In our last few days of Berlin, Lauren, Ellie, Fliss and I headed out to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The camp is located about 35km outside of Berlin, and takes about 45 to 60 minutes to get out there, depending on what train you catch (we caught the fast train – all day ABC zone pass for 7.20€). We went out with a tour group called Sandemans New Berlin, and the tour was called Sachsenhausen Memorial Tour (14€), and it was well worth the money. If you don’t go with a tour you can pay for an audio guide whilst you’re out there (I would recommend it), but having a tour guide made it really interesting as he was able to tell us extra stories and facts.
The day out there was one of mixed emotion. It was incredibly hot when we headed out (lather up in suncream) and none of us had eaten lunch, which is probably not the best way to start a tour as heavy as this one. Walking through the gates and seeing the sign of “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work makes you free) was so sad. I found it really hard to comprehend that over 200,000 people went through this camp – the numbers are just too huge. And that doesn’t even include the extra 60,000 that were imprisoned in the camp due to the Soviets post WW2. We walked past the mass grave to those who were too weak to go on the ‘death march’, we entered the infirmary where a number of horrible tests were implemented on prisoners – such as infecting 11 children with hepatitis to see the effects, forcing prisoners into cold water to see how long it would take them to die of hypothermia, and what effects amphetamines would have on the soldiers – again, tested on prisoners. We saw the barracks that were made for approximately 150 prisoners but houses closer to 500, we saw the execution pits, and what I thought was the most confronting; station z. Station z was where the guards took prisoners to kill them. The complex was equipped with ovens (they could get through about 600 bodies in a 24 hour period), it had a smaller gas chamber, and it had a room where the prisoners, whilst standing against a wall to be “measured” by a “doctor” (usually a guard in medical clothes), would be shot in the back of the neck through a hole in the wall by another guard in a hidden room behind the wall. I cannot fully describe the camp through a blog- nothing can convey the ugliness of the place, nor the sterility with which the actions were carried out.
We got back into the city from our day out and absolutely crashed – a combination of extreme heat, lack of good and just being generally overwhelmed with information and horror/emotion meant it was a pretty early night for all of us!
Our last day in Berlin, Lauren and I hired out bikes! We headed down to the East Side Gallery – the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that remains standing today – and took in all of the street art on it. Most of it is amazing art work, such as the one below, but most of it has also been graffitied with pointless things – don’t know why people feel the need to do so!
We hopped back on our bikes and rode off to climb up the Victory Tower (nearly for squished by a bus on the way!). It’s only 3€ to climb to the top, and the views are beautiful- it’s much cheaper than heading up the TV tower, so if you’re keen for a view I’d definitely recommend the Victory Tower. Our last act of the afternoon was to visit the DDR museum. The DDR museum (7€) is an interactive museum that shows what life was like in the GDR – I.e. Life in East Germany. We really enjoyed the museum, and it’s well worth a trip (who doesn’t love an interactive museum!) but it was very crowded which did unfortunately take away from the experience.
As Ellie is heading back to Sydney and Fliss is heading to London, we all had drinks and dinner as a last night celebration. We headed out again into the Mitte area, and had a (gigantic) beer at a huge German beer garden – it was massive! It is the definition of the word beer garden! It was a place called Prater Garten – cheap beer and yummy food! Our final hurrah was at a Vietnamese restaurant just down the road from the beer garden – delicious and cheap cheap cheap food! I had sushi, pho and a cocktail all for less than 13€! Bargain!
We left Berlin early morning and arrived in Dresden a few hours later. We were too early to check in so had to chuck our bags in a storage room for a while, and I’m lucky that I had my valuables in cases – my day pack ended up on the bottom of the pile with who knows how many packs. I’ve been using a Lifeproof Nüüd case for my I-pad – and it’s amazing. I’m pretty sure I could throw it at the wall and it would be fine (don’t worry, I won’t test that theory!). They also do I-phone covers if you’re a bit more prone to dropping valuables (like me!).
I can’t report much back to you about Dresden yet as we’ve only gone for a quick stroll before checking in, but from first sight it’s a really beautiful city. It got completely bombed to ashes during WW2, but everything was rebuilt pretty much as it was before. From our initial stroll around the city I did notice a few things: a man in 3/4 length denim jeans (not something I’d seen before!), a lot of ladies in completely colour matching outfits (one even matched her lipstick), and a lot of people on crutches (I blame the cobblestones – pesky suckers if you’re not concentrating!). So as I said, unfortunately I can’t really report on anything useful yet. We have 2 nights here and then we head to Prague, so I’ll fill you in from there.