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.