sábado, 30 de mayo de 2015

May 19 - Berlin, Germany

Brandenburger Tor
The Brandenburg Gate was constructed between 1788 and 1791 as the entry to Unter den Laden, which used to lead to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs. Today, it stands at one end of the Großer Tiergarten and leads to a renowned boulevard of linden trees. It was severely damaged during WWII (like much of the city), was inaccessible due to the Berlin Wall until 1989 when the wall fell, and was restored between 2000 and 2002.

Holocaust Mahnmal
The Holocaust Memorial's architectural style is surprisingly modern. It's 2711 concrete columns, or sreale, which are each 3'1" wide and 7'10" long; they all vary in height between 7.9" to 15'9". The monument is bought l built in a slump, so you descend into the memorial and eventually can't see your way out of the sea of columns. You can also go to an underground site, which is interesting to see. There are a ton with short clips about several of the prisoners, each one lasting about a minute, which tells a shortened version of their story. If you were to sit down and watch them all, it would take you over 6 years. How crazy is that?!

Homosexual Mahnmal
The Homosexual Memorial complements the Holocaust Memorial very well. It is across the street from the Holocaust Memorial and is of a similar shape, though larger than any of the individual pillars of the Holocaust Memorial. It is made of metal instead of concrete, but is of a similar shape. One of the sides has an opening in it, and if you look into the opening, there is a looped video playing of two men kissing. They have also added a clip of two women kissing, and it alternates between the two. It is dedicated to the gay men (and few women) who were murdered by the Nazis for being gay (most gay women weren't discovered and murdered, since it was easier for them to pretend to be straight). These "forgorren victims" weren't even discussed: in 1985, the then German president referred to them as the "victim group." It's hard to believe that just a short time ago gay men and women lead lives that weren't even considered recognizable, though LGBTQ rights are hardly protected today by many countries.

Victory Column is in the center of the Großer Tiergarten and is surrounded by a round about, which divides the park into four sections. It was originally in front of the Reichstagsgebäude, but was relocated here. Also, you don't need to play chicken with the traffic going around the round about to go check it out: there's an underground plaza that will get you there and back safely! (Obviously I realized that after I had already crossed the roundabout...) The column is beautifully crafted and almost glimmers in the sunset. It was constructed in the 1860s and early 70s to commemorate the victory of the Prussians during the Danish-Prussian War. By the time it was finished, Prussia had also won a war with France and Austria, which lead to the addition of "Victoria," a large statue on top to commemorate the "unification wars."

Großer Tiergarten
The Big Animal Garden is an amazingly beautiful park in the center of Berlin. It used to be the hunting grounds for the royal family, hence its name. Since then, it has become a public park. After WWII when Germany was in a very bad depression, the trees were actually harvested from the park to help the people. Since then, it has been replanted and is lovely to walk around in.

There are several ponds and streams with ducks and geese enjoying the park also. I sat down next to an old gentleman who was feeding the ducks bread crumbs, and I just thought it was so beautiful to see a kind, old soul feeding birds that most would shoo away or shoot for a trophy or to eat. The birds were very accepting of us being there, and even sat down and rested while we did the same. There was one duck who had a bumb leg and couldn't move very well, and she was perfectly content sitting right next to us getting personal service bread crumbs! It was a teaching moment for me about balance and how kindness can make an otherwise enemy feel comfortable being in presence.

There is also a portion of the park where it is acceptable to sunbathe in your birthday suit. Having never seen such a thing (or even having been to a nude beach), I figured I'd check it out. I read online that people will walk through the park right by those sunbathing and not even stare or give it a second thought, which I think is amazing. It wasn't until I got there and there were several others lying out enjoying the sun in their birthday suits that I decided to join them! Having never been naked in public before, it was a great experience for me. I'm now more comfortable with my body and nudity and wish it was more widely accepted.

Something to note if you're traveling to Berlin: taking a trip up to the dome of the Reichstag Building is great offers wonderful panorama views of the city, has an educational audio guide, and is definitely worth doing; one thing to note: while it's free, you need to either book tickets online or stop by and pick them up. You can't just show up and expect to go up. The building has some neat history too. It was opened in 1894 and housed the Imperial Diet until 1933 when it was severely damaged in a fire. Hitler actually used the fire to convince the public of the government's incompetence to help promote his regime. The building sat unused and exposed to the elements until the 1960s when it was sealed off and partially remodeled. It wasn't completely remodeled between 1990 and 1999. After its completion, it once again became the meeting place of the German parliament.

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