This was my first trip with INSEAD buddies after a really painful first term. Imagine studying 7 different courses that you have no background in, and writing insanely difficult exams for 5 of them, and building a playground for kids with 70 other students, owning and running student clubs after fighting for their ownership... all in a span of 2 months. And all we got was 4 days of break before we were churned all over again.
So we decided to make the most of these 4 days of which 2 were spent in Berlin. Little had I known that Berlin was famous for partying, food and night clubs. We stayed at City hostel of Berlin. That was my first experience living in a hostel with bunk beds and just one bathroom to be shared by 8 people. The night we arrived in Berlin we dined at a Turkish delicacy place which served amazing falafel sandwich. From there we walked to a great coffee place and met another group of students who had flown in separately. It was a memorable night because as we walked back, we sang old Hindi songs and it had been ages since I had done that.
Neeha and Vaibhav who made up the impromptu band with me went on to become 2 of my most favourite people at school. Walking miles with a song on our lips and wind in our hair in Berlin and continuing to sing our hearts out sitting on the steps of the city hostel are one of my best memories.
The next day we got brunch at the best brunch place I have tried - The factory girl. Thanks to my friend Terren who looked it up. I had some of the best salsas and bread and olives here.
We went on to join a free (tips only) walking tour with the most wonderful guide Amy, who showed us Brandenburg gate, the holocaust memorial, the hotel from whose balcony Michael Jackson was alleged to have suspended a child and some ministeries. The holocaust memorial is very unique and has vertical tombs with varying heights. We also stopped at check point C (for Charlie) which is the crossing point between east and west Berlin. The Berlin wall is almost unrecognizable as the city has grown. It is heart-wrenching to hear stories of the separated families and their failed attempts at meeting one another - sometimes by flinging themselves with a catapult only to land between 2 walls steadied for multi-layered security, and sometimes by tricking the guards who stood watch there.
It was here, during tour-break-time that my friend could not resist having currywurst - a famous street food that turned out to be extremely tasty. Think fried soy chunks and curry powder with ketchup. Yum!
Finally we saw where Hitler's last days passed. Pushed to a corner, literally and figuratively he lived in a bunker (which is now a parking lot) and is claimed to have ended his life and ordered his confidantes to burn his body. It was a compelling part of the tour.
We passed by the cathedral and concert hall in Friedrichstradt, saw Bebelplatz adjoining Humboldt University where the German Student Union had indulged in book burning (burning books that were anti-Nazi-philosophies). Now there stands a glass window commemorating a white cellar with empty shelves under the ground. Finally, our tour concluded and all I could remember were bits and pieces of a story of how Gunter Schabowski of the ruling party submitted to a premature fall of the wall due to misinformation, and how one good man at the gates bent the rules to let people cross (without passport checks).
It was a cold day and I went back with a friend to catch some rest in her nice hotel room and later on we went with the group for night-long partying and dance. Night long for me, turned out to be a couple of hours (I am too boring) and some of us caught a cab back. The next morning we had to rush to get on a train ... to Praha!