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A quiet Berlin's corner

While Germany marked the beginning of our three-month European journey, much of our initial time was spent in the city of Frankfurt along the Main River. Surprisingly, Berlin became the final stop in our extensive itinerary, following our travels from Frankfurt to Prague, the Netherlands, France, Italy, looping back to small towns in the Czech Republic, returning to Frankfurt, and finally arriving in Berlin before departing for Sweden. Stockholm saw us returning to Germany to revisit Berlin once more before leaving Europe.

Berlin, the capital of the leading EU nation, might be expected to exude vibrancy and prominence. However, Berlin welcomes visitors with a serene humility. It stands somewhat overshadowed by its more illustrious European counterparts like Prague, Paris, Rome, or Amsterdam.

This modesty isn’t due to Berlin lacking the grandeur and allure of Prague, the legendary fame of Rome, the vivacity of Amsterdam, or the romanticism of Paris. For those tourists drawn to Europe by such renowned titles and obvious characteristics, Berlin may appear dry, uneventful, and lacking in “check-in” spots.

Yet, if one listens and feels Berlin sincerely, they’ll discover that the city still embodies all those beauties, albeit in more subdued and fragmented forms, bearing the scars of its history, remnants of a tumultuous past from the World Wars and the Cold War division that once swept through Germany.

A Germany steeped in imperial blood, once pursuing dictatorial dreams, with a people carrying the genes of prideful conquerors. Though still a leading European powerhouse, Berlin, its capital, wears an air of quietness, almost as if it were a silent witness to the pain and lessons of its history. I feel like Berlin is akin to a silent heart with many cracks from old pains, like a man who has experienced and endured, with a youthful arrogance, stumbling into a deep pit and accepting for himself a painful historical lesson – a lesson from the destruction and tragedies of World War II and the shameful division of East and West during the Cold War era.

This feeling deepened when we visited the historic Berlin Wall. The Wall symbolized the painful and brutal division of Berlin and Germany for about three decades, from 1961 to 1989. It wasn’t an architecturally impressive structure or a unique landmark for tourists to marvel at. Instead, it embodied history, a reflection of a turbulent era. The Wall itself was a silent agony, a deep cut that miraculously healed, leaving many scars on the heart of Berlin.

Walking through the impressive Brandenburg Gate, an emblem of peace and the end of the East-West division of Germany, we truly felt the soul of the city encapsulated in the statue of the goddess Victoria-on-four-majestic-horses atop the structure, under the bright, glaring sun.

Adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate stands a humble corner, leading to a room with unremarkable architecture. Stepping inside, we found ourselves in the Room of Silence. It was a completely ordinary room, named so due to its serene atmosphere. Inside, there were only a few wooden chairs and cushions. Absolute silence filled the room, broken only by the occasional visitor coming in to sit quietly and listen.

Sitting in that room, eyes closed, amidst of the strange sound waves of silence, for the first time I felt like I could hear the thoughts of those around me, not specific thoughts but the frequencies of their minds, resonating clearly in my ears. Tung and I sat with our eyes fully closed and ears widely open for quite a while as various people quietly entered and exited the room.

The first time, I heard very high and erratic sound waves. When I opened my eyes, I saw sitting near me in the room was a middle-aged Western couple, somewhat stout. The second time, I heard sound waves of a moderate range, neither high nor low, but steady like a non-melodic prayer. Upon opening my eyes, I found sitting with me in the room this time was a group of three Middle Eastern women, wearing scarves that seemed to indicate they followed the Islamic faith.

The third time, I heard particularly deep and gentle sound waves, warm and soft like a thin silk ribbon fluttering in the gentle breeze. I was quite surprised when I opened my eyes and saw sitting with us in the room at that moment was a young woman, around thirty years old, with thick, black, short hair framing her face and deep, almost greenish-blue eyes. She had an alluring beauty, full of vitality yet mature. It seemed like she carried within her a blend of souls from various continents.

I was fascinated by the game of closing my eyes and listening to myself and that silence, only to inexplicably feel the strange sensation of hearing the thought frequencies of those sitting around in the room. It was an unforgettable experience in Berlin that I had only shared with Tung and our friend Alex, whom we first met in Thailand then saw again in Sweden.

During our time in Berlin, we stayed in the dorms of Lette’m Sleep Berlin hostel, in a quiet residential area. Nearby, there was a common area where we often found young people gathering to listen to music, drink beer, smoke, and play ping pong. These shared spaces in Berlin often feature outdoor ping pong tables. In our dorm, there was an Italian student who always returned from clubbing in the early hours of the morning and slept the day away. In the hostel’s communal kitchen, we met a Japanese girl who, despite her hot girl appearance, was very open and enthusiastic, even showing off a few Vietnamese words she had learned during her travels there.

One evening, while eating and listening to music in the kitchen, we encountered a group of Latin American friends from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile. It was our first encounter with people from those countries, and they had a robust, energetic, and confident demeanor that I found very appealing.

In these multi-country journeys, meeting various interesting people from different parts of the world is such a common sense, but encountering a few annoying ones is also inevitable. One such encounter was with a haughty and snobbish Englishman who seemed to think knowing about China equated to knowing everything about Asia. Thankfully, a wink from my Paraguayan friend signaled to let it go, allowing me to move on without getting too annoyed. Of course, the arrogant fellow’s disdainful attitude towards us being from Vietnam didn’t deserve too much of my attention, but I kept it in my memory as one of the colorful anecdotes of our long journey.

In the end, what I took away from Berlin were beautiful memories and peculiar impressions, despite our short stay: a silent memory of the Room of Silence, the iconic symbols of an era, and an English book gifted to me by Lette’m Sleep Berlin hostel, a souvenir of a cross-continental love story…

Enjoy this post in Tiếng Việt 😉

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