Berlin — Past and Present in Harmony by Emily Slomovits

Time. That’s the word that keeps sticking out to me since I arrived in Germany on Monday. Tsipy Gur said during our orientation meeting, “This trip will feel like 6 weeks and 48 hours all at the same time.” She’s right — there are moments when I forget that we haven’t been here for months, and moments when I feel as if I’ve only just stepped onto foreign soil. I often forget that an activity occurred earlier the same day as another, instead thinking it happened a day or two before.

Despite this disorientation, time and its passage are somehow more tangible for me in Berlin than in the United States. I think in large part this is because of how much old and new are intertwined here. Ancient, statuesque buildings stand beside fast food restaurants. Monuments and remembrances aren’t only put on pedestals in museums and galleries (although there are many gorgeous museums, of course) but are often out in the open, mixed right in with everyday life and culture. Instead of cheapening or diluting the power of these sites, their proximity to the bustle of modern Berlin makes the city’s history much more difficult to ignore. When we are confronted — in a firm but gentle way — with our past on a regular basis, it makes it more possible to work to make the future better.

This impactful blend of past and present has been at the forefront of my mind every day this week, but Saturday’s Christopher Street Parade celebrating LGBTQIA+ Pride was in some ways the most moving example. My friends Sara, Amanda, Victoria and I joined the over 100,000 people gathered at the historic Brandenburg Gate built in the 1790s, where we saw a variety of inspiring, powerful performances and speeches. All around us, people of all ages and many different backgrounds and nationalities came together to joyfully, defiantly, exuberantly EXIST. The love that surrounded us was almost overwhelming in its intensity, and it was exhilarating to be part of it.

Being in Berlin for Pride would have been an unforgettable experience no matter what, but the fact that such a lovely, accepting, modern event happened right next to a monument that more than once was a symbol of division made the evening all the more meaningful. If this week were able to be summed up in a sentence, Berlin Pride would be the exclamation point — the starkest example of the way past and present coexist in harmony here. Times change so fast, but the evidence of history stays in place to remind us where we came from. Similarly, my time in Germany has flown by so quickly, but the experiences I’ve had will continue to sit with me long after this whirlwind adventure is over.


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