During my last few days in Berlin, I’ve finally absorbed how much living in the city has truly meant to me. Not only have I experienced urban life for the first time, appreciating, in my impending nostalgia the rhythm of the train schedules, the beauty of both the ornate and utilitarian buildings alike, the constant din of voices and opportunities to go anywhere at any time, but I’ve collected stories and forged memories in a city already rich in stories. I’ve already detailed the fun I’ve had at restaurants, in unique neighborhoods, traveling through other cities, and absorbing the art historical culture that I love so much, but it’s time to at last pay tribute to the shadows of past events that make Berlin such a special place today. Our program described it as a city like a phoenix, rising in a blaze of glory from the ashes of tragedy. To me this analogy rings true and I feel humbled to have spent my semester in a place that has such a significant history.
I’ve walked across the Wall several times, often without realizing it, but for the first time, a few days ago, I paused right on a spot where it once stood, struck by the change from the jaunty ampelmann crosswalk light to the stiff crosswalk figure just one block away. I tried to imagine how it would have felt to be in Berlin years ago, not long before I was born. I thought of reading The Wall Jumper, watching Der Himmel Uber Berlin, Lola rennt, and especially goodbye Lenin, seeing in my mind’s eye the statue of Lenin lifted out of East Berlin and extending his hand down to a past Berlin one last time. I thought about the GDR toy museum—the most peculiar place I’ve been to in all Berlin—down in the basement of a junk shop in Prinzlauer Berg. I had to crawl on my hands and knees down a winding staircase to find myself in a the haunting one room museum, lined wall to wall and ceiling to floor with glass cases overflowing with a rainbow of East German dolls, model trains, and miniatures. The museum felt like an artery flowing deep within the city, preserving the past while the world above moves rapidly forward.
Like everyone studying abroad, I am in transition, and so is Berlin. Berlin has inspired me and while I don’t know what’ll come next, and whether I’ll ever return to the city, it’s meant more than I can say to plow forward, side by side with the city I will always love, into the future.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Having grown up in rural Vermont, Alli Green now studies art history and studio art at Skidmore College. She stays active on campus by working as admissions ambassador, a tutor in Skidmore’s writing center, and looks forward to assistant costume designing the theater department’s main stage production in the spring of 2014. Her ambitions include pursuing a master’s degree in either art history, museum studies, or library sciences, exploring opportunities to work as a field archeologist, illustrating children’s books, and contributing to the making of movie magic as a costume designer or special effects makeup artist. In the meantime, she is content to get excited about books, movies, art, history, and learning everything she can both while she is a student and after.</span></p>