Let’s Play Some Games and Explore Germany : Travel Week 2

Hi again!

Not only have I been gone for a week, but I’ve also been absolutely too tired to think about writing something up yet. But here I am! Somewhat well rested and unpacked… yet again.

I just returned from my weeklong Study Tour with my Core Course, Game Development: Programming and Practice! We went to Germany, spending half of the week in Berlin and the second half in Hamburg.

Berlin

To be completely honest, I fell in love with Berlin. You walk around this city and just run into history – like Rome, but a much more modern, recent history that hit me a lot harder.

On our first day, we took a walking tour around the sites of the city. We saw a beautiful cathedral, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and multiple large squares with churches and music halls.

A picture not included here is that we stood, in the cold, in an empty parking lot. Cold, shivering, and wanting to keep moving, we were doubtful that it was necessary – until our tour guide told us that we were standing on top of where Hitler’s old bunker stood, the bunker where he ultimately ended his life. And that, my friends, is why walking around Berlin is amazing.

Berlin Cathedral
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Brandenburg Gate
Gendarmenmarkt

Also, just so you know for your obviously inevitable trip to Berlin – the kebab is amazing. Get the kebab.

**note that the next few paragraphs will talk about our visit to a concentration camp, until the next line of asterisks**

The next day, we went on a tour of Sachsenhausen. Sachsenhausen was a labor camp, which will make this part of the blog very hard for me to write. I don’t want to make any jokes, and it’s hard to say that going to a concentration camp was a good experience. But it was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had, and I am so, so grateful that I was given this opportunity.

We walked the premises, and our tour guide told us what had occurred in each corner of the triangular-shaped camp. The only word I can find is powerful, and I encourage any people who are interested in more to research the camp itself and to try to visit it one day, because I will not do it justice.

the entrance of Sachsenhausen
the part of the camp used for Soviet prisoners after the initial liberation

*****************

After going to the Pergmamon Museum in the day, and seeing the original Ishtar Gate that served as the entrance to Babylon, we went to the Game Science Center! This was practically a playground of innovative game technologies and new ways to game – games where your body was the controller, audio simulation, and even an area of kinetic sand that I did not leave for a very, very long time.

this is… truly the only picture I got in the Game Science Center but I think it captures the essence

The next day, we went to Berlin’s Video Game Museum. The museum was full of practically every game console throughout history, and of course they had a bunch of playable games for us to try out.

We walked through and had an assignment to make a timeline of technological advancements in games, but once that was done? Time to play!

(I didn’t get more pictures than this because I got really preoccupied with just how many games I could play. Sorry but not actually that sorry!)

Playing a snake-like competition game in a recreation of what a 70s gaming household would have looked like

We then had the rest of the day to explore Berlin. Most of our class went to walk down the East Side Gallery – what one of my classmates dubbed the “happy side of the wall”. Two main sections of the Berlin Wall remain: one that was kept how it looked back when it was torn down (this week is the 30th anniversary!!), and one where artists were invited to paint and graffiti the wall to make it into a work of art.

It’s nearly a mile long, and we loved getting to take a nice walk down the entire thing.

the girls of Game Development section A!

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Berlin, the next morning we boarded a train for Hamburg!

Also, while it’s on my mind, I wanted to mention that being vegetarian on this trip was…a TRIP. Berlin has a very high percentage of vegans, but Hamburg…doesn’t. So between the meals the program chose for us (one of which was just a giant plate of sausage and meat placed in front of all of us while I got a separate meal) and finding choices out on our own….it was an experience. Vegetarians be aware. Germany loves their meat.

Hamburg

In Hamburg, a lot of our academic visits were meeting with companies and independent game developers! I obviously don’t have pictures from those (confidentiality and all that), but I wanted to mention that they were SO cool and informative! Seeing the place where games are made (BYTO game company) or talking about what it’s like to not work for a giant game corporation put the entire gaming industry in a lot of useful perspective.

Our most physical academic visit in Hamburg, though, was an escape room.

So, in case you haven’t noticed at this point, I’m an anxious person. I was genuinely nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy the escape room and maybe would either have a panic attack or make my team hate me with how frustrated I got.

But neither happened! My team (the class was split into three) was able to escape from our mock prison setting with about two minutes to spare – we actually had opened the door like two minutes before we realized it was open, so really we did it even faster.

We also had a lot of time to see Hamburg as a city, taking a boat tour around the main harbor and exploring the museums – on Thursday, most public museums were free due to their Reformation Day!

on a boat tour around Hamburg’s residential harbor
my first ever successful jumping picture in front of Hamburg’s city hall

A group of us had one goal when we got to Hamburg – go to the Miniature Wonderland. This is basically a big space filled with miniature recreations of different countries, everywhere from America to specific cities in Germany to Rome and Malta. It’s Germany’s most visited attraction (according to the website ;)) and I absolutely LOVED it. I want to ask if they have any job openings. I want to make tiny buildings.

the Wonderland’s version of Midwest America
The sun would rise and set every fifteen minutes

And then, before we knew it, it was time to leave Hamburg! This week absolutely FLEW by…and yet I am so so tired anyway. I am so grateful to DIS for giving us these travel opportunities – they put us in amazing hotels and sent us to great restaurants. Not only did I maybe find one of my new favorite European cities, but I got so much closer to the others in my class.

Thank you for treating this group of programmers* so well, Germany! You smelled like chocolate most of the time, you were cold, but you were so good to us.

*and one artist turned programmer (me)

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