Berlin is an amazing city and we loved our time here learning and exploring. The city is an open air history museum, being the epicentre of so much of recent history and at the same time it lives in the modern world, where we felt at home in the coffee culture that reminded us a lot of Melbourne. It is a city to be lived in which reveals itself slowly. Our time here was all the more special being joined by the lovely Tali P.
In just a few days we witnessed the rise and fall of the Nazis, the Holocaust, WWII and in the aftermath, the battle between communism and capitalism which resulted in the building of a wall. As we all know communism lost, but it really is unbelievable that the wall dividing east and west berlin only came down 23 years ago. We explored the sections of the Berlin wall that remain. Part of the wall is a museum and monument to those who tried to escape (and mostly failed). Another part of the wall is covered with graffiti expressing compassion for the past and hope for the future.
One of the highlights of our visit was the Fat Tyre Bike Tour of Berlin which took us to most of the main sites all in one day. Our guide was fantastic, explaining the history and relevance of the places we passed. The bikes were oh-so-comfortable and it was great to be riding hair flying in the wind.
A communications tower built in East Berlin essentially to make the West Berliners jealous of East Berlin’s technological prowess (and then it came out years later that they had to import technicians from outside the country to finish it!!)…
The monuments to the holocaust in Berlin are so creative, unique and relevant. The holocaust memorial was powerful. It is amazing how creating a space can evoke emotion and memory. There is no one meaning for the structure, the artist left it up to the public to interpret as they will. However it was based on the Jewish cemetery in Prague (which I am yet to visit!) and it certainly feels like one walking through.
The memorial to the burning of books is an underground empty library, big enough to hold the number of books burned. It is viewed through a large glass tile on the pavement, in the exact position where the burning occurred. Powerful.
And then from large to small… all around Berlin, outside apartment buildings there are small gold tiles with the names of the Jewish person who resided there, the date that they were taken and where they went. A constant reminder of what happened here. Really an amazing owning and taking of responsibility for the actions of the past. I was also drawn to think about Australia’s commemoration of its’ Aboriginal past – and how to have a more present memory of those events.
Also amazing to be in Berlin because of my personal connection, my grandmother was born here. We happened past a Jewish girls school where she studied to find a religious jewish man running a kosher Shabbat each week to educate locals about Jewish traditions.
We also loved the eclectic, artistic side of Berlin, and spent hours walking around town, rummaging through flea markets, feasting on cake and coffee.
One of our favourite outings was to the open-air Bearpit karaoke in Mauerpark, where in front of an amphitheatre of 1000s of people you can volunteer to belt out a tune. So-you-think-you-can-sing eat your heart out… and a gigantic gold star to those brave souls who sang for us that day!!