A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of the most well-known cities in the entire world: Berlin. As the capital of Germany, it’s also one of the most popular cities in the European Union! Thriving with culture, politics, media, science, and history, there is a ton to do for tourists and citizens alike. But nothing in Berlin beats the amount of history, which is fairly recent might I add, that is so deeply interwoven into how the city operates and what it has now become.
When you’re young and in history classes, you’re constantly taught about the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We’re often reminded about the catastrophic effects of war when learning about World War I and II during high school. But those rarely seem even remotely real until you’re placed right at the foot of where it all happened. You can practically feel the tension that was created by the Berlin Wall, the lifelong effects of such a vast division still fresh, despite the decades that have slowly rolled by after its collapse.
That was definitely the part that astounded me the most. I knew the Cold War was recent, but I seriously never realized how recent. It was right there. I was born not even ten years after Soviet rule had fallen. My life could have turned out tremendously differently had it not been overcome. Seeing it in person, despite how decrepit and withering it was, still carved a lasting hole in my gut thinking about how such a tragedy that always seemed so many miles away was staring directly at me, pushing this tangible reality of the effects of war onto me.
And that’s an affect that I hadn’t expected when I came to Germany. The damages every war has left on both this country and Europe can be felt almost everywhere you go. It reverberates through almost every major city you visit, it dominates the present culture, it has even influenced laws and regulations.
Living in America, you are never forced to physically see, feel, hear, and touch the ramifications that war can cause. It ripples an understanding of how war can change life as we know it in the matter of a couple of years, and even in the matter of seconds. Even just living amongst Mannheim, a city that was aggressively bombed during World War II, the seeds of how drastically life can change from the brutal effects of war are sown into you, remaining a constant reminder of the potentials of human destruction, and just how precious and delicate the world is.