The 5-hour bus trip for €34 from Prague to Berlin flies by with the easy conversation I have with the lovely 23-year-old Czech lady sitting next to me. She tells me of her dreams, her family and her strong opinions on politics in excellent English which she acquired as an exchange student. If the Czech Republic is made up of people like her, it would be a serious force to contend with. We part company in Berlin but make sure to be in touch on Facebook.
My final destination and once again it’s the ‘free’ tour that catches my attention with a guide, rather historian, who shows, emotes, acts and elicits laughter from us on this 3+ hour walk through this city that cannot be called beautiful but which throbs with a mended heart that once was broken. The low, high, curvy, disorienting grey pillars of the Holocaust Memorial that hide you at one point and expose you at another, silences us all in their stark reminder of the millions that died.
Hitler’s bunker buried under a parking lot restores justification until we are told that candles on this spot light up this grim memory on the anniversary of his death obviously set in place by groups that adhere to the monstrous ideology. The Wall, Bebel’s Square where the Nazis burnt millions of books, Unter den Linden where magnificent museums await and even fake Checkpoint Charlie, bring back history and lessons so recently learned.
But it’s the Alternative Tour that grabs me and takes me to the East Side Gallery where I learn the difference between street art and graffiti, Wurzburg and the pub with scrawling on the walls and a mishmash of chairs including airline seats where I sip a glass of wine and daydream about living a life in Berlin. The massive pink man made up of thousands of tiny little pink men by Blu just on the other side of the impressive Oberbaumbrücke speaks of an atmosphere of expression, creativity, hedonism and freedom.
A long session of imbibing and conversation with a bunch of Australians that rent out their apartments in Sydney which covers the price of an airline ticket to Berlin, accommodation and living the life they’re accustomed to for a period of 3-months, only confirms my thoughts that this place has heart like few others and cannot be overlooked as the last stop-off to an eastern European odyssey or any odyssey for that matter.