When our small group decided to go on a day trip, Berlin seemed like the best option. It’s close, accessible, and loaded with history that continued themes from Ledice and Terezín. The train ride is about five hours long. As a group, we decided to try to leave at the break of dawn and be back in Prague for the night.
The day began bright and early for us all. We met at Prague’s main train station, Hlavni Nadrazi, to catch the 6:30 train to Berlin. Luckily, we found a compartment with enough room to stretch out and take a nap.
At 11:30, we arrived in Berlin’s main train station. We weren’t quite sure where on the map we were, so in the end, we just started walking and ended up at a historical landmark: the Brandenburg Gate. Our free walking tour started there, but we had an hour before it began. After walking around the block, it was unanimously decided that Prague and Berlin both have very unique and different vibes. Prague is characterized by narrow cobblestone streets winding around the banks of the Vltava river. Untouched during the war, it still has much of its old architecture. On the other hand, Berlin was in shambles after the war and had to be almost completely rebuilt. The remarkable contrast between the two was a reminder of the Berlin’s complicated and deeply scarred history.
Our walking tour began at the Brandenburg Gate and ended across the river in the Museum district. Amy, our tour guide, was from London. Although I was unsure about a tour at the beginning, by the end of the trip, I was very glad we had taken one. Berlin has so much history! Walking around with someone who presented it to us made the city come alive. Instead of just seeing a French Chapel, we learned that a historical leader of Germany had wanted to boost the population and built that church for French Protestant refugees. Clearly, I don’t remember all the specifics, but seeing a building or site in context makes all the difference. Our tour lasted about 4 hours, ending with a humorous rendition of one man’s mistake (he forgot to thoroughly read his notes before an international press conference) that lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
At the end, we had just enough time to walk leisurely back to the train station, where we hopped aboard a 6:45 pm train that returned to Prague at 11:30.
A long day, for sure, but definitely worth it! We’re in Europe, might as well lose a couple of hours of sleep to make the most of the experience.