Posts Tagged ‘history’

From New York to…Berlin

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Every city has its story. Some are built on peace and trust, but most upon revolution and blood. I might be of the minority opinion, but I think it’s important to know the history of the place you live or visit. It tells a bigger story. Isn’t that what college is about? Discovering what you believe based upon your knowledge of the world? For American history, no place is better for that than New York City (except maybe D.C.). For Western-focused history, I think no city carries that weight better than Berlin.

In New York it’s a little easier to ignore history when there’s so much hustle and bustle around us. A lot of us don’t stop to think unless we decide on a day and time to go to a specific place and think about the history of how this great city came to be. It’s a little different in Berlin. Its past drags on you as you walk through its streets and there are signs of history everywhere—a city trying to wipe away its past through modernization.

Since it’s humbling and humanizing, I’ve made a list of places you can stop and think about the past in both Berlin and New York:

History Museums.

Museums are meant to be quiet places to look at precious items and ponder their meaning. History museums are some of the most impactful places in any city. This is especially true for New York and Berlin. In New York the National Museum of the American Indian brings to light not only the history of New York, but also of this land. It’s a humbling experience and allows you to see the stories and artwork of the Native Americans before and after European settlers. New York boasts many other history museums, but one of the best is a bit far from Manhattan. If you can get there, the Ellis Island Immigration Museum helps anyone understand what makes modern day New York so wonderfully diverse and will give you a sense of the historical struggle of your ancestors. Berlin is filled to the brim with museums about history. One of these is the German Historical Museum or Deutsches Historisches Museum, which shows the history of Germany from its founding to its scarred past and hopeful future.


Tragedy Museums.

I define museums of tragedy as separate from museums of history because the weight of self-awareness you feel in a museum centered on tragedy is innately different from that of history. The National Museum of the American Indian is also a museum of tragedy to me, but the museum itself focuses mostly on the beauty of Native American culture rather than on their horrific plight. Another museum where New Yorkers will certainly feel the heaviness of tragedy is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in the Financial District. Though this one may leave you feeling hollow and oddly aware of yourself and your fellow New Yorkers, it’s definitely worth visiting if you’re thinking about the past. For Berlin, the Jewish Museum will impact you in ways you didn’t even know were possible. It’s earthshattering and the mixture of art and history is made to let history overwhelm you. And you should let it this once. It’s worth it.

9/11 Memorial Pond.

9/11 Memorial Pond.

Art Installation at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  Taken by Jainita Patel

Art Installation at the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Taken by Jainita Patel


Monuments and Memorials.

I’m honestly not quite sure where to begin with this one for New York, so I’m going to state the one I love the most that always takes me back in time: Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Here you’ll find monuments dedicated to almost every war fought by American soldiers. If wars don’t interest you as much as common life, almost every grave in the cemetery has a story. Not to mention the place is gorgeous. If you’re looking for a more patriotic monument, Trinity Church on Wall St. has some of the most famous revolutionaries buried there including Alexander Hamilton and his family. A comprehensive list of New York monuments to sit and reflect upon can be found here. Berlin has a historical monument on every corner, but three very specific monuments had a huge impact on me: 1) The Berlin Wall Memorial. There is a piece left standing of the Berlin Wall in Brunnenviertel that has scribbles of graffiti proclaiming freedom that remains from just 25 years ago. It really puts the past into perspective. 2) The East Side Gallery. Also a piece of the Berlin Wall, this international memorial for freedom on Mühlenstraße will have you looking at art and history as two inseparable mediums by which to explore the past. 3) Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (and the nearby Großer Tiergarten—which contains the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism—and the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime which is by Brandenburger Tor). This last one is more of an art piece, but just as powerful.

Civil War Memorial at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Civil War Memorial at Green-Wood Cemetery.


Graffiti on the Berlin Wall Memorial. Taken by Jainita Patel.

Graffiti on the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Taken by Jainita Patel.

Right Outside Your Door.

You know those nights were you just sit outside your small NYC dorm or apartment and look at the street and starless sky? Or when you walk to class or work, avoiding the traffic and ignoring your aching feet? There’s history there, right underneath you and around you. It’s a place to begin thinking about the rich histories and the lessons we can learn from it. It’s important, especially in cities with pasts like New York and Berlin.


So there it is—this week’s oddly sad and moving tips on how to connect with a deeper part of yourself and the world. Who says you can’t enjoy yourself while being pensive and having your mind blown? And who knows? If you like either city for the weight of its history, maybe you’ll get to visit the other some day.


By Jainita Patel

Jainita is a Campus Clipper publishing intern who is double majoring in English and Environmental Studies at NYU. Though writing fiction and painting are her two main passions, she also has a love of travel and adventure that has taken her across the globe.  Jainita writes under the pseudonym Jordan C. Rider. If you like her posts, you can find more of her work here or follow her on Twitter. For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.