Grandma and I went to Berlin last week and it took me a while to go through the photos and edit them down. Part of it was that I was busy as soon as we got back going on adventures with my uncle. The other part was the fact that I didn't love Berlin as much as I loved Prague. I adore old architecture and history. Berlin, while there is tons of history, it is hard to see it.
My Great Grandmother is originally from Berlin. She left before the end of WWII to escape the daily bomb raids. She never returned to her former home. And to use her words, she doesn't like the air of Berlin anymore. What historic quaintness that comes with so many European cities has been lost on the city.
Not that Berlin was a bad city. On the contrary, it is a very important city historically and a great place to visit. I can just be picky and a few bad experiences turned me away from loving the city, (too many people with no purpose other than to stand in the middle of the sidewalk, bad public transit that cancels a bus stop without any notice). I still liked it though.
One of the best things about Berlin was its numerous memorials commemorating the destruction of war. The memorials stand as a reminder of the devastation that takes place when we turn to war. They are blunt reminders that we are destructive creatures and war is so much more than fighting for land and ideology.
The Kaiser Wilhelm Church was once a massive cathedral, After the war all that remained was one of the towers. It stands in the condition it was in at the end of the war as memorial to the destruction of war.
In the Jewish museum there was a art exhibition with 10,000 metal faces on the floor. They were all screaming, crying or showing some kind of agony. We are encouraged to walk on the faces. The act in itself is degrading and makes you feel incredibly uncomfortable. It shows how easy it is to walk over people without a care for their pain. But what really got me was the noise made by walking on the metal faces. The work is called "Fallen Leaves," created by Menashe Kadishman it is dedicated to all of the innocent victims of war and violence.
The architecture of the museum was amazing as well. It was built as its own memorial. The path you take could lead you to empty chambers or voids in German history caused by the persecution of jews. A must see museum but you really need a whole day to take it all in and something fun planned for after because it is a tough museum to walk through.
Berlin knows enough about the cost of war. 90% of the city was ashes after WWII, and they are still trying to pick up the pieces of the split during the Cold War. Thats what most of the history of the city consists of now, the separated state and the wall as a symbol.
Checkpoint Charlie, one of the biggest attractions on the most crowded tiny sidewalks.
East and West, a portion of the Berlin Wall Memorial.
Grandma and I walked through the East Side Gallery. The East Side Gallery has now become a historic site, but that hasn't stopped people from adding a bit of themselves to the art. It is a little sad to see the dumb things people feel they need to add to the wall. Adding art is one thing. Writing with sharpie "Jane Doe was here" or "John hearts Jane 4 eva is destructive and a little disrespectful in my opinion.
The next few photos are of some historic buildings that remain in Berlin. All of these buildings have been heavily restored. In some cases they are replicas of buildings that once stood.
The modern buildings were also beautiful. We took a small boat ride through part of Berlin. The Captain provided some commentary on the billions these buildings cost Germany yet provide very little use, like the train station pictured below, which was only finished for the World Cup. It was hard to understand all his jokes but for the most part people laughed. I learned that I know absolutely nothing about Berlin slang.
The Radio Tower of Berlin. You can ride up to the top and have a meal with panoramic views of the city. It rotates on its axis every 30 minutes. On a clear day you can see all the way to the curve of the Earth.
The office of Andrea Merkel.
One thing I never really understood is why people feel the need to pose and look cute at photos of memorials that are really sad. Below is a memorial for all the people who were murdered during the Holocaust. The girl in the black hat in the photo had her friend take her photo several times over. It was like I was watching a high fashion photoshoot. And they weren't the only ones. There were several people who sat along the edge of the memorial and took smiling photographs. The point of the memorial is to walk through the slabs of concrete and contemplate the loss of life. Not one of them went past the first five rows. That is just something that I really don't understand. I get taking a photograph with yourself in it as proof that you were there and for your own memories, but to only show up for the photo you are missing out on the experience.
On the last day, we visited Charlottenburg Palace before heading to the airport. This is another one of those buildings that was heavily restored to its former glory. It was beautiful. I have a soft spot for European castles. Above is one of the ceilings that had been completely restored. The ceiling below was safe enough to remain in the state it was found in at the end of WWII.
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