Berlin, Germany

We came to Berlin a couple days early just to visit museums and walk around Berlin prior to the ISER meeting and packed an incredible amount of sightseeing into that time.  Pics from the ISER meeting will be the next post.  It turns out that there were so many photos from this trip that its taken some time to get through them all and get a couple more manuscripts finished which obviously, take priority.  In the meantime, there have been a number of other posts from museums here in Berlin including the Museum für Naturkunde and a post specifically for the Archaeopteryx that got linked on BoingBoing.  We visited the Berlin Aquarium, the Pergamon, the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung and the Gemäldegalerie among others like the Ramones Museum and the Neue National Galerie.  The amazing thing is how many of these museums were right around our hotel while others were an enjoyable stroll through Berlin where we enjoyed beautiful weather.


The architecture in Berlin is amazing.  So much about the city is new and the whole stretch along the former Berlin Wall has new construction going in.  Just a few years ago this strip of land was a no-mans land and a few years before that it was guarded with land mines and a shocking array of small arms.  In fact, many of the buildings in Berlin still show damage from the bombings and street fighting seen in WWII.  So, given the contrast with the vast array of ultra-modern architecture, its hard to believe how fast all this change has happened.


Berlin is absolutely funky.  We stopped by the Ramones Museum to take a tour of the artifacts.  Admission is €3.50 or €5.00 with a drink which is kinda a no-brainer.  You select a beer and then wander around the museum looking at the accumulated artifacts including an amazing collection of photographs from the early days of The Ramones.


Its also a beautiful city despite the absolute crush of graffiti that seems to spring up just about everywhere in town and the effects of a fair amount of drug use could be seen.  Not sure what that is about, but the city is beautiful nonetheless.  To add to that, were were smiled upon by mother nature as the weather was beautiful and ideal for David, Robert and I to walk around town, just taking everything in.


Decent, but not outstanding food was had, (though there was a rather delicious mid morning breakfast), but the beer was spectacular and the company of my colleagues was even better.


The people watching in Berlin was also pretty fascinating.  I wish there were time to walk around and do street photography or even simply find a cafe and sit streetside to photograph what comes by.  The most interesting faces are absolutely everywhere given the crazy diversity in Berlin.  It almost seems like Berlin has overtaken Paris as the capitol of Europe in a sense.  The number of people that come to Berlin from all over Europe to work and play was stunning.


The Holocaust Memorial or Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe is an amazing installation comprising some 2,711 concrete stelae on almost 5 acres right down the street from the Reichstag and one block South of the Brandenberg Gate.  The light throughout the memorial changes constantly and I have to wonder what the memorial would look like in winter, covered in snow…


Walking into the former East Germany was an interesting contrast.  While there is so much new and exciting about the former West Germany, the East side of the city looks very much like it did back in Communist days.  Dull and drab architecture that is slowly being turned over with new investments.  I was also quite pleased to run into a remnant of the Berlin Wall, which had thought was completely gone by this point.  Its hard to imagine that the wall stood as recently as 1989 in its completeness and even harder to conceive of what the implications of the wall were for politics, science, sociology, economics and the human condition.  I grew up reading stories of people attempting to defect by coming up with imaginative ways of getting to the other side of the wall.   Conrad Schumann was just one of over 616,000 others that made the escape.  Some through legal means, others through more unconventional means like hot air balloons which inspired the 1982 movie Night Crossing.


By the time we came back to the Reichstag, it was too late in the evening to see it from the inside.  The dome would have been pretty exciting to see, but that will have to wait for another time.  The Reichstag was one of many buildings that suffered tremendous damage in WWII, but is also a tremendous example of one of the many historical buildings in Berlin that have been preserved, restored and modernized.


The Sony Center Berlin was a pretty amazing place with movie theaters and eateries that opened in 2000 in the former no-mans land of the Potsdamer Platz.  Reading up on the history of Potsdamer Platz really is a must do as there is so much complexity and backstory there.  Click on that link to Potsdamer Platz and plan on a good 30 minutes or so of fascinating reading.


The time that I always find myself walking around cities is at night… after meetings get out or the like.  The good news is that Berlin has something to see at all times of the day including random art and art installations throughout the city.


