The last, and longest, stop of the ten day trip was Berlin – and it was incredible. Before getting there I didn’t really know what to expect from Berlin, since I had only really associated it with the Berlin wall. But it ended up being so much more awesome than I could have imagined! Of course we saw the typical sights: we visited the Berlin wall, went under the Brandenburg gate, spent a morning at Checkpoint Charlie, and the list goes on. But, during our free hours I was also able to go a bit off of the beaten path. A couple of us ended up going to the “Gay Museum,” which we expected to give us a history of the gay experience in Germany, probably focusing on World War II… that could not be farther from the truth! Apparently they had a history of porn exhibit going on at the time that we were there, and though we were rather taken aback at first, it ended up being really interesting (we found out later that the information we had expected was on a different floor we hadn’t realized was there, so I’m a little sad we had to miss out on that!). I also ended up at this tiny museum about daily life in the DDR, which was fascinating. My friend, an organ player, had been given permission to play the organ in the Berliner Dom, and we got to go listen to her. I ended up climbing all the way to the top, followed the entire way by the haunting sounds of her music, until I stepped outside into the near total silence and of the path around the dome, complete with a 360 view of the city. It really felt almost other-worldly. That evening IES organized a trip to visit the Philharmonic, which was mind-blowing – we sat right behind the stage, and when you closed your eyes you felt like you were right in the center of the musicians. Two of our nights were spent swing dancing, and on the last we ended up at “the Matrix,” a giant, multi-roomed club where we danced to everything from 80s and disco to Top 40.
It was a packed and exhausting ten days (the sign of a good trip, amiright?), and coming back felt so weird – it definitely took a couple of days to get used to not spending all of my time with the same people!
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<p>Fionna studies Anthropology and Molecular Biology at the University of Pittsburgh. Though she is originally from the Netherlands, she has spent the last ten or so years in California. Her free time is spent reading, horseback riding, nerding out about television shows, hiking, and dreaming of future travels and adventures. She is looking forward to spending her spring semester enjoying the life and culture in Vienna, Austria and the surrounding countries. </p>