Germany was never at the top of my list of places to visit, but when my family decided that was where they wanted to go, I thought — why not?
Before I went on the trip, I could only sum up the country in a few words: Angela Merkel, Hitler, World War 2, Swan Castle, Black Forest. My knowledge of Deutschland was pretty pathetic, but in the 12 days that I was there, on Trafalgar’s Highlights of Germany 2014 tour, I tried to take in as much as I could in just under two weeks.
This was what I learnt: There is more to big German cities than just gorgeous architecture and rich history. Take Berlin, for example. Sure, landmarks such as the Reichstag Building looks impressive in broad daylight, but the capital transforms into a different city by nightfall. So instead of only seeing Berlin’s famous sights and attractions during the day, why not take some time after dinner to retrace your steps? And if there is one place that warrants a second visit in the evening, it is the Holocaust Memorial.
The memorial was built in remembrance of the murdered Jews of Europe. When our travel director challenged us to explore it alone, I didn’t think I was going to feel anything other than boredom. But I was wrong. Walking through the vast maze as the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon left me feeling unsettled, and evoked a sense of fear and isolation as I ventured deeper into it. It became quite unnerving when the granite slabs around me grew bigger and taller, and I could not have been more relieved to finally get out of it.
If the heaviness of Berlin’s dark past is not your cup of tea and you’re up for something green and regally pretty, there is a place not far from Berlin for all that — Potsdam. This beautiful city is the capital of the German federal state of Brandenburg. We paid a visit to the Sanssouci Palace, and despite the heavy rain we thoroughly enjoyed strolling through the palace grounds. We didn’t even mind having to struggle awkwardly to take pictures while clipping an umbrella between our heads and shoulders to shelter us from the rain (or if you’re smart like my parents, you’d bring along a good raincoat for times like this).
We also had a wonderful dinner at Wirtshaus Moorlake, a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of Berlin — it is hard to believe that such a place exists in the city! The food was decent German fare, the views were amazing, and the whole experience was the cherry on top of our two-day stay in Berlin.