“Do you feel free?” were the words translated to me by the barista. The German words were printed on a notecard lying next to my ginger peppermint tea that I just ordered. It was a simple question that I could not necessarily answer quickly or with confidence because I was reminiscing over the past couple of months.
I had not felt free in a while before this trip which was the main reason I planned this trip. I equate freedom with my relationship with God. The closer I draw near to Him, the closer He draws near to me, and the freer I feel; free to get things right, free to make mistakes, free to trust him, free to talk openly and honestly with Him, that’s my definition. However, as of late, I wasn’t feeling that at all or even motivated to try and get back to that. With that said, traveling gave me that opportunity to return to that place. Every time I travel alone, the experience gives me room to breathe, chances to conquer fears of traveling solo and moments to reflect on His creation and the history people have created within it, and Berlin was the perfect place to do so. It encompasses a unique history I have always been interested in, especially as of recent because of how Trump's tactics and speech are still mimicking that of Hitler’s. My God, isn't he tired of the ridiculousness that spews out of his mouth time and time again?
Any-who, when I landed in Germany, I was excited but became a bit overwhelmed at the thought of traveling solo. As I hopped in the taxi towards my Airbnb, I started up a conversation with the driver. He was a Lebanon immigrant raised in Germany and expressed his concerns regarding America and how as a person of color and an immigrant he can relate to how these two demographics are being treated in America, but that’s another topic for another post. I arrived at the Airbnb twenty minutes from the airport, and I must say I was impressed by the flat and felt very cared for by my host. My host was an Iranian- German who spoke four languages, studied Buddhism, and had mannerisms that resembled Joanne the Scammer on Instagram, which I couldn’t help, but laugh at from time to time.
The best part about him being a host is that he cooked me eggs when I first arrived. This was by far the most impressive thing about him to me. I mean, who does that? This Super-host does! In my mind, I hit the jackpot!
After making small talk, the next order of business was meeting up with two women that I connected with on a small Facebook group. When I reached out to them it was about five days before I made my trip here and I was beginning to be riddled with fear, you know, the one I should’ve been punching in the face. The fear I have is getting lost in unknown territory because your phone decides not to function at the most inconvenient time. So, I was not feeling too confident about traveling alone. Perhaps I should not have called my mother and told her I was traveling solo. The woman will concoct a hypothetical story for you to dwell on and have you accidentally mace someone because of the paranoia she puts into your psyche.
Anyway, I managed to meet the two girls at a bar/club called Crack Bellmer Bar after taking a smoke-filled metro there. When I first met them one of them looked incredibly familiar. I didn’t really look at her profile when connecting via Facebook, but when I confronted her about how familiar she looked, with a matter of fact attitude, she finished my thought, “ Yea, you did my hair last year.”
At that moment my eyes widen a bit with a sudden realization. Last year, after setting my mind on using hairstyling as a side hustle, I remembered this girl being my first and LAST customer. To say I jacked her hair up is an understatement and here I was face to face with a person that could’ve possibly been seeking revenge that night. I could just imagine getting my drink spiked and waking up with a bald head and a note attached on my sweater that reads, “ Karma’s a B%$&#.” Luckily, that was not the case, and I made sure to spend some time with the two girls before using the metro's last departure time as an excuse to leave early.
So, day number two arrives and my wonderful Airbnb host suggests that I go to one of the many flea markets, Mauerpark. This. Was. Heaven! I love a good flea market with trinkets of vintage, old and new things, food galore (try the lamb sausage), and people playing their music nearby. This alone would’ve been enough for me if I had more days to explore, but I didn’t, and shortly after, I headed to the first museum, which was the Berlin Wall Memorial. This holds the last piece of the Berlin Wall with preserved grounds right behind it giving you a glimpse of how the border was constructed until the end of the 80’s. About two hundred meters next to the memorial was the Chapel of Reconciliation, which makes one think of their grudges they hold dear from pride or stubbornness.
Now, I will admit that I struggle with holding onto grudges, but it is something I am currently working on. I have to continually remind myself to just let it go and forgive, and each time I do, I look better, feel better, skin starts to pop... I mean nothing can compare to forgiveness, especially when you compare your petty fights to things such as the history of the Holocaust. Even though every survivor had/has every right not to forgive, I find it unfathomably incredible that one does so even with these circumstances. This was definitely a humbling site to see.
After this, I decided to walk to the next two museums, which was not the best idea because by the end of the day I couldn’t feel my feet. However, I wanted to take in as many sites as possible and what better way to do that than by foot and stumble upon a city’s beautiful gems. So, onto the next place where I visited The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. This place had two thousand seven hundred and eleven concrete stone shaped slabs covering 19,000 square meters displaying a simple, yet impactful site to see. This was only a fraction of the amount of Jewish deaths that happened at the hand of their enemy, but it was sufficient enough to make one wonder how many more lives were affected aside from the ones seen at this memorial.
The last site was an exhibition called the Jewish Museum Berlin which is just under twenty years old having opened in 2001. As stated on their website, “Its exhibitions and permanent collection, educational activities, and diverse program of events make the museum a vibrant center of reflection on Jewish history and culture as well as about migration and diversity in Germany… It's depictions of 14 historical periods from the Middle Ages to the present paint a vivid portrait of Jewish life in Germany. Artistic and everyday objects, photos and letters, interactive displays and media stations together convey the history of Jewish culture and show how tightly Jewish life and German history are interwoven.”
I found this museum gave it's audience a real look into an era that isn’t too far from the present. It was a friendly reminder for people to learn from each nations past mistakes so that we don’t make the same ones again. I think now more than ever people need to understand and take seriously the actions of one person who has “control” over a nation; because I couldn’t help but envision the next generation building a museum in honor of a catastrophe that could have been prevented had we taken someone’s tweets a little bit more seriously. To conclude my trip, I ended it with good conversation and a café breakfast with my host before I got on the plane. For this to be my first solo trip on foreign turf, I’m glad I conquered my fears and went. Not only did it inspire me, but it reminded me to appreciate each day for what it is, forgive others while they can still hear you say I’m sorry and know that you always have a choice to be free. So, my question to you is, what do you do to feel free?