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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Visit to Berlin

I thought Berlin was going to be dark, dreary and depressing, but it wasn't. I was totally surprised by how much life and energy was in this city.

Our tour began like most others, with a visit to "the wall". Today's "wall" is mostly a display of art and graffiti.

Much of "the wall' has been torn down, but there are reminders imbedded in the street identifying where the wall had been.

There are also places where the wall is part of an outdoor exhibit. In this area, you can see two walls, with an area of grass between them. This areas is known as the killing field. It was in this area that many people were killed as they tried to escape and flee to the West.

I found it interesting that huge blow-ups of some newspaper articles were on the sides of some buildings, such as this 1961 photo of a German soldier fleeing while the West was filming a documentary. The soldier hoped he would not be shot while the cameras were rolling, and he was correct; he lived.

Another rather powerful exhibit is the empty library.This is an easy display to miss because it is within a square and underground, covered by plexiglass.

A reminder about books being burned and destroyed during the Nazi occupation.

The Berlin Monument to the Murdered Jews is another powerful monument, very much resembling a mausoleum.

There are also names of murdered jews embedded in the sidewalks scattered all through Berlin. These are called "Stumbling Blocks" and include the individual names of Jews who used to live on that street and were taken from their home and murdered. The man behind this effort is an artist named Gunter Demnig. Today there are 5,000 of these blocks in Berlin and 45,000 stumbling blocks in 16 European countries.

Yep, I enjoyed Berlin.
I'm one of those people who gets easily overwhelmed in places with bad woojoo (like Alcatraz) or places where lots of people died (like Gettysburg). I expected that in Berlin I would be a basket case and need to spend the night in a bar drowning my pain, but I wasn't.
I was very pleased to see how open and transparent the city was about a rather difficult chapter in their history; they were using it as a tool to teach, learn, and move on from.  For me, I liked my day in Berlin.