lions & tigers & bears

I find it simultaneously motivational and overwhelming that the more I travel, the more I get the compulsive need to travel again. and more frequently. most people set goals and plan their lives based on where they'll be working, what their family will be like, where they'll live, in five years or so. I base mine on when I'll get to go on my next trip.


Brando and I are already planning a farewell trip of western Europe for August. next summer I'm hoping to travel the US, as much of it as I can without having to sleep in a box. then whenever I can save up the money, probably the following spring, I want to go to Peru & Bolivia. and as soon as I can get enough time off from whatever job I happen to be settling for at the time, I want to take a month to travel Asia. that's my five year plan.

needless to say, I'm hooked.

going through all my photos for the thousandth time is only making me miss the adventure even more. but I'm also so happy that I have the opportunity to do this stuff! I seriously cannot express through words how much I think people should see the world.

...and if Berlin happens to be the part of the world you are thinking about seeing, boy do I have a post for you!
see what I did there?

Berlin's a great city to just wander in. you stumble across plenty of interesting things; cool statues, good food, shopping, pretty architecture. since buses and trains are a little more daunting when you don't even remotely speak the language (as I mentioned in the last post), walking really seemed like the easiest way to get around. although with that said, everyone we met spoke perfect English, so knowing German- or more specifically how to pronounce it- isn't necessary. except at local flea markets where people don't know the English numbers, but that's not so bad...

nice areas to walk through/around are Unter den Linden, Kurfurstendamm, and along the river Spree. 

if you pay a visit to the Reichstag, do not skip a visit to the dome! you have to make an appointment online three days in advance, which we didn't know, but it's really easy to do and apparently you almost always get the time slot you want. we did. and it's totally free. oh, and they don't tell you to bring ID, but you should, preferably a passport. the security people/staff weren't very friendly, but once you're inside you don't have any interaction with them anyways. you get an audioguide (also free) that cuts in and out with info depending on where you are on the twirly ramp. the whole experience is not overly informative or spectacular, but it's pretty cool-lookin' and definitely work an hour of your time.

after we visited the Reichstag dome Caitlin and I headed to the East Side gallery to check out the Berlin wall. we were having a very historical kind of day. 
it was a little surreal, seeing the wall kind of how it would have been back when it was still in tact. sometimes I forget how really recent the whole thing was. so much controversy and conflict and pain based around this particular hunk of rock. hard to comprehend for someone from rural Canada. 

now the East side of the wall is covered in murals by artists from all over the world. it's the longest continuing stretch of wall left, so it goes on for a while, but we just walked till we found the "test the rest" car. it's pretty iconic, I think.

it was hard to know how to feel about some of the "attractions" in Berlin. it's even a little strange calling them attractions. don't get me wrong, there are tons of great sites; it's just that things like the Berlin Wall or the Holocaust memorial or Jewish museum have a kind of sad reverence about them. I feel weird saying that the Jewish museum was one of the things I enjoyed most from the entire trip, but it was so fascinating and educational and moving. I would definitely, definitely recommend a visit. 

the building itself is amazing; the architect designed it to be symbolic of Jewish history and struggle. it's strange and disorienting and very eerie. the structure itself is an interesting experience. the Holocaust exhibit is obviously extremely sad, so I'd suggest doing it first (which we did) so that it's not the last thing on your mind when you leave. it does have some very interesting, while heartbreaking, stories.

the upstairs floors take you through the history of Jews in Germany, starting right at the beginning; as in, the diaspora of the Jews from Israel. it sounds dorky, but there's really just so much to learn, and it's not at all boring! we were there for almost three hours and were not ready to leave, except that the museum was closing. set aside a good chunk of time if you decide to go, because it's not one of those "pop in" museums. 

on a related note, one museum that was more of a "pop in" type was the Film museum. it was fun and interesting for the first bit, but after a while we just didn't know what was going on. it's a history of German film, specifically. not film in general. but it's cheap entry (as with most things in the city actually) and worth checking out for the psychedelic mirrored rooms and the Marlene Dietrich bit. 

ok, enough about emotionally-charged historical sites and museum stuff; on to the Berlin zoo!
yes, we went to the zoo. 

we were enticed by stories of the famous Berlin zoo polar bear, Knut. if you haven't heard of him (which we hadn't, till I read the guide book) look him up on wikipedia for details. 

basically, he was born at the zoo and had to be hand-raised by humans to survive, and was eventually named the cutest polar bear in the world. he became kind of a national symbol- or so Lonely Planet and wikipedia would have you believe, I don't know first hand. the other funny thing, which is why we eventually decided to shell out the 12 euros each to see the zoo, is that apparently Knut was dependant on human attention so much that he would become visibly distressed if there weren't a lot of zoo visitors around his enclosure. he was, and I quote, "determined by animal psychologists to be a psychopath." 

I mean, how hilarious is that??

so we had to go check out this psychopathic bear. as you can see from the photo above, we kind of assumed this was him. unfortunately for us, the guide book I had was from early 2010, and no one informed us that Knut had died last year. 
yep. paid 12 euros to see a bear that was already dead. 

it's very sad (mostly for poor Knut), but what the heck. the zoo was still good fun. and it's the first time I ever saw a panda in real life! 

and that is the story behind the real Berliner bear. 

the zoo is where we ended our Berlin stay, and it's where I'll end this post! overall Berlin is a great city to visit. you'll never run out of things to check out, and as my guide book said, you get good bang for your buck. well, it's probably pretty clear I didn't research the nightlife or the clubbing scene... we're more the site-seeing, exploring, nerdy travel types. mostly just because we can't be bothered to waste a whole day with a hangover. but I hear that aspect of Berlin is bumpin' too. 
oh, and we did go to a cabaret! 
which was amazing. they do all this crazy cirque-du-soleil type stuff. it's at Friedrichstadt Palast if anyone's interested! which you really should be. seriously. 

okay I think it's become clear that I'm getting sleepy, so that's it for Berlin! if anyone has any questions about going there I'd be happy to try and help. just shoot me an email. 

next time, Roma! 
goodnight. ♥

playing: only the good die young- Billy Joel

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