Before arriving, we were all obviously very aware of Berlin's tumultuous past. What we didn't expect was how cool, vibrant, artistic, and fashionable the city would be! The capital city was divided by the Berlin Wall until 1989. Walking around the city, the past and the future coexist in a fascinating way. We spent our four days in Berlin acknowledging the profound history while appreciating what the city and its emerging culture has become!
MK's oldest brother, Gavin Green, and his best friend, Matt Tully, met us in Berlin. We were so excited to have them with us and didn't want to waste any time! We stayed at the Soho House, which was absolutely incredible. The house was as big as the Chicago house, filled with people as into fashion as the New York Houses, complete with an amazing restaurant and store on the bottom level.
We started off our trip with a visit to the Boros Collection, a private contemporary art collection housed inside of a World War II bunker. The bunker only allows 12 people at a time to view the collection every half hour and tours are booked out 6 months in advance - we were lucky enough to get a viewing and appreciated every second! The five-story, 120 room bunker was built in 1942 as an air-raid shelter for civilians. The concrete walls are up 6.5 ft thick and there are no windows. However, the architect exposed one of the walls to show just how thick the concrete was. Bombings and bullet holes from the war can still be seen on the exterior of the building. In the 1950s it was used to store imported bananas from Cuba. After the fall of the Wall, it was later turned into a techno music club in the 90s. In 2008, Christian Boros and his wife Karen bought the bunker and transformed the experience of the space. It was an incredible experience. Although the space was transformed (the original 120 rooms became 80 by knocking down some of the ceilings), it still very much looks and feels like a war bunker. Our guide told incredible stories about people visiting the collection who had been in the bunkers during the war. It gave all of us goosebumps! The art itself was amazing. Like any other modern art collection, some of it was very out there but for the most part we were all super impressed. We also noticed an apartment on top of the bunker and learned that the owners of the collection lived on top of the bunker. This was hilarious and fascinating to Matt, the property tax lawyer, because the owners found a loophole. Technically, you cannot build on top of historic sites, however, since by definition a bunker is built underground, they were able to build one floor on the top of the building!
Right from the Boros Collection, we went on one of our best bike tours yet! Our guide, Ben, was a hilarious and entertaining Brit who gave us an incredible tour around the city. Some of the highlights included the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, and site of Hitler's bunker. We were also a little too excited to see the hotel where Michael Jackson held one of his kids out of the window. It was a phenomenal way to explore the (huge!) city and learn more about the history of Berlin.
The next day we went on a tour 45 minutes outside of the city to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. We went on a very gloomy day which was fitting for this type of trip. The Nazi camp was built in 1936 and used as the prototype/model for all other concentration camps that followed. Between 1936 and 1945, over 200,000 people from across Europe were incarcerated at Sachsenhausen. Our tour guide was from East Berlin and explained how Germans are very aware of their past and how important it was to them to acknowledge and accept responsibility for all of the wrongs of their past while also ensuring it never happens again. It was a very powerful experience; hard to put into words.
We spent the rest of our trip exploring all of the different parts of the city. The food and fashion scene are huge! There are so many up and coming designers and great streetwear shops. We had great drinks and meals at some of the coolest venues we have seen.
Berlin is known for being home to some of the best clubs in the world. We had a hilarious experience trying to get into one of the hardest clubs in the world, Berghain. The advice we read before going literally said, "wear all black, don't speak, and don't smile." The line was around the corner when we got there and after ten minutes of watching groups get denied, we decided we would be better off laughing at the experience from the comfort of the Soho House club bar!
We loved our time with Gavin and Matt and cannot wait for the reunion trip!