Thanks Berlin

My last entry for this blog and sadly my last night in Berlin. Thank you Berlin. It’s a great city that goes about it’s business in an unpretentious manner. Berliners are able to express themselves without fear of being ridiculed or being singled out as being different. Many people in Australia could learn a thing or two about how to welcome people that appear different and practice different religions, but ultimately have something constructive to offer Berlin. My second time to this wonderful city in two years and I dare say it won’t be my last.

Brandenburg Gate – Memorial to the Murdered European Jews

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Mauerpark

Every Sunday session at Mauerpark a karaoke session takes place where anyone in the crowd can get up to sing. Whilst I was there an Australian guy sang and without bias he was probably the most entertaining. The crowd is huge and on such a warm day, it is a welcome relief to see guys selling beers. There is also a market which I have not seen the likes of before. I’m not usually overwhelmed by the many markets we visit, but this one is mesmerising.

Olympiastadion

So yesterday in the 31 degree heat (I know it’s freezing in Melbourne) I ventured to the Olympic Stadium. Most people of a certain age know about the history, especially the 1936 olympics where Hitler snubbed the gold medallist, the black America Jesse Owens, because Owens did not fit within his philosophy of the superiority of the Aryan blood lines. Thankfully times have changed and the most important thing about the stadium, especially to Berliners, is it’s the homeground for the Hertha BSC football team who play in the Bundesliga competition. Doing a guided tour allowed access to the change rooms, the warm up 100 m track and the chapel for the players and coaches.

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Art Day

The 9th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art is organised by the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. The one ticket price of 16 euro allows entry in to four wonderful art galleries. I visited the KW Institute within the first few days of my arrival in Berlin and so decided in my last few days here to explore some of the other participating art galleries. The first gallery I visited two days ago was the Akadamie der Künste, which other than the art on display, has a wonderful view of the Brandenburg Gate.

After a quick ride on the public transport (You realise how archaic the Melbourne system is), I arrived at the Feurele Collection, another participant gallery in the Biennale. Where else could you view art work on a miniature railway?

My final art exploration for the day was a visit to the Sammlung Boros. I made a reservation for this tour before I left Melbourne as they are only open at limited times. This is a private art collection exhibited in a bunker. This bunker is actually above ground with massive thick concrete walls. In fact so thick that when organising the bunker to display the works, a diamond drill had to be used to remove some of the concrete. The owners of the collection live in the penthouse purposely built on top of the bunker.

Tiergarten

In between visiting some photography galleries today, I spent some time strolling through the Tiergarten. Originally the park was the hunting ground of the Prussian monarchy. The 215 hectare park is the second largest park in Berlin behind Tempelhofer Park. At the Junction of five roads that transverse the park is the Victory Column. The Victory Column was built to commemorate various wars in the 19th when the Prussians were victorious.

During the cold war, Tiergarten was located within East Berlin. There are various statues and monuments in the park dedicated to communist heroes and victories.

 

Autostadt

So I travelled to Wolfsburg, approx 90 mins from Berlin by train, to visit the VW Autostadt. Not being a car enthusiast I wasn’t sure what to expect. But all I can say is wow!

It is billed as a theme park but it is much more than that. It is next to the VW factory which when looking from the outside is huge, and it is, approx 28 kilometres square.

My first activity for the day was to ride in the tower. This is one of the two towers that contain the cars ready for people to come and collect them. The ride takes place in a glass cubicle that uses the same crane and hydraulics as that used to move the vehicles. In practice people can come to the Autostadt to collect their new vehicles with VW being a host for the day. When people are ready to collect their vehicles, it takes approx 48 mins to get it from the tower to the person. One of the images below shows a sign that notifies people of which gate they are to go to to collect the vehicles.

the park itself contains pavilions, one for each make of car that VW own. It is as if VW own all the makes of cars in Europe. On display is; VW, Audi, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Sköda and Porsche.

STASI

If ever a building was to symbolise the communist era of East Berlin this would be it. On the outside it appears Spartan and somewhat in the brutalist form of architecture. This building was the headquarters for the GDR Ministry of State or STASI. I think even the coffee shop was reminiscent of the communist era with a couple of home baked cookies and nothing else on offer.

The display was an excellent piece of work, outlining the duties of the STASI and how they achieved their aims. It finishes in 1990 when people occupied the building to prevent the destruction of documents.

The offices of Erich Mielke are preserved in their original condition and form the centrepiece of the historic site.

Dresden

Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the border with the Czech Republic.

Dresden has a long history as the capital and royal residence for the Electors and Kings of Saxony, who for centuries furnished the city with cultural and artistic splendour. The city was known as the Jewel Box, because of its baroque and rococo city centre. The controversial American and British bombing of Dresden in World War II towards the end of the war killed approximately 25,000, many of whom were civilians, and destroyed the entire city centre. After the war restoration work has helped to reconstruct parts of the historic inner city, including the Katholische Hofkirche, the Semper Oper and the Dresdner Frauenkirche as well as the suburbs.

The baroque building appear to be many years old. However most of them have been rebuilt since reunification. Today I visited the Dresden Frauenkirche, a Lutheran Church only having been reconsecrated in 2005, as well as the Zwinger which was originally a fortress. Reconstruction of buildings in the original architectural style continues in the city centre today.

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum Berlin (Jüdisches Museum Berlin) is one of the largest Jewish Museums in Europe. In three buildings, two of which are new additions specifically built for the museum by architect Daniel Libeskind, two millennia of German-Jewish history are on display in the permanent exhibition as well as in various changing exhibitions. German-Jewish history is documented in the collections, the library and the archive, in the computer terminals at the museum’s Rafael Roth Learning Center, and is reflected in the museum’s program of events.

People are requested to commence the journey through the museum at the lower level which is in fact below ground level. It is this poignancy that adds to the atmosphere whilst reading and looking at family artefacts, about the Holocaust.