One of the art installations we ran across was this mural in a corner of the Federal Ministry of Finance and an adjacent memorial dedicated to the uprising of 1953.  This was history I was unaware of.  There are so many layers of history, in this case starting with the building that was originally the Ministry of Aviation from 1935 through 1945 when it became occupied by the Soviet Military Administration.  This mural was commissioned by the East German government in 1950 to be a propagandist piece and serves as a substantial portion to the new memorial.


I also have to give thanks to good friends Mike Terry, Djamila Grossman and their friend Brooke McAdam who so graciously hosted us for dinner and wonderful conversation followed by a stroll through late night Berlin with Brooke serving as our tour guide.  Can’t wait to see you guys back in SLC.



16 Replies to “Berlin, Germany”

    1. Thank you Melinda! Hope you can get over to Berlin while you are in that hemisphere and we look forward to seeing you when you are back in the Rocky Mountains!

  1. Great post. I’ve not yet visited Germany, but its on my list. I’m also surprised that there’s any part of the Berlin wall still standing. We were in Southern California and visisted the Nixon Presidential library, which had a huge piece of the Wall on display. Seems like every historic figure wants a piece. Well done!

    1. There are bits and pieces of the Berlin wall all over Berlin. It seems that you are right and everyone grabbed a section for their library, coffee shop, curio shop, personal garden or art exhibit.

      Other friends of mine have chunks of concrete that were chipped and broken off. Its funny to think about, but the concrete that went into that wall seems to have traveled all over the world as everyone wanted a piece of that symbol of oppression and separation.

  2. The one of Strasse des 17. Juni is awesome. Looks like a picture taken with a tripod because of the clarity, but knowing what kind of camera you haul around these days, I imagine it’s handheld with a high-enough ISO.

    I walked past the part of the Wall a couple of times. The holes in It remind me of something I heard a couple of years ago: After the Wall came down people started selling little chunks of concrete as so-called original pieces. Some of those even came framed, with little remnants of graffiti on them. Added up, if all those pieces were real, the wall would have to be at least twice the size it really was for all those pieces of concrete sold. I’m not sure if anybody really went through the trouble of figuring that out or if it was just a rumour that stuck in my head.

    You are absolutely right about Potsdamer Platz. It’s amazing what urban planners can do with a piece of centrally located real estate opened up for development. Part of me is happy that Berlin Tempelhof Airport has been transferred into a park, but the occasional SimCity mayor in me was looking forward to what they could be doing with all that space. My last trip to Berlin was in 2006. It’s about time to go again and see what changed and finally go to some of the museums you’ve seen and wrote so much about now.

    See you.

    1. All the shots were handheld, even the night ones.

      It is funny how many places those chunks of wall have gotten to. I’ve had friends with chunks in their desks and behind framed panels.

      As to the airports… Supposedly they are shutting down Tegel. At least we were told that our flights in were some of the last which is probably good given all the cockroaches that were crawling over us there…

      As for Sim City… I have a confession to make… I am *totally* waiting for the next Sim City. I *loved* that game.

      1. Right now, there are massive problems with the new airport Berlin/Brandenburg (formerly Berlin-Schönefeld, no relation to me, as far as I know). It was supposed to open October 2011, then June 2012, now March 2013 but even that is doubtful these days. There are big problems with their fire protection and complaints of potential noise levels in the neighborhood, etc. And yes, once BER ( opens up, it’s the main airport of Berlin. Tempelhof closed in 2008, Tegel and what’s left of Schönefeld will close when BER goes online. So who knows, the way it’s going, if you have another one of these meetings in Berlin, you may go through TXL again.

        I am a little worried that SimCity is finally going to force me to buy a new computer. I’m stuck in 2006 and I doubt my hardware is going to be able to handle it, but oh well.

        1. Interesting… I just finished reading about the airport kerfluffle there. Looks like it is hugely over budget.

          As for Sim City… I hear you. Rocking an *old* MacPro here at home. Hoping I can still run it without having to upgrade…

  3. Thank you for all your Berlin stories and photos. It was a great inspiration for me since I spent a few days in Berlin last week. I was travelling with a grumpy 3-yrs-old, so my travel intake and photo abillity was much lower than yours, but still. If you’d like to see my Berlin, you’re welcome (in Polish, but you can still see the photos):

  4. Hi dear
    Do not bother
    I am Hassan Farazmand, graduate student in electrical engineering bias power in Iran
    I need to have complete information about the knowledge to build benches
    The seat had been publicly display illuminated in a recent exhibition in Berlin.
    Please help me in this regard
    Good luck to you
    Hassan Farazmand

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