A Scared City

Trip Start Mar 14, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  ,
Monday, March 1, 2010

Berlin is a city that is rebuilding itself. There are cranes everywhere but despite this there are many areas of this vast city that are vacant lots.

Our welcome to Berlin was the East Side Gallery. This is the longest surviving stretch of the wall which has now been transformed into a modern art piece. One of the most famous works is of the Soviet leader Brezhnev kissing GDR leader Erich Honecker.

Our public transport free day continued along the old route of the wall up to the Berliner Mauer Dokumentationszentrum (Berlin Wall Documentation Centre). Here we climbed a tower to get an artists impression of “No Man's Land” which lies behind an original stretch of the wall.

The Berlin Wall was actually two walls with a large space between them which represented the death strip or no man's land. So if you wanted to get to the other side of the wall. It was not just one but two walls you would have to climb. Not to mention the watch towers, the patrolling soldiers, the guard dogs, alarm fences and the brightly lit boarder strip running right through the middle that would have to be avoided and navigated.
The Wall divided the city from 1961 to 1989. During this time only about 2000 people managed to cross over through various methods. It is not known exactly how many died while trying to cross but it is estimated to be 191 people.

The following day we had another sombre start at the Holocaust Memorial and Documentation Centre.
The memorial consists of 2711 concrete Stelae blocks. It looks like a giant graveyard of concrete tombs. When you begin to walk into the memorial grounds it starts to slope away and the blocks grow in size and it gets darker. It is a powerful statement and everyone has different strong experiences towards it. The underground documentation centre details the Nazi's extermination policy between 1933 to 1945 and the development that led to the Holocaust.

We soon found ourselves at the Jewish Museum. The museum is designed to disorientate with its voids, cul-de-sacs, slit windows and uneven floors. It portrays the uncertainty and sometime terror of past Jewish life in Germany. The museum is a collection of German Jewish history detailing interesting parts of everyday life.

It didn't take long for us to follow our noses to the near by Curry 36 or to you and me a sausage stand. We just had to try the traditional curry wurst, a grilled sausage drowned in ketchup and then sprinkled with curry powder. I think we ate more ketchup than sausage. It wasn't the greatest of experiences, but it had to be done.

Our last day in Berlin we still had a few more things to see. We made our way to the Reichstag building. A fire here in 1933 gave Hitler the opportunity to raise panic, blame the communists (his main opposition at the time) and grab power. It was also here that the soviets raised their flag in 1945 to signal Nazi Germany's defeat. Today you can walk up the glass cupola and enjoy a unique panorama of Germany's capital city, while looking down on the members of parliament to see if they are working.

We then made our way to the biggest tourist trap in Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie. We did not enter the overpriced museum, which charges €12.50 to get in. We took some obligatory photos and made our way around the corner to the free Topography of Terror exhibit.

The Topography of Terror is an outside exhibition on the grounds of the former SS building. It was on this site that the genocide of the European Jews their systematic persecution and murder was planned. It is a shockingly graphic record of what the SS and the Gestapo did here.

Berlin seems to have healed its wounds well, but the scars will always remain.

We will leave you with this to think about.

"He who wants the world to remain as it is,
dosen't want it to remain at all"  Filip Spagnoli
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