Bucket List #6: Berlin Marathon
Updated: Aug 28, 2019
Nope, not me! I didn't run this marathon. My friend did. But, this blog isn't about him. Nor, is this written piece about Berlin's beautiful gardens, historical sites, great night life, diversity, and the wonderful Berliner's sprite. It's about me and my life/learning, travel, and "Bucket List" fulfillment experiences.
Out of my joy to travel and experience new cultures and lands, I agreed to alter my plans from studying in Aux en Provence to accompany my friend to Berlin. My limited knowledge about Berlin, expand my curiosity to learn more about what I had heard, which was Berlin being a relatively new city built on the weight of history. Berlin had been pretty much leveled during WWII. 80% of the structures have been rebuilt. Some of which having the same original statues.
Prior to my arrival to Berlin, I did some research about places to visit, points of interest, night life, etc. I read somewhere that, "Berlin has a haunting experience especially around the historical and touristic areas." I figured, "No big deal! I've been to the Catacombs, Père Lachaise Cementery, and the Holocaust memorial in Paris. I'm good."
On September 13, I arrived in Berlin excited to walk it's streets, eat my way through the day, and meet it's people. I had anticipated that I would have some difficulty navigating my way around the city, since I am unfamiliar with the language. However, to my surprise English is spoken everywhere. And, the Berliners were willing to help and give guidance.
The first couple of days in Berlin were dedicated to becoming acclimated to the city and finding the destination to the Marathon Expo. Plus, registration and starting point destination information needed to be taken care of. The day of the marathon my friend left the hotel early in morning leaving me on my own. I spent the morning checking out the stores and doing some light shopping, basically killing time until I could meet up with him at the finish line.
The following day we decided to take a Fat Tire Tours city tour. The Fat Tire office is located in East Berlin. Being that we were staying in West Berlin, we had to take the subway. Then, walk to the office. As we walked, I noticed that there is an observable structural and environmental difference in East Berlin compared to West Berlin. East Berlin is where I realized what the writer meant by saying that there is a "haunting experience around memorials and tourist attractions".
As I was crossing the street, I had to stop and wait for train to pass. The sound of the train's wheel slowly rolling along the tracks quickly and un expectantly saddened me. My immediate thought was, Oh! My God! That is the same sound that the Jews must have heard as they were being sent off to their end." The rolling sound of the wheels stuck with me. It still haunts me as I'm writing.
Our tour guide was a delightful you man holding a double master's degree in history. At every designated stop he easily detailed historical events along with their dates/times. He supplied interesting adequate insights that I never knew about. Each site was overwhelming. Along with my desire and interests to learn about culture and history, surfaced an unexpected emotional response. At the Book Burning Memorial at Bebelplatz, I cried hearing about the story that took place there. Hearing about the students rushing the library and burning the books, tore at my heart. Upon seeing the empty shelves and the one lone book laying in a heap of ashes, I had to walk away. A word of caution: Riding a bike and crying can be hazardous.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Bebelplatz Book Burning Memorial, The parking lot over Hitler's Bunker, Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, etc. are places to be seen. Not everyone will have the same reaction. However, it is obvious by the respectful silence that these places cause one to search deep within and think.
Berlin is a city that one has to experience. Like any city, you can read about it, see videos, do research to learn how to navigate it, but you will never understand the emotional impact it will have upon you until you experience it. Everyone will own their own reaction based upon their prior experiences, education, and friendships. But for sure, the one most important conclusion that I came away with, was... We are all residence of this planet, it is our responsibility to never, ever, allow this horrible, hateful, destructive history to repeat itself. I was fearful realizing that with each new generation in America we are growing further away from the terror that swept across humanity. I compared it to a deep skin wound that is slowly fading away as we apply magic cream to remove the scar. Careless behaviors can reopen scars and the next time it will be the worst. It is our responsibility to never allow acts against humanity to be repeated.
In Paris, behind Notre Dame there is the Mémoral de Martyrs de la Déportation. As you exit to the courtyard there is an engraving over the door way, “Pardonne, n’oublie pas.”
Flash back to June 12, 1987, I remember sitting on my sofa watching the news. Former President Reagan's made his historic speech at the Berlin Wall, where he called on Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down" the wall that divided East and West Berlin.
Walls are not good. We are educated and have the ability and creative knowledge to find other solution.