The Tour Guide Who Changed Me

A tour guide is probably the most understated person of a travel experience.

berlin
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

A tour guide is often single-handedly responsible for how you view a city and its history, people, and art. Sometimes he or she is enthusiastic, sometimes dull. Most of the time, unfortunately, forgettable.

But one tour guide that I encountered in Berlin really changed how I view Berlin, myself, and, freedom in just a few hours.

The idea of a free tour alone was a novel one to me, and as we walked to the Brandenburg gate where the tour began, I had my reservations.

But our guide, less than ten years older than me, was one of the most honest tour guides, one who was interested in the city in his own way rather than a scripted one, and was upfront about it. His simple verbal precaution before the tour started was that he was interested in architecture and political science and would probably talk a lot about it.

berlin
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

When we arrived at Humboldt University, where Albert Einstein attended, the guide told us about how he moved to Berlin to study architecture, and once he had finally seen all of the work that he dreamt of, he could not help but become passionate about the history and politics of Berlin as well — enough that he decided to pursue a PhD at Humboldt.

This transformation was partly after he learned about the Burning of the Books at Humboldt during the Nazi era. When he explained how the students now hold a book sale once a year on this anniversary, I could not help but have the clichéd reminder of education as not just about grades. Education is one of the most important aspects of freedom, and Berlin especially is the perfect manifestation of the spectrum of human possibilities, from the most horrifying to the most uplifting.

berlin
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

So this tour guide, who though I don’t remember his name as I do the other guides who drank and partied with us, was the one that I will probably remember for the longest. He gave a real look into the life of Berlin and used his own story to demonstrate the strength it has on curiosity. It was inspiring to say the least to see someone so immersed in his surroundings that he could not help but make it his full time job as a student to discover more about his surroundings and their rich value.

Article written by AJ Kiyoizumi.

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