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Posts Tagged ‘Berlin’

Berlin and Sachsenhausen

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I know I wrote last week about an impending trip to a concentration camp, however it’s been a bit of a mission. Last cruise I was delighted to be on nights and have the whole day off in Berlin to attend a shore excursion to a concentration camp. The night before Berlin, our safety officer sent out an email that we had a fire safety drill the next morning. Of course I was upset, as I’d been planning this excursion for what felt like eons. It especially annoyed me because in case of a fire on board, my duty is to report to the office and await further instructions. In case of a real fire, at that point we would head to our muster stations or wherever we were needed. In case of a drill, (like this one), all I do is sit in the office until the drill is over, which felt particularly pointless this time when I had the whole day off and now had to stay on board for the drill, hence missing my excursion. However, the safety of our crew and guests is of the utmost importance and at the end of the day, I’m here to work first and foremost so of course, I attended the drill with my best smile on. I was sad to miss my excursion.

Fast forward to this cruise, and due to an inter-office hospitality contest, we have each been rewarded with a 2 hour work day. If course I chose our last Berlin, hoping to go on my excursion this time. The schedule request was granted, the shore excursion was granted and I was over the moon excited. Then, yesterday, and email came through from the safety officer……general emergency drill….Berlin (aka, no one can get off the ship until after the drill, as this one is an all hands on deck type of situation). SERIOUSLY?! It seems as though the universe does not want me to go on this tour. Needless to say, many crew weren’t happy as this is our last Berlin and its a very long day in port, but if you want to make it to Berlin, you need to get the 3 hour train ride started ASAP.
2 hours later, another email came through from the safety officer…..GENERAL EMERGENCY DRILL POSTPONED!!! Pretty sure the whole ship cheered. So my excursion is now back on!! I ran to the shore ex office and did a happy dance.

Which brings us to today. I’m currently on the train to Berlin. The way the shore excursions work in Berlin is that we have a private train just for all our Carnival tours. So each excursion has one car of the train and we all leave together. Needless to say it can be a bit hectic as up to 900 people can be on the train every Berlin. I’m curled up in the corner of my train car, writing this on my iPad and gazing out at the German countryside.

In my train car are two lovely American couples, both of a retirement age, and very lovely people. We’ve been sharing cruising stories and discussing everything from Hurricane Sandy to 9-11. It’s always very interesting to hear other people’s opinions about these kinds of things and its put me in a pensive mood. Our tour today will start with some important German landmarks and then take us to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. This particular camp was not an extermination camp, however thousands of people died there. I’m not entirely certain how I will feel when we get there, but I am certain I will have lots to say on the train ride home.

……………..

We made many stops along the way, I was so fixated on the concentration camp itself that I completely forgot we were seeing anything else. So when we took in multiple German landmarks, such as the Parliament buildings, the Opera house, and the site of the infamous book burning (there is a really cool memorial exhibit in the courtyard there…..four walls of empty bookshelves underneath the sidewalk, visible from a glass hole in the ground) AND got a traditional German lunch, I was extra excited.

After lunch and a visit to Checkpoint Charlie, we headed towards Sachsenhausen. I must say that our tour guide could write a book on German history, she knew EVERYTHING! I learned so much, and she had such an elegant way of speaking. I was very impressed with her.

Sachsenhausen was the second concentration camp that was built, the first two were the ones that all the other camps were modeled after. It was also the location for the training of all the Dead Hat soldiers. The Dead Hats were a faction of the SS that were in charge of guarding the concentration camps. They were also trained in suppression as the Nazis were always afraid that the German public could rise against them. The Dead Hats could be distinguished by the black of their uniforms as well as the skull and crossbones on their hats. Among Sachsenhausen’s prisoners was Stalin’s son, who eventually killed himself by running into the electric fence in the neutral zone.

I have a lot to process right now. This was an incredible experience that I will never forget. The camp itself is quiet, eerily so. As you walk through the gates and see the famous inscription; Arbeit Macht Frei – Work Makes You Free, it takes your breath away. The air is heavy with history. Even the trees seem reluctant to rustle in the breeze, as though it requires extra strength to get them to move.

