Berlin is nothing like I thought it would be. Someone once described Berlin to me as a very modern city. I took this to mean that it was all sky scrapers, glass, and concrete. Looking back I realize this is kinda silly because of course this famous city must also include classic European architecture as well, but nevertheless, I was quite surprised to find all the historic buildings and sites that we did once arriving. I do not believe that before coming I understood the full importance of the city I was about to visit. After about four days of adventuring I have been blown away by the depth of Berlin. Not only does it offer a beautiful display of both modern technology and ancient archeological masterpieces but Berlin also offers a deep and genuine look into the lives of many effected by the tragic events of the 20th century. Although the first part of this statement describes what surprised me about Berlin, the second part describes what impacted me the most.
Museums have lots of purposes, but one of their primary ones is to teach you things. What I have learned in Berlin is that it’s really difficult to learn and have intellectual conversations with your peers when you are continually struck by the emotional impact of what the museum is teaching you. For example, on my group’s first day we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial and as much as I wanted to work with my group on unpacking the deep history and significance of the memorial, I found myself overwhelmed by my emotions. Overall my emotions were sympathetic towards those who had their life turned upside down by the Berlin Wall because, although imagining myself going through something similar was painful, I still could not come close to understanding the trail that those affected went through. On another occasion at the Memorial for the Murdered Jews I again found myself overwhelmed by feelings of sympathy for the many many victims but this time I also felt a lot of guilt. Guilt because genocide is happening today, and and I have been heavily struck by the question of what I can do to help the issue. I have absolutely no idea what this looks like yet, but I hope to explore it more as I journey through Europe. Jumping back to my learning though, I suppose that another one of the main goals of museums is to invoke these feelings of sympathy, and I am now realizing that this is probably a goal Dr. P has for us on CR too. Although the emotions I felt made intellectual thinking more difficult, it hasn’t been until now that I have realized that intellectual conversation and intelligent action can stem, and very often do stem, from sympathy and emotion. I am so grateful for the city of Berlin for making me aware of this and I hope to explore and engage this concept more as I continue onto Munich!