’12 Oct: Berlin, Germany
A Major Capital City for dang sure.
It’s been all about eating out with friends for days. Not much better than that – friends and food.
Tomorrow is our Un-Birthday Party for the girls, and then Sunday, Bon Voyage!
Aug 27-03 Budapest (leave lax on the 26th)
Sep 04-05 Sopron, Hungary
Sep 06-15 Vienna (+Salsburg and/or Bratislava)
Sep 16-18 Brno, Czech Republic
Sep 19-25 Prague
Sep 26-04 Wroclaw, Poland to Dresden
Oct 05-06 Hanover/Stadthagen
Oct 07-16 Berlin
My Underground station and giant transportation hub is Alexanderplatz. You probably can’t read it on the blue sign on the right.
There was a festival going on in the plaza part of Alexanderplatz – these festivals are starting to feel permanent – and the fountain was fenced off. I had read that this fountain, the GDR Fountain of the Friendship of Peoples, was an important gathering point and site of active graffiti ‘work’, but not now.
I didn’t know what was here before but from a TripAdvisor correspondent we learn:
“On the open space on Unter den Linden / Karl-Liebkneckt-Straße once stood the Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace). It sustained heavy damage during World War II and the Communist regime of East Germany demolished the building in 1950.
“In its place the East German authorities built the Palast der Republik, which served as the East German parliament building between 1976 and 1990. The Palast der Republik was dismantled between 2006 and 2008. There are plans to rebuild the Berliner Stadtschloss in the future, subject to sufficient funding.”
Details from the Neptune Fountain, built in 1891.
“The fountain was removed from its original location at the Schlossplatz in 1951, when the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) there was demolished. Eventually, after being restored, the fountain was moved in 1969 to its present location between the St Mary’s Church and the Rotes Rathaus.”
A new permanent exhibit had just opened in a space dedicated to historical study called “Willy Brandt – Politikerleben”.
As well as the very well-done displays they had a 45 minute documentary on Willy Brandt and the story of Berlin during his lifetime. It was excellent, so moving I didn’t need to understand the sound in order to appreciate the story, and it was free too.
The Brandenburg Gate, originally called the Gate of Peace and prominent in every movie and newsreel ever shot in Berlin.
There was a celebrity at the hotel on the left of this picture and these guys were waiting to do the motorcade. I left before the celebrity emerged.
The US Embassy is just to the left in this picture – a bland building with plenty of guards you can be sure.
As you walk through, the stones get higher and higher until you’re swallowed up in the maze. But it’s not a maze really since the stones are in rows.
The venue opened in 2005 after years of controversy. “There’s an underground center that includes the known names of those killed in the Holocaust along with letters from those on their way to concentration camps.”
I’m choosing my Holocaust emersion in manageable chunks and took a pass on the names and the letters.
October 11 Since I keep crossing over the same streets I’m moving pictures around to, I hope, make some sense of it all.
The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche or the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Nearly demolished in WWII except for a few walls and the tower, the church has been kept as a memorial but now they’ve covered it and are doing a major reconstruction.
You can still see some of the inside and many fantastic mosaics.
That’s a crowd of tourists on the left and the German Air Force on the right.
The Air Force guys didn’t have any identifying insignia on their uniforms, not that I could recognize anyway, so I picked one from the edge of the group to talk to and that was fun. The guy seemed pleased with his excellent ability to chat in English.
Potsdamer Platz, ‘bombed beyond recognition in WWII, this square found itself in former East Berlin. It was unused and undeveloped while the city was divided. After reunification, it was transformed into the commercial heart of the city and is filled with innovative architecture…’
Just an example of what it used to be ‘by 1938, 37 out of 52 embassies and legations in Berlin, and 28 out of 29 consulates, were situated here.’
The story of the lights: these characters, the walking man and the standing man are called the Ampelmännchen and were the East German signal system.
After reunification Berlin tried to replace them with a more modern system but everyone went nuts to keep the Ampelmännchen and now they have spread to the government zones in the former West as well.
And no one crosses on red. No one except tourist who get yelled at, ‘child killer!’. The idea is that in public you shouldn’t teach the children to disobey the law. Or so I heard.
‘The Real Berlin Experience’ from alternativeberlin.com. Best City Tour Group Ever. It would have taken me a week to find these places on my own and this group was totally into it as was the guide.
I was wearing my sandals with cool-looking wool high-top socks, long pants, a t-shirt, a flannel, a shell, and a wrap-around long scarf. Toasty!
