Growing up with the last name of Kreutz, I always wanted to travel to Germany. My dad said our last name was German but I didn’t know much about the country or even my ancestors that came over to the US. I had never met another Kreutz in the States but I heard that it meant “cross” in German and it was actually a quite common name. The only time I had ever even seen it was from the Chicago Bears football player, Olin Kreutz, and the main female character in the The Bourne Identity, Marie Kreutz. Needless to say I wanted to check Germany out and since it was so close to where I was in Prague, I decided to go two straight weekends. The first weekend to Berlin, the second to Munich. Both places were a blast and I was able to connect with a heritage I had never been able to connect with before.
The first weekend, a group of Remotes and I headed to Berlin. I had heard great things about it from a few close friends so I was certainly excited to check it out. A four-hour train-ride through the German countryside and we were there. This trip we will split up more than normal and myself and my two Prague roommates decided to get a hostel. The first thing on the agenda was a traditional German restaurant for lunch.. I got currywurst with sauerkraut and fries and loved it. There were really only two things food items I wanted to try this weekend, sausage and schnitzel, and I was happy to knock one of those out right away. After lunch, the groups split up and we headed to our hostel. I checked out the beer selection at the hostel and sure enough, there was a Kreuzberger beer. Not the exact spelling, but close enough! A then received a tip from a friend that a cool neighborhood in Berlin was called Kreuzberg. Naturally, I had to check it out so my buddies and I took a walk to explore the neighborhood bearing my name. Over the next two days we ended up spending most of our time in the Kreuzberg neighborhood when we were out and about. There are many cool restaurants and bars in the area and it seemed like the place where a lot of young people hung out. It was cool for me to see the name “Kreutz” everywhere. From burger shops to cafes to street signs, I had never felt so “at home”. It was a funny feeling as I had gone my entire life without seeing my name and having every single teacher mispronounce it on my first day of class. Now not only could people pronounce my name properly, but I would see it everywhere I turned. I’m certainly a little biased, but Kreuzberg is definitely a place I’d like to go back to!
When I think of Berlin, the first thing I think about is the Berlin wall. I still can’t believe it was still standing in 1989, just three years before I was born. Being born after the fall of communism, I didn’t realize how many millions of people it affected all around the world and how real and close to happening the Cold War really was. We walked down to Checkpoint Charlie’s which was a main checkpoint that the Allies occupied during the war. On one side of a big sign, an American soldier’s face, on the other side, a USSR’s face. It was interesting to walk back on forth between the two sides knowing this would’ve been impossible less than 30 years ago. Next, we walked down to the remaining section of the Berlin Wall which is now a really cool art gallery or sorts if you will. For about a half mile or so, a different mural is painted on each section of the wall, mostly by different artists. Some of the murals have to do with the war or themes from it, while others do not. It was awesome to walk down and see all the different paintings but in the back of your mind you also thought of the many families that were separated and the people who tried to jump over to get to the other side. It certainly was a site to see and I’m glad they’ve used art to help beautify the wall. After this, we went to the Holocaust Memorial and the Brandenburg Gate in the center of town. In between all of this, we ate, we drank, we walked about.
Overall, I really enjoyed Berlin. It isn’t a particularly pretty city but it has so much fascinating history. In just a few decades it has really transformed itself into a heavily influenced music & arts city with murals and graffiti everywhere you look. I think it is definitely one of those cities that would be totally different if a local showed you around rather than being a tourist for 48 hours. I could tell there were plenty of hidden gems that only those in the know, know about. I’d certainly like to go back and be shown around by a local so I could experience a bit more of the music & arts scene in Berlin. It won’t be hard for me to go back and check out more of the city and the Kreuzberg area as I feel a connection to the city and that area.