Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How the Other Half Lives - East Germany 2011: Berlin

Berlin is a fascinating European city with a unique history and an ever-changing appearance. When I last visited in 2004, I recall the city being kind of run down and dirty and very different from most other German cities. This time I came across a massive city that portrayed itself as a cleaner, more modern city that is so sparsely populated that it never felt crowded. Having 50 years or so of history during which it was divided and separately governed, the result is a huge city with no true center and two of many things such as cathedrals, libraries, universities, museums, etc.

We only had three days in Berlin, which isn't enough to do it justice, but we filled our time with a walking city tour day, a museum day, and a palace day. In between we were able to catch a variety show at the Friedrichpalast theater. Below are some snapshots to give you more of a visual:

Pretty sure this is the Berlin Cathedral

"Mother with Dead Son" - in remembrance of the fallen soldiers in WWI and WWII. This is housed in a small building with an open roof to expose the memorial to the elements.

Humboldt University - Berlin's oldest university (1810) and home to many famous thinkers such as: physicists Albert Einstein and Max Planck, founders of Marxist theory Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, poet Heinrich Heine, German unifier Otto von Bismarck, European unifier Robert Schuman, and W.E.B. Du Bois. Producing 29 Nobel Prize winners, this university also served as a model for other universities in the West, such as Johns Hopkins.

"Berlin Wall: 1961-1989" - the double brick outline traces the former wall around West Berlin and if you can read the plaque correctly, then you are standing on the former West Berlin side.

Marisa, modeling in front of the former East German mass-produced vehicle, the Trabant (or Trabi for short). There was a huge waiting list to get one of these bad boys, they used a two-cycle engine (think weedwacker) that put out plenty of smoke, and the body was made out of fiberglass rather than metal.

The bear is the city symbol of Berlin and years ago they did a Bear Parade type thing that rivals the popular Cow Parade exhibit that has popped up in cities all over the world.

Berlin Wall - one large remaining section of the wall seen from the East side. FYI, the Eastern sides were painted white so that people trying to escape could be more easily seen, while the Western side was covered with graffiti because they were free to get that close to the wall.

Here's a nice mural showing the prosperous lives in the good ol' DDR..........everyone's working together, all smiles, the sun is shining, and life couldn't be better......

"Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" - Finished in 2004, it is composed of 4.7 acres of concrete slabs of various heights placed along uneven ground, forming a maze-like experience.

It's open to interpretation, but it was a very unique experience to walk through this thing.

Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg Gate) - former entrance to the city, erected from 1788-1791, it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. It was completely jacked up during WWII, but was restored from 2000-2002. You can still see patched up bullet holes all over.

I had to get a photo with this guy because he reminded me of my brother who once made a full suit of armor out of cardboard boxes and duct tape. I guess this is sort of the Captain Planet equivalent.

Pergamon Museum - German archaeologists love going and digging up other people's stuff. This museum is named after the city in modern-day Turkey where this Pergamon Alter was excavated. It's a huge temple built in the 2nd century B.C. with a massive sculpted wall that wraps around the whole thing depicting a battle between the gods and the giants.

Close-up of the wall sculptures.

Market Gate of Miletus - from an ancient Greek city in modern-day Turkey as well. It's amazing how people are able to take entire walls like this and put them in museums.

Ishtar Gate - probably the second most famous piece in the Pergamon Museum, this was the processional gate into the ancient city of Babylon in modern-day Iraq. It was built in 575 B.C. by King NebuchadnezzarII.

Ishtar Gate and the Processional Way, lined with scary lions.

Assyrian reliefs, similar to the ones we saw before in the British Museum in London. Not sure how many of these Iraq has left after all of the confiscations going on.

Pergamon Museum - they also had a huge collection of Islamic art, including this prayer niche that was beautifully decorated with glazed tiles with Arabic writing.

Pergamon Museum - I also liked this temple to Athena, whose name is spelled out there in Greek. It's neat to see inscriptions so wonderfully preserved.

Deutsches Historisches Museum - I just liked this painting because I've seen this Imperial Crown on this guy's head from the Holy Roman Empire. I believe it's held in a museum in Vienna. It's always neat to see some things come full circle in European history.

The original Lukas Cranach painting of Martin Luther which has been widely printed in history textbooks.

I really like these spiky German helmets from the 1800s and early 1900s.

Sweet painting of "Germania" ready to whoop some tail. I do like the hardcore eagle emblem that shows up throughout German history.

Charlottenburg Palace - Berlin residence of the Hohenzollern family. It was built at the end of the 17th century and originally named Lietzenburg, but when Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg's wife, Sophie Charlotte, passed away in 1705 it was renamed in her honor.

Private chapel in the Charlottenburg. It's a beautiful palace with my favorite room that was decorated with thousands of pieces of porcelain. It's definitely worth the trip if you like palaces and find yourself in Berlin.

Reichstag, or German Parliament building. The same place that was once burned down by anarchists (allegedly), allowing Hitler to gain power at a vulnerable time in German history, now stands rebuilt after the war and is topped with a glass observation deck so that visitors can keep an eye on the legislation taking place below.

One last picture of my mom and I. It was an excellent trip and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit. I was glad that she was able to see a little of where we live and also experience the German culture, landscapes and cities that she'd learned about years ago in school.

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