We have been keeping quite busy here in Prague which means less posts for the meantime. I finally have a little bit of time and I thought I might update you all on my exciting adventures from the last few weeks. We took a trip with the Institute to Berlin the weekend before last and damn was it cool. I absolutely fell in love with the city and all of the culture and art spilling out of it.
We started our journey by stopping at a Czech glass blowing factory/studio where we got an amazing look at the art of glassblowing and toured the studios where everything is made. We got to see all the different pieces being made and witnessed the entire process from start to finish. Interesting enough glassblowing is one of the only Czech professions where workers are allowed to drink on the job. You would think that handling ridiculously hot, melted glass with relatively no protection and a high incidence of large pieces of glass shattering unexpectedly, mixed with alcohol is just asking for trouble. Somehow they make it work. We also got a chance to try our hand at the craft. I say try our hand, but we were really were just props in the process. You really couldn't mess it up with two professionally trained glass blowers telling you what to do and fixing your mistakes. Regardless I was pretty proud of my big beer glass and I am super excited to show my mom. I mean just look at it.
We set off again on the bus to Berlin and arrived at our accommodations. There we were told that there were ten people to a room, which basically meant a glorified sleepover with ten of your closest friends. I can't imagine what it would have been like staying there with complete strangers, but I guess people do it all the time.
Our first day we got a walking tour of the city. Although none of us had any idea the history or stories behind most of the monuments, it was still pretty neat to see. I think walking around a new city is one of the best ways to experience and understand it on a deeper level. We went to the German Parliament Building and got an awesome audio tour of the city from atop a glass tower within. It was a cool way to see the entire city at once and learn some facts about it before diving in.
One of my favorite moments of the tour was experiencing the Holocaust memorial. The monument itself takes up about a square block in the center of the city and is made up of rectangular marble slabs. They seem to be small at first but as you walk deeper into then the ground feels as though it is giving out on you and suddenly the blocks tower above your head. The feeling I had as I explored the monument was pretty indescribable. The passage ways are narrow and you can feel the permanence and coldness of the slab as you brush past them. You can see people walking in all directions in the passage ways in front of you there is only a second before they vanish again. The longer you spend with the monument the more you begin to feel the weight of all of the lost lives and the horrors that befell the people of Germany. I began to tear up a bit, which really made me think about the effect the monument truly had. It's incredible that I could feel the meaning that the artist infused without names or faces or really anything to give context. It was a true testament to the power of art and its ability to tell a story and communicate emotion.
Luckily we were in Berlin at just the right time, as their famous film festival was just starting. My friend Sarah and I were incredibly lucky to get some of the last tickets to a sold out show Saturday night. The movie was called " Meteor Sky" and although it's in German (with subtitles) I would highly recommend it. It's about a boy and his older brother living alone in Germany after their parents are deported and forced to go back to Lebanon. It's basically about the boy's struggles growing up without a father and the influence his somewhat psychotic and irresponsible brother has on him. After the movie I was surprised to see that all of the stars were there for a short Q&A. It was unfortunately all in German, but it looked entertaining at least. It was a really neat experience to see and be a part of such a cool and star studded event (Meryl Streep was a guest judge and no we didn't see her).
Another highlight was the tour I had of an above ground Nazi bunker, turned art gallery. There was only room for 12 of us on the tour as it was hard to navigate the space, so I was really lucky to have gotten a spot. We had a tour guide to show us around and tell us about the art and the history of the building. Basically the bunker was built for Nazi officers and sympathizers during the war as a hideout during bombings. The space was intended to house only hundreds for a few hours at a time but ended up housing thousands for weeks. It then turned into an underground club, known for it's bizarre club goers and illicit activity. Eventually the club was shut down and turned into a storage facility for the government. Now it is owned by two art collectors who refurbished it and filled it with their incredible art collection. We got to see and experience some really weird and unique pieces. One of my favorites was a popcorn popper powered by a hair dryer that only pops a piece or so per minute, but has been on for years and is slowly filling the room around it.
All in all Berlin was amazing. We did so much more, that it would be impossible to explain it all here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for following me on my adventures!