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Berlin, Germany

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It feels good to be here, in this great modern capital city. Standing at the iconic Brandenburg Gate, which was once in a no-man’s land, between the east and the west, because of the Berlin Wall. We thought of Pink Floyd, protests, barbed wire, concrete walls, and people’s constant strung for the fanciful concept of freedom.

It is hard to imagine that this is a city with so many awful stories in its history. Yet the Berliners are not hiding from their past. It is 80 years since the Nazis came to power, and all around the city there is information about the terrible time, and the horrors committed. We visited the site of the Gestapo headquarters, which is now a museum appropriately called the Topography of Terror. There are no words to convey the feelings you get at this place of terrible memories. This is the spot where Hitler and his henchmen ruled, and where there is a remaining segment of the once massive Berlin Wall. Nearby, a 1950s concrete apartment building covers the location where Hitler spent his last days in his infamous bunker. Moving on through the spacious streets of this great city built upon a marsh we found Checkpoint Charlie, which is now a rather cheesy tourist photo opportunity. It was so chilling to think of those who lost their lives trying to cross to the West as McDonald’s, Starbuck’s, and Burger King’s neon lights flashed in an unending attempt to draw consumers.

(The Great Pin Conspiracy)

Berlin is a city for pondering big questions, and today's mystery is: why American credit cards do not have PINs. Australia, New Zealand, Asia, and Europe do not require such antiquated procedures as signatures on paper, rather they all use the modern and green personal id numbers instead. The PIN's technology is ubiquitous worldwide, and without it American tourists must constantly apologize to non-English speaking vendors of essential travel goodies, and try to inadequately explain; “Sorry no PIN”. Hopefully, the vexed vendor, with the tasty cappuccinos or hotel room, will know how to accommodate us disadvantaged Yankees, to enable us to scrawl our scratching with quill and ink. When, fellow citizens of the United States, will we catch up with the rest of the world?

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