We hopped the trains a few times and walked and walked for about five hours and the guide was so efficient in getting us around town.
I was immediately attracted to the artist El Bucho because one of his recurring images is of a cute young girl named Little Lucy who hates her cat upon whom various evil falls. This one says ‘stupid kitti’.
The guide, who walks around here all the time and does work himself is well acquainted with ‘the scene’ and it was fun to hear the stories of how these walls evolve.
The first thing I felt about it (after wanting to find more about kitti…) was that these works are a conversation between the artists.
One artist puts up something, another person makes a statement in response, and so on until at some point they paint over the wall and start again.
Important to note: virtually none of this is gang tagging which takes away the scary part. Mostly it’s legal and often invited. But not everywhere of course. Don’t go be trying to kill your kitti at the Brandenburg Gate.
Called the Stolperstein or stumbling stone, it is “a monument created by Gunter Demnig which commemorates a victim of the Holocaust. .. They commemorate individuals – both those who died and survivors – who were persecuted by the Nazis.
“While the vast majority of stolpersteine commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, others have been placed for Sinti and Romani people, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, black people, Christians (both Protestants and Catholics) opposed to the Nazis, members of the Communist Party and the Resistance, military deserters, and the physically and mentally disabled.”
They are already placed in several countries and hundreds of cities and towns.
This is a large section of the Berlin Wall along the river that has been rebuilt. ‘They’ contacted as many of the original artists who would have painted on the wall and asked them to recreate their work.
A few did it, a few refused, and many could not be found. There was enough documentation on the original paintings that the group who is funding this project simply had them redone.
The artist who made that large face did it by first digging into the plaster of then putting gun powder into the ridge, then plastering over the wall again, then setting off the gun powder.
“The popularization of graffiti through street art has been picked up by commercial brands as a subversive marketing tool. In Berlin this has materialized in the form of Levi’s collaboration with Portuguese street artist Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils as part of the company’s ‘Go Forth’ Campaign.
“Using the unconventional tools of drills and explosives, the portraits of four local figures were etched into selected walls throughout the city over the summer. Selected for their varied contributions to the community were Joe Hatchiban, host of Mauerpark’s famous outdoor karaoke shows, photographer and Berghain doorman Sven Marquardt, socio-political art duo Various & Gould and immigrant youth worker Fadi Saad.”
“Local businesses and even local authorities hired artists to paint murals on the fronts of their buildings. Most famously, on a wall in Kreuzberg, the artist Blu painted two men trying to rip each other’s masks off — symbolizing, he claims, Berlin’s struggles during its first few years of reunification.”
Notice that one guy’s fingers make an E while the other makes a W for east and west.
The figure with the chains and the expensive watches is a commentary on modern life by a different artist I think. I didn’t find anything more about him yet.
Behind those trees there is a huge complex of buildings originally used to repair train cars but now abandoned from that purpose and taken over by various bands of artists.
There’s a long story on the political/social/legal situation that, the upshot is, the artists will be able to stay well into the 2018s.
The view from my window is really pretty good.
I’m on the 7th floor and there’s an enormous street down there with 8 lanes of cars, a bus lane, a left turn lane, two tracks for the trams and tram waiting areas. You can’t even cross the street in one go because of how they’ve staggered the lights. With the window closed I hardly hear it and with the window open the room cools off nicely. It’s pretty good.
From my hotel, I walk 30 minutes round-trip to the transportation hub at Alexanderplatz.
At the beginning of a long trip I usually take a break every 5 or 6 days, and then as the weeks roll on I find myself taking a break every 4 or 5 days, and today I took another break even though I had also taken a break on the 10th but yike-y I walked non-stop for 7 hours on both the 11th and 12th and I’m tired!
And then the longer I’m out the more pictures I’ve got and the more things there are to tell about.
Taking a stroll from the S-Bahn stop through a lovely residential area to a museum that is the life work of a single collector.
Here in Berlin we have the U-Bahn for the underground trains, S-Bahn for the above ground trains, and M-Bahn for the trams that crisscross the city and another letter that I forget right now for the oh-so-many buses. It’s one of those things that once you get used to it, it’s easy.
This is the most well-known museum, Pergamon.
And what is that water tower doing in the middle of the plaza? “The monumental panoramic view of the city of Pergamon takes you back to the year 129 AD.” Imagine the entire interior surface of the drum painted with a scene from ancient Pergamon.
It is pretty cool but I could only enjoy half of it, the half from the ground looking up. There’s a platform several flights of stairs up but it was so crowded I couldn’t see a thing.