Berlin we went on a self-guided walk around Alexanderplatz, revisited the horrors of WWII at the Topography of Terror, saw a glimpse of life in the GDR through the DDR museum, Checkpoint Charlie and our private guided tour along the Berlin Wall. What slowly unfolded for me was the story of human resilience in the face of unspeakable terror and repression, but also a reminder that we are all capable of the highest form of evil.

I left with a sense of unfinished business with the city, and I've been supplementing my learning with online documentaries and just finished reading the deeply affecting Stasiland by Anna Funder. I've only been back 2 weeks but I'm already dreaming of going back to properly explore the city, hopefully in more welcoming weather and to experience more of the street art and sustainability scene. 

Our Berlin Wall Tour with Context Travel cost €85 per person, led by former archaeologist Aaron Birchenough who braved the cold to make history come alive for us. You can read more about their sustainable operations here and I highly recommend them if you want a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

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