Early in the morning, we headed to the University of Leipzig to hear about the Pegida movement. This is similar to the Tea Parties radical politics going mainstream. Two professors who are experts on immigration and how Germans perceive foreigners led the lecture. Immigration and the effects of radical conservatism were the topics of today's meeting at the University of Leipzig. It was an interesting seminar held by two professors who surveyed the views of 2,500 Germans to find out if they hold any negative opinion of certain ethnic groups. Their results concluded that there are roughly 25% of the population in Germany that hold some animosity towards ethnic groups like the Jews, Muslims, and Roma population. This worried the professors as this is an untapped group that could be rallied behind a political group and use these racist ideas to run the country. The cause of most of these thoughts have been ingrained in the culture due to it being passing on by parents. Interestingly enough, teaching important facets of German history like the World Wars. Only in recent years have they started incorporating this vital history into their youth. A young professor said that the idea of racism wasn't a subject taught in schools. Due to the increase of extremism against immigrants, many people are joining a worrisome movement called the Pegida movement. Departing Leipzig afterwards was bittersweet as Leipzig offered a fresh big city feel, chalk full of culture and infectious music. Getting all of my belongings, we reluctantly left the amazing Westin Inn. We had to walk about a half a mile back and something got into Brett as he was playing frogger with the busy traffic. He also hurried way ahead, far past where we needed to go. Jörge told him, “Brett, we aren’t walking to Berlin”. Before entering the train, I made sure to get some famous currywurst. It was exactly how it sounds, curry plus ketchup on top of a bratwurst. Not great, but not awful either. When the train entered in to Berlin, it was awe inspiring to see the magnitude of the train station which welcomed us to Berlin. We had to take three escalators just to get to the subway to the hotel. Jenny was so excited to be in Berlin, hyping it throughout the trip, but after Heidelberg and the beautiful countryside, I was skeptical, as I thought Berlin and all my preconceived ideas of it’s grittiness wouldn’t live up to the beauty of the aforementioned. The lights, the tvs, the advertisement overload, all screamed big city. The fashion as ever-present throughout our time on the train to the hotel in Alexanderplatz. We were staying at the Motel One, a teal hued themed motel. After the fifteen minutes to drop our belongings off, Katarina and Jörge would be our guides. Hopefully they’d be the whole time in Berlin as they live in the city. The first place we visited after taking a tram was to the Reichstag, Berlin’s capital building. It was gorgeous and there were similarities in presence to our capital building. The sky was bright blue, a picture perfect day. A renewed energy hit as we entered a new and our last city. Taking pictures outside the monument lasting a while, but we eventually made our way to the Roma and Sinti memorial. This was unique as there are little to no memorials for these Holocaust victims. They are essentially gypsies, people without a home. There was a serene park with a small circular pond in the middle. In the center of that was a tiny triangular dish with a flower on it. The flower will fall into the water at the end of the day, only to be replaced later. Moving on, we walked to the famous Brandenburg Gate. This was an auspicious site for Germany. I learned that this was the location that when Germany would fall under another control, this was the place that symbolically was important to capture. Napoleon took the crown off the head of the statue on top and took it to France with him and the Nazi’s hung their famous flags in the middle of each of the pillars to announce their arrival. Next we went and saw the homosexual memorial, which similarly to the Roma and Sinti, I doubt there are many mentions or memorials dedicated to this group. This was unique as I think the abstract meaning definitely made sense. There was a large, unassuming stone square pillar at the entrance of a park with a small black square hole in the middle. While this looked uneventful, it was only when you peered in the black square would you see a couple embracing on a green tv screen on loop. We made it to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, which our definitely opinionated guides let us know that this memorial wasn’t as welcomed as you would think. Essentially this is a super abstract memorial, made up of some random number of rectangular stone blocks, lined in rows of various sizes for the length of a large park. People aren’t supposed to climb on it, but controversy follows this as people are doing just that. The ground floor is unlevel, giving you the feeling of unease. People think that this memorial is too abstract and a sham, also because they think it’s just an easy excuse for politicians to visit once a year nearby and be done with paying tribute. Next we headed past a small part of the Berlin Wall, littered with gum, which covered nearly the entire piece. My battery on my camera died, so I’m running off only the old fashioned memories here. We took in the sights of the rebuilt Potsdamerplatz commericial center which had three very large and impressive buildings. Katarina took us through the Sony Center where one could be mistaken to think that they were in a US city due to the abundance of American pop culture. The recently released Jurassic World was playing in IMAX in prominent display. Making our way to dinner, we headed to a Thai restaurant near our hotel. It was cramped inside. I tried a delicious curry milk meal that was very tasty. My streak of ordering good food continued. Finishing up the meal, we headed back, and due to my memory and my camera being out, I don’t remember if we did anything else. Either way, it was a long, amazing day.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.