I’m not even sure that I can fully express how I felt there, but I’m very glad I went. As we were walking through the barracks, we encountered a group of Polish Boy/Girl Scouts. At that moment I very much appreciated the extent to which the German government has gone to in order to preserve these camps, as upsetting or sad as they might be, these are parts of history. They say history is doomed to repeat itself, and the only way we learn from our mistakes is to not forget them. As much as horrible things did happen there, there is a sense of quiet peace around the monuments erected to the fallen and the survivors.

Our guide told us many stories and I saw a great many things, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to repeat them all here. I’m still digesting the experience. There is a film that I’m now eager to see, a foreign film called ‘The Counterfeiters’. Our guide told us about it, it was set in Sachsenhausen. During the war, the prisoners of Sachsenhausen were forced to make many items, such as boots. The boots they were also forced to test, over various rough terrains with 15kg backpacks on. One of their other products was counterfeit bills. One of the prisoners was a master counterfeiter and he along with his team, reproduced many different types of currency in the camp. The film is based on their story.

All in all, I had a day I will never forget, and saw things Ive always wanted to see. My perspective on the world is forever altered.

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The Cruise to Come

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Well it’s that time again……
Can you guess?
Night shift is upon me!

I’m very excited, for several reasons.

1) I’m more than halfway through my contract and to be honest, I’m ready for a break from the hectic day shifts. Night shift gives you a chance to hide from the world a bit, rejuvenate, work quietly by yourself. Of course there are guests still and you can often get quite busy, but it’s just not like day shifts.

2) DAYS OFF IN PORT!!!!!! We have some amazing ports and I’ve been planning how to spend my days all week long.

One port I’m very excited about is Warnemunde. I’m trying to get on an excursion. One that goes to several concentration camps in Berlin. Now this is an excursion that everyone has an opinion about. Some people, like I, are fascinated by history, and have a desire to experience everything, even the not so pretty parts. Some people that I have talked to believe that it would be too overwhelming for them, and I can totally understand that point of view. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I will feel about it when I get there, but I know its something I feel the need to see.

I have many other things planned for this week, but this is the only one that has such somber overtones. I will keep you posted on all my adventures and how they change my perception of the world.

And the walls came down

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Often I find that I spend a lot of time frantically trying to see as much as humanly possible in the time off I have, which is often limited. Now that we have arrived in the Baltic, we have the exact same 12 day cruises for the next few months. In the Med we had quite a bit of variety, which was wonderful, but hectic. One of the places we will return to on this route is Warnemunde, Germany. Warnemunde is a beautiful coastal German town with much to offer, however today (our first Germany stop), I was on a serious mission. My dear friend Natasha has been living in Berlin for the last year or so and I’ve been dying to see her. As a neurotic OCD super-planner, I’ve had this day trip planned for 2.5 months. Natasha wasn’t sure if she would be able to get a new work visa, (she was but it was only confirmed last week) so this could have been our only day to get together. So, ages ago I requested the daytime off from work to adventure to Berlin. Why is it such a mission, you ask? Because Warnemunde is a 3 hour train ride away from Berlin. So it’s a fair jaunt for one who is only just arriving to Germany for the day. I know Natasha from Victoria and she is an amazingly creative accordion player/actress/model who is loving Berlin. You may remember Natasha from my Disney posts, she was working there as an accordion player when I was working at DAKL. At any rate, we are fabulous friends who seem to meet up in a different country every time. After a super long super early train ride through the BEAUTIFUL German countryside, I arrived at the (wrong) train station. Wrangling myself a telephone and some Internet, I got Natasha’s phone number out of Facebook and called her. Turns out there’s a few train stations in Berlin (try like a billion). Natasha hopped on a train to come find me while I checked out H&M (what’s a girl to do, there’s a mall next to every train station!!). Reunited at last, we caught a few more train and caught up on each others lives. We then took a walk to East Berlin, and one of the most well known symbols of freedom in history, the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The East Side Galleries are made up of the longest surviving stretch of the wall, all painted by artists. This part of the wall is protected by the government so as to not be torn down, and is amazingly beautiful. It’s an overwhelming place to be, it symbolizes so much. Being on a bit of a tight time frame (I still have to work tonight and have a three hour train home) we scampered around taking pictures and telling stories. We made my train home by 3 minutes!! I’m currently on the train headed back to Rostock, and then to Warnemunde. Now that I’m sitting and thinking and looking at my photos, it’s really sinking in and I’m actually processing everything that I’ve seen today. I can’t even quite grasp the whole thing. It’s one thing to read about Germany’s history and empathize with the struggles, it’s a whole other thing to be there and physically touch the wall and see the bridge that used to be a checkpoint. I have a lot to think about, what an amazing afternoon with an amazing friend. I think I will be back to Berlin, one visit was not enough!!!

