Berlin

Posted by on Dec 15, 2011 in Europe, Germany, Travel | 0 comments

Berlin

Berlin was very interesting to me from a historical point of view, and had a gritty realness to it, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did Rome and Paris.

We stayed at the Circus Hotel which is a really cool place, they are a green hotel and simple things such as having timer lights in the corridors, not having mini bars in the rooms and supplying a carafe and glasses for tapwater save tonnes of energy and waste.

The food and produce they use in the restaurant and even the toiletry products are all organic.  They did an amazing cocktail of warm grape juice with cinnamon and nutmeg, orange and lemon slices and a kick of vodka which warmed me right up!

We started our tour of Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate in Pariser Platz, ironically originally called the Gate of Peace. At one point Napoleon decided that he liked the woman on the top of the statue and so of course being Napoleon, simply took it to Paris.

 

The B Gate

The Brandenburg Gate

 

The Reichstag (parliament house) was burned down in 1933 and this played a pivotal role in establishing the Nazi regime, the Nazi’s saying it was a Communist attack on the government.  To this day it is unknown whether it was in fact the Communists or the Nazis who set the fire.

Only in 1999 was parliament moved back here to the building pictured below.  The glass dome was added to the top and is supposed to be a symbol of transparency, where citizens can go up into the dome and look down upon parliament and keep an eye on them, and parliament can look up at those to whom they are responsible.

 

The Reichstag

The Reichstag

 

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a very moving place, it covers nearly 5 acres and was opened in 2005.  The idea is that there are no words, figures or facts and it is up to each individual as to how they interpret the memorial.

I appreciate the open way that Berlin accepts and deals with it’s dark history, including having this large memorial in the middle of the city.

 

Memorial

Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe

 

Only a block or so away from the memorial is an unassuming empty carpark underneath which sits Hitler’s bunker, the place he eventually committed suicide.  There is no signage or any other marking to suggest this is a place of any importance, said to be because Hitler should not be given a grave or anything that could be turned in to a neo-Nazi shrine.

It is a chilling feeling being in a place where so much evil was formed.  Although, the blame cannot fall entirely on Hitler – what of the thousands of people who went along with it all.

 

Communist propaganda

 

The above large scale wall picture was part of the Communist propaganda in 1952 in East Berlin, showing what life would be like.  It soon became clear that life in fact was not like this picture.  In an attempt to boost the economy people were made to work 35% more than previously, and yet were not paid any extra.  By 1953 there was an inevitable resistance.

After WWII West Berlin became an island within the Soviet controlled East Germany. For 28 years the wall imprisoned people in East Berlin.  Many attempted to cross into West Berlin but few succeeded.  There were many obstacles in the death zone before you could even reach the wall – an electric fence, guard dogs, snipers, nail beds, alarms and patrolling guards.

The thought of someone building a wall around half of Sydney and essentially being held hostage there is incomprehensible, and I can only imagine how indignant I would feel.

Most of the time those caught trying to cross the border would not be killed but rather returned to East Germany.  However the level of state control was so high that their lives would be made insufferable, and more often than not they would commit suicide anyway.

 

Remains of the Berlin Wall

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