Day 12 was one of the days I was most excited for because we were finally going to the Berlin Botanical Garden! I personally love botanical gardens because they always have an amazing collection of native and exotic plant species that grow in the most unusual conditions. We saw so much during our tour of the garden, but my favorite part was definitely the indoor, greenhouse section. The greenhouse was home to so many interesting species, such as blooming lilypads, the world’s smallest and largest orchids, and my personal favorite, giant cacti. After our tour, we were allowed some time to explore the garden on our own. We wandered around and found a sensory garden, which is a garden that stimulates senses other than just sight. It had plants such as lamb’s ear, which feels almost like velvet when you touch it, and herbs like rosemary and thyme that stimulate your sense of smell. This garden had a really cute gazebo in the middle of it, which we used as a place to sit and sketch.
Day 13 was the day before our travel weekend started, which was exciting, but it was also an extremely difficult day because we were visiting Sachsenhausen. Sachsenhausen was a concentration camp that was used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to 1945. Today, much of it is used as a museum and memorial to educate the public about what the concentration camp was like when it was in use. The whole experience was shocking. This was my first time visiting a concentration camp. I’ve read about concentration camps, seen movies, and viewed pictures of them, but nothing compares to actually visiting a camp. While walking around the area, I couldn’t help but imagine how much pain and suffering was experienced by the people who walked the same area when the concentration camp was still in use.
Many of the barracks, which is where the imprisoned people “lived”, had been taken down, but a few were left mostly intact to give visitors a chance to experience what living in a barrack would have been like. The barracks were not big at all, but our tour guide told us that the barracks would hold up to 600 people at a time. Standing inside the barrack, I could not even begin to imagine 600 people fitting inside.
The most unnerving part of the concentration camp was when we saw the remnants of the structure in which prisoners were killed, either by being shot or incinerated. It was unnerving because so many people had been murdered at this location, but it was an experience that any of us visiting today could not even begin to imagine going through. It was a difficult experience for all of us, and after returning to our apartment, we all took some much-needed time to process.
Day 14-16 (Travel Weekend!)
The travel weekend was a perfect combination of relaxing and exploring parts of Berlin we hadn’t seen yet. On Saturday, we had brunch at a cafe, and then went to a pool that was located on the edge of one of the canals in Berlin. On Sunday, we mainly relaxed and explored the neighborhood we were staying in. While doing so, we stumbled upon a small park that was having a kids-themed festival. There was a live band singing kid’s music, clothing and food sales, and a lot of really cool artwork and children’s books. On Monday, we went to Wannsee, which is one of the largest lake-beaches in the Berlin area. This was different from the lake we went to the previous weekend; this one was much bigger, and had sand to mimic an actual beach.
The travel weekend ended too quickly! Tomorrow we’ll be traveling to Essen, and while I’m very sad to be leaving Berlin, I’m curious to see how different Essen will be.