History and Culture Abound

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Would you believe that this lovely iron work is part of a bridge structure? It is the wall or protective rail of the bridge, like Vienna there are many intricate things to see in Berlin and sometimes in very unusual places. Before I continue with our Berlin vacation, just thought I let you know we survived our train to Berlin. It was a good thing we packed snacks as the galley car was left behind has it had no electrical power. By the time we got off the train the only thing on our minds was food. Luckily where Derek lives there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. In fact having too many made our task more difficult in picking a place to eat. Finally decided on a Indian place and the food was great. The one thing we did not find was a typical German eatery. There are Indian, Chinese, Thai, Turkish and Italian eating places galore. The ethnicity around here amazes me. It is a far cry from what Hitler had planned for Germany.

IMG_2675To no ones’ surprise Steve and I naturally did a couple of Derek’s History of Berlin tours. I was intrigued and surprised by this statue, it is part of a larger monument/statue in on honour of Friedrich Schiller standing in front of the Schauspielhaus now known as the Konzerthaus.  Friedrich Schiller  was a philosopher, poet, historian and playwright. On all four corners of the monuments sits a woman, 3 are young contemplative as you see by the photo this one is not. In fact even her clothing is different from the other perhaps she wears the cloak knowledge  and awaits to impart the wisdom she has obtained from the past.

IMG_2683These stones mark where once the Berlin wall stood. The wall which had separated people from their families, their ideals and divided their Berlin. One has to remember not only was Germany divided into East and West so was the city of Berlin itself. Thus impact of dividing Germany was greater on Berlin. The wall completely encircled West Berlin separating it from East Germany and East Berlin. It stood for 28 years and some say resulted in the deaths of almost 200 people.IMG_2686Here where a part of the wall  still stands today. A bizarre thing  a protective fence as been put in front the wall. With Berliners wanting a piece of the wall when it came down and the thousand of tourists  scraping off a souvenir for themselves since that time,  it is now close to disintegrating. In another area of Berlin part of the wall remains in good shape due in part to the great graffiti on it.IMG_0018

However must inform you that this photo was taken to years ago and this painting no longer exists. The East Side Gallery is what they have named this section of the wall. The paintings have been scrubbed off the government has invited the original artists back to paint their pieces again in time for 20th anniversary on fall of the wall. I hope they all come back as the art work was great.

I have been to Berlin four times now and as mentioned before always do one or two of Derek’s tours. One photo I kept taking is that of the Holocaust Memorial.IMG_2695I am trying to take the photo that will give you a sense of what the architect is trying convey to the people who visit this site. This memorial site covers an area IMG_0693

of almost covers 5 acres, upon which stands 2,711 concrete slabs of different size. The ground you walk upon is not flat rather it flows up and down like ocean waves. The paths are straight in every direction however there are many to take which leaves with a sense that there is no way out.

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The objective is to leave you with a feeling of confusion and hopelessness while walking amongst the perfectly shaped blocks. Walking around the perfectly shaped blocks one is compelled to ask how did humanity lose touch with itself. Sadly I think we are still seeing that we  have not regained our sanity.

Yet there were Germans during WW II who did not want what Hitler desired and these people thankfully are being remembered as well. Newly added in the courtyard of the Memorial to the German Resistance is the plaque that hangs in the square where German soldiers were executed for their attempt on Hitler’s life in 1944. Claus Graf von Stauffenberg will long be remembered due in part to the recent movie Valkyrie. IMG_2768

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Each stone here represents a Reichstag member (legislator) of the opposition parties that were executed on Hitler’s order in 1933. Where would Germany be today if someone had listened to these 96 voices.IMG_2777

One of the unique things with Europe that Steve and I have discovered both in Vienna and Berlin. Is that

IMG_2782underneath the ground you walk history is waiting to unfold. Every construction dig comes with the question what lies beneath. I wonder what story can be told here.

IMG_2687The Communist Party during it’s 40 years worked hard on promoting themselves has being a positive. These photos show just a small part of a wall mural depicting the communist ideal.IMG_2690

The astonishing thing during this time in Germany’s history particularly East Germany is that they went from one horror to another THE STASI. These were the secret police of East Germany whose motto was “Shield and Sword of the Party” for the socialist (communist) state of German Democratic Republic (GDR). How the word Democratic could be used under the banner of communism is beyond comprehension especially after visiting the Stasi museum in  Berlin a former  headquarters of the Stasi.IMG_2886

From 1950-1989 to say insanity reined is an understatement, the horror of the holocaust seemed to impart no lessons here for East Germany. After enforcing their symbolic dreams of Germany through the suffering and deaths of the Jewish, the GDR would then protect their communist ideal through the suffering and death of their own people.IMG_2790IMG_2798

Between the secret police and paid informants it worked out that the Stasi had one spy per 66 East German citizen. All in the name of unearthing “enemies” citizens were kidnapped in the dark of night and brought to the Stasi headquarters and thrown into a cell.

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Conditions in the beginning years were not the Ritz-Hilton, deprivation and physical torture of all kinds were the methods used to secure information.

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Over the years such methods proved to be more effective in causing death than getting information and these dungeon cells which were in the basement of the headquarters were shut down.

New cells with more comfortable surroundings would become the new home of the prisoners, physical torture was replaced by psychological which proved to be more effective in retrieving information.

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When looking upon it now, there were prisoners who were perhaps the lucky ones because they were executed immediately. Survival for the others would often come with a price later for some either through suicide or death by cancer caused by this.IMG_2870

Many prisoners were exposed to high levels of radiation under the guise of having their photograph taken. It is under investigation whether the Stasi did this intentionally but ask yourself this what was the purpose of having powerful X-ray equipment in room a used for photographing prisoners. This particular page in history has left me stunned and wondering will humanity ever learn from its past.

I cannot end this on a down note Germany and in particular Berlin now celebrates and shows off its many cultural differences. So here are some pictures from the day we went to museum island ( Berlin sits on a swamp.IMG_2716

IMG_2717On this particular day we enjoyed the music of a Mongolian Band.

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From Mongolian we traveled to the United EmiratesIMG_2735

here  a wonderful demonstration of their music and way of life. Plus I got a free Henna tattoo who could ask for a more perfect day.IMG_2750IMG_2757

The Berlin Bear and I bid you farewell will see you in the Tropical Rain Forest without leaving Berlin, ponder that one.IMG_2725

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Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 12:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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