Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Berlin and the Wall - 3 May 2008

Checkpoint CharlieBeing of the generation that lived through the period of the construction of the Iron Curtain; its evolution to its final form in the 3.6m high concrete Berlin Wall; and the oft repeated news stories of escapes to the West, successful or unsuccessful, we would have laughed at the thought that one day we would be sitting in an apartment in East Berlin overlooking alfresco diners at cafes on the banks of the River Spee; but, due to the momentous events in November 1989, that is exactly where we found ourselves this weekend.

As the day dawned overcast we decided that Checkpoint Charlie should be our first visit of the day so we set off for the 'border' and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum

The Berlin WallThe idea that those in power feel so threatened that they have to imprison their citizens seems so anachronistic to those of us fortunate enough to have always enjoyed democracy and freedom and the displays at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum highlight the grim reality for those who found them selves on the wrong side of a line drawn on a map following WWII.

From the Museum we followed the line of the Wall to the Topography of Terrors, the remains of The SS headquarters, besides which there is preserved a section of the Wall in the state it was in 1989 when the jubilant citizens were busily dismantling it with whatever tools came to hand.

Charlottenburg PalaceBy then we were close to Potsdamer Platz so visited the striking new Sony Centre, one of the many examples of stunning modern architecture that pepper Berlin today.

After lunch we set off to catch a bus to the Zoo only to find that we were, once again, victims of a bus strike so, instead, we took the train to Charlottenburg Palace and walked the formal gardens and park

Charlottenburg PalaceTo complete the day of remembering and reviewing recent history we visited the Jewish Museum. This jagged building is thoroughly confusing to walk through. Though you ‘know’ it is vaguely linear, with a large slashed void through the space, the exhibits are laid out in such a way that you soon lose any idea of where you are or the direction you may be facing.

Jewish MuseumApart from being an amazing piece of design and construction, it is extremely interesting and poignant. In the large ‘void’ there was a most moving art installation entitled Fallen Leaves and the public is encouraged to walk over this. It consisted of hundreds of stylised faces of all shapes and sizes, hand cut from various thicknesses of steel plate and these clanked against one another as people walked across them.

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