Ah Berlin. The capital city of Germany, famously divided during the Cold War, is much larger than our home city of Frankfurt with a population of 3.6 million people and 344 sq miles compared to 730,000 people and only 95 sq miles (thank you wikipedia). And yet it is a surprisingly quiet city. (To my Kansas readers, a point of reference: Wichita, KS is 163 sq miles.) We traveled by train, which was actually quite comfortable with a toddler. German high speed trains have a special train car reserved for families with small kids. Inside it there is a bit of floor space for crawling around and then of course no need to worry about offending your un-kid having neighbors with crying and shrieking. It was perfect.
Berlin is also well known for it’s diverse architecture and for the first time ever I found myself taking photos of buildings not because of their historical relevance or ornate beauty, but because of, well, their diversity. Take a look:
Interesting to see each building having it’s own style, unconcerned with whether or not it matches that of her neighbor. A far cry from those pesky neighborhood associations that have rules about which shades of brown you are allowed to paint your house, eh? ‘Oh so you are doing a wobbly orange facade? well suit yourself, I’m doing purple with iron lattice railings.’
Aside from taking photos of buildings, we did the typical touristy things. We went to the infamous Checkpoint Charlie which doesn’t look like much-its just an intersection with an old toll booth-and then the much more interesting small museum on its corner.
Here’s a picture of how the city of Berlin was divided following WWII (left). If you look at Germany on a map (right), take note of the city of Berlin the blue dot in the red East of Germany. You may be thinking, but I thought East Germany went to the Russians and West to the Allies (US, Britain, France). It did, but because Berlin was the capital city both sides wanted a piece of it, and so inside East Germany, the city of Berlin itself was divided. Checkpoint Charlie was the only crossing between the East and the West in the city.
The wall that divided the city was not built right after the end of WWII (as I had assumed). It was actually built overnight on August 13, 1961 in response to heightened political tensions between Russia and the rest of the Allied forces as waves of people fled East Germany. The museum was filled with videos playing on loops and posters of the propaganda from both sides during the cold war. This one was particularly moving. The message speaks for a united Germany.
Next we went on to see the monument to the persecuted Jews which was overwhelming to me in its darkness and size, the blocks of dark stone stood of varying heights with tight hilly paths between them:
Next, the persecuted Homosexuals who (whom?) I had not realized were also specifically targeted by the Nazis, you look through the small dark window and can see a 20 second video on replay of a couple in a loving embrace.
And finally the memorial to the persecuted Roma & Sinti people (you may know them as gypsies), a pool of water its black surface mirroring the sky:
In regards to good eats we were generally unimpressed with what we found. But Germans are known for their bratwursts and sausages and we found a fun restaurant, Das Meisterstück, that makes, bakes, and shakes them onto a plate in an eclectic way. Also the art in the bathrooms was hilarious…)
Here’s a few more pictures of the sites in the city.
German lesson for the trip:
Jews – die Jüden
Homosexual – Homosexuell
Gypsies – die Zigeuner
memorial – Denkmal
I realize it’s been a long time since I published anything on this blog and perhaps a few of you suspected the project was dead. It’s not dead, but being a mother of a walking talking little person drastically reduces free time. I am getting adjusted however and have several other projects in draft form. So thanks for reading and not giving up on me. Tschüß!!