Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Berlin, part III.

I don't think many people think about Germany as once being the European super power, but its true. Hence the Brandenburg Gate, built by the Prussian monarchs in the late 18th century. It is the only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered. It is apparently one of Europe's most famous landmarks, although I am pretty sure the six of us had little idea of that going into our trip. Call us undereducated Americans, but none of us really know our Germany history prior to WWII. At least I know more of it know that I have visited and read all about it. Whats amazing is that this famous gate was stuck between East and West Germany divided by walls for almost 30 years.

The guy on my left (your right) was the saddest, most depressing looking statue actor ever. He was so good I gave them a coin, and then they forced me to sit in this chair for photos. I had no idea! They asked me where I was from and when I said Texas, the other statue guy just kept saying "Texas Ranger, Texas Ranger" and giving me the thumbs up. I was totally flustered.

Did I mention it rained for much of our trip to Berlin. Yes, indeed, it rained quite a bit. First it rained in Munich, then it rained for days on end in Berlin. It cleared up eventually, but we were quite damp for much of the trip. Sam even started a very artistic photo series of broken umbrellas littered across the streets of Berlin. As he put it "So many good umbrellas were claimed before their time." But we slogged through the bad weather (for the most part) to explore the Berlin Wall, the palaces at Potsdam, and of course the Berlin staple currywurst.

It was the residence of the Prussian kings (German emperors), until 1918. The parks and palaces include the featured Sanssouci Palace, which means "without a care." Believe it or not, the Sanssouci is actually a relatively modest palace. There are many other palace in the Potsdam park. Apparently is was super vogue for all the Prussian royalty to build themselves summer homes in this area. One of the more recent palaces is also the site of the Postdam Conference - the major post-WWII conference between the victorious Allies including Churchill, Stalin, and Truman. Sam stood right by Stalin's desk and we took a photo at the table where they negotiated the division of Berlin.

Currywurst is the iconic food of Berlin. It is basically a fancy hot dog in a curry ketchup, served with a soft roll or french fries, and delicious in its greasy goodness. It hardly feels refined, and it is most certainly not healthy, but they do serve it with tiny cocktail forks which you use to pick up slices of wurst and french fries. We ate it more than once, and it was good each time.

We spent a lot of time learning the history of the Berlin Wall, and this open air park and museum was the best site. The Documentation Center at Bernauer Strasse is actually situation on a space where the Communists leveled a church and relocated a cemetery in order to construct the wall. It preserves a section of the two walls as they were before it was torn down, with the "Death Zone" where anyone crossing was shot and a guard tower. We saw images and learned that they days after the wall first went up, the communists actually boarded up apartment building doors and windows of buildings that were on the boarder of the wall so that people could not jump from their windows into the West. In fact, before the wall there was just waist-high barbed wire, and there is a story and a photo of a man handing his child over the wall to the boy's mother in the East. Apparently the Dad had the boy for the day and the wire wall went up, with the mother at home in the East. The couple was separated and could not reunite thanks to the barrier and the guards enforcing the boarder, but they let the Dad hand the child to his mother so she could raise him. It sounds awful. In fact Communist soldiers were even known to make a break for freedom in the West by jumping the wall sometimes.

1 comment:

Tanya said...

Looks like a great trip!