Getting down to business

Just home after a day which was heavy on feet and minds. So we have taken off our shoes, made a cup of tea and sat down to blog.

First the weather. Just gorgeous. Forecast was for 12 but in fact it reached 16. The effect on the people and families of Berlin is amazing. They are out on the pavements chatting over drinks, out on their bikes, walking everywhere. You can see them coming out of hibernation. Mind you it’s not over – the next few days are not going to be like this – but you enjoy it while you can.

After a visit to the tourist office close by with a few queries, we hopped on the bus and off to town we went. Our first stop was the Brandenberg Gate through which we walked to make a booking to visit the Reichstag. On the way we paused at the Memorial to the 220,000 to 500,000 Sinti and Roma (the two main gypsy clans in Germany in the early 20th C), who were murdered by the National Socialists. A large circular pool contains a triangular stone at the centre – a reminder of the badge which had to be worn in the concentration camps – on the top of which a fresh flower is placed every day. The German openness to the presentation of this memorial is very reassuring.

It was not going to be possible to visit the Reichstag Dome today, so we left that for a later on-line booking and bussed down Unter den Linden (literally under the Linden trees) to what is called the Neue Wache. (translation – the New Guardhouse) This is a very stark building as you can see from our photos. It was built in 1818 and was originally a Prussian royal guardhouse. It is now an anti-war memorial. It consists of just one large square room with a hole in the ceiling (looks a bit like the pantheon in Rome), no decoration and the focus is a sculpture of a mother cradling her dead soldier son. It won a prize for the sculptor, Kathe Kollwitz. It is very sad to look at. Apparently buried beneath are the remains of an unknown soldier, a resistance fighter, and soil from nine European fields of battle and concentration camps.

We then went next door to the German History Museum, and spent the rest of the day there. We both felt that we needed some more German history to properly understand our experience here. We joined a small tour of 5 including one other Aussie. The guide was a very forthright young German guy who did his history study at the Sorbonne. It was only an hour long so involved a very quick run around the entire museum, starting in the year 800 when Germany came into being, up to the present day. Although it is still a bit messy in our heads, it did what we needed. At the end we realised that we also need to get some more Berlin history so we will do that next week.

The baroque building itself is very interesting. It is an old building, which was originally a Prussian armoury and then a museum devoted to the exploits of the Prussian army, and during the Nazi period exhibiting propaganda on WWI. From 1953 it became a museum of German history. Quite recently I.M.Pei of Louvre fame designed a very bold extension – mainly glass. It is very modern architecture, with flowing curves and stair cases, extremely light and fluid looking. It is quite inspired. We also went to an exhibition in this wing on Germany and Colonialism. Very critical of colonialism generally and in particular that acted out by Germany. We found ourselves thinking about our role in colonising and the effect on the indigenous population.

Came out pretty tired, were very tempted by “Berlin Horizontal”, hopped on a bus almost outside, relaxed momentarily with the locals at Wittenberg Platz, did a bit of shopping for dinner, and walked home. Our apartment is so convenient with a variety of buses and all only 10 minutes away. We are loving the apartment itself. It is so easy to live in – we could live in it for ever with a bit of downsizing!!

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