I’ve been really listening very attentively to all the announcements on the trains in some kind of attempt to suddenly understand German. Despite my lack of German, I’ve managed to understand my train ticket and the announcements enough to make my train transfer and am safely on the final train to Rostock. Great success!

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And the walls came down

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Often I find that I spend a lot of time frantically trying to see as much as humanly possible in the time off I have, which is often limited. Now that we have arrived in the Baltic, we have the exact same 12 day cruises for the next few months. In the Med we had quite a bit of variety, which was wonderful, but hectic. One of the places we will return to on this route is Warnemunde, Germany. Warnemunde is a beautiful coastal German town with much to offer, however today (our first Germany stop), I was on a serious mission. My dear friend Natasha has been living in Berlin for the last year or so and I’ve been dying to see her. As a neurotic OCD super-planner, I’ve had this day trip planned for 2.5 months. Natasha wasn’t sure if she would be able to get a new work visa, (she was but it was only confirmed last week) so this could have been our only day to get together. So, ages ago I requested the daytime off from work to adventure to Berlin. Why is it such a mission, you ask? Because Warnemunde is a 3 hour train ride away from Berlin. So it’s a fair jaunt for one who is only just arriving to Germany for the day. I know Natasha from Victoria and she is an amazingly creative accordion player/actress/model who is loving Berlin. You may remember Natasha from my Disney posts, she was working there as an accordion player when I was working at DAKL. At any rate, we are fabulous friends who seem to meet up in a different country every time. After a super long super early train ride through the BEAUTIFUL German countryside, I arrived at the (wrong) train station. Wrangling myself a telephone and some Internet, I got Natasha’s phone number out of Facebook and called her. Turns out there’s a few train stations in Berlin (try like a billion). Natasha hopped on a train to come find me while I checked out H&M (what’s a girl to do, there’s a mall next to every train station!!). Reunited at last, we caught a few more train and caught up on each others lives. We then took a walk to East Berlin, and one of the most well known symbols of freedom in history, the remnants of the Berlin Wall. The East Side Galleries are made up of the longest surviving stretch of the wall, all painted by artists. This part of the wall is protected by the government so as to not be torn down, and is amazingly beautiful. It’s an overwhelming place to be, it symbolizes so much. Being on a bit of a tight time frame (I still have to work tonight and have a three hour train home) we scampered around taking pictures and telling stories. We made my train home by 3 minutes!! I’m currently on the train headed back to Rostock, and then to Warnemunde. Now that I’m sitting and thinking and looking at my photos, it’s really sinking in and I’m actually processing everything that I’ve seen today. I can’t even quite grasp the whole thing. It’s one thing to read about Germany’s history and empathize with the struggles, it’s a whole other thing to be there and physically touch the wall and see the bridge that used to be a checkpoint. I have a lot to think about, what an amazing afternoon with an amazing friend. I think I will be back to Berlin, one visit was not enough!!!

I’ve been really listening very attentively to all the announcements on the trains in some kind of attempt to suddenly understand German. Despite my lack of German, I’ve managed to understand my train ticket and the announcements enough to make my train transfer and am safely on the final train to Rostock. Great success!

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