Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Day 68: Memorials

After our tasty treats, we headed back to the centre of Berlin to do items 3 and 4 on my list.

Side note: Everyone (and seriously, more than 2/3 of the people around us) has a map out today. Unfolded maps being read everywhere I look. The trains where we're transferring seem to be busy as well. It's either due to construction, it's always a busy transferring area (it's our first time at this stop), or... I don't know. I just haven't seen so many tourists in one spot before. It feels like something's going on and just don't know about it. Hmmm, we'll wonder forever.

There is a plaque that marks the location of Hitler's bunker where he committed suicide with Eva Braun.  Until now, I barely wanted to see Hitler's Bunker. I have recently finished reading "In the Garden of Beasts", which has peaked my interest in seeing the plaque. I don't really know why. Maybe to make the "closure" real. That this monster really existed and is really gone. I don't know.

But we head there. It really is just a plaque in the corner of a parking lot, across the street from a sports court, down a few blocks from the Jewish Memorial site. There is a small group of people reading about the bunker that used to be below. I told the kids they didn't have to read the plaque if they didn't want to. It was mostly information about the bunker itself (room dimensions, decorations, building materials). That was it. Not much about Hitler, in life or in death. Somewhat lacking in emotion or horror that fill all the other memorials around town. I'm not saying he deserves more. It is just an experience, difficult to describe, that such a hugely evil spirit has such a dismissive grave marking.

Just before the bunker, is the State Representation of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg building (a German region) that had a cool display. At the top of part of the building is a lighted "art" piece. There are many words that will light up in different orders making different sentences. We watched for a little bit, and tried to decipher them, but mostly were awed by the coolness of the idea. Later, I tried to Google Translate the two sentences we captured:

"We are not saying it right, therefore" (left building photo)
"I want to tell you why" (right building photo)

Buddy Bear (left) State Representation of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg (middle)
Hitler's Bunker (right)

As I mentioned, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is just down the street of Hitler's Bunker. Stop 4 on my list is just beyond there, so we walk through the memorial again. I think it's fitting to go through again, having just been at the bunker. The kids and I split up as we walk through, planning to meet up on the other side of the memorial (remember, some of the stone blocks are way taller than we are, so we remember to look for the Tiergarten and the American flag from the Embassy if we get lost).

It is a little difficult to have a peaceful time in the memorial. There always seem to be a lot of people going through, playing hide-and-seek with their group. It's hard not to. But, as people want to take photos, want to run through faster than their friend, it is hard to find a spot in the memorial for quiet contemplation.

As I walked through on my own, I noticed the rain (sprinkles, really) had created teardrops on the stones. How apropos.  A time to contemplate, even if just for a moment.

Then, as if the universe was continuing to align, on the other side of the memorial, a bagpiper stood alone. What was he playing? I could have sworn it was Amazing Grace. Although, by the time we got closer to the musician, he was playing something else. But in that moment, when I first heard him, I heard Amazing Grace. How apropos. We tipped him for his contribution to my day.

Bagpiper performer (left), Top of Brandenburger Tor (right)

Stop number 4 on my list is the Soviet War Memorial. I didn't know much about this memorial before today. We had seen it a few times from the bus and when we came to the Unity Celebration (although it was fenced off at that time and we couldn't see much). I took note from those brief viewings and decided I wanted a closer look.

The memorial has quite an interesting history (to me). It is on the west side of the Brandenburger Tor, thus it was on the west side of The Wall. But, the Soviets were on the East side of The Wall. So, this memorial, which was erected in 1945, after WWII as a burial site for over 2,000 Soviet soldiers, was mostly inaccessible to the Soviets during the time of The Wall (1961-1989). From my understanding, some were allowed visitations, but mostly it was cared for by the British. After 1989, the city of Berlin took over the maintenance and care for this memorial.

As we walked up to the immense structure, we see others walking through it. We follow. And there is another building behind the front structure with multiple plaques to read, as well as a large garden area. Again, with it being fall, the colours are stunning and creates a beautiful landscape for the fallen soldiers.

Top photos are the front of the memorial.
Flowers laid at the base (lower-left) and the back of the memorial (lower-right)

Garden areas behind the memorial (left), The information building (middle), more gardens (right) 

Ok, random set of bushes I walked into (yes, walked into) to take these photos.
Made me think of the setting of a Grimm's fairytale.

The first Soviet tanks to reach Berlin.

That was it for my list today. Although, I did sneak a number 5 in there. Again, having read "In the Garden of Beasts", I now want to visit Tiergartenstrasse 7a (at least that's what I think is the address), where the American Ambassador to Germany, Dodd, lived. But Google can't find this address. And now it's getting dark. The kids are ready to head home (although, they have been doing GREAT today with no complaining about all the walking! Just a quick wimper when it started to rain a lot at one point... but the rain ceased and so did the wimpering).

So, on the off chance that we can see Tiergartenstrasse 7a, I head us through the Tiergarten. If we can find it, great, if we can't, my path will take us to a Bahn station that will take us home.

A pond and statue in the Teirgarten

A monument that was reconstructed (as it was destroyed in WWII and/or unstable) and the kids walking.

The above monument (to Mozart, Beethoven, and Hayden) was actually first a statue of Venus. That was changed to the memorial to the composers, which was then damaged in WWII. After WWII, a tunnel was created under the Tiergarten, and the memorial was moved to be "saved" and then reconstructed with as much original parts as possible, back in it's original spot.

The Brandenburger Tor (left) and the Tiergarten tunnel "exit" (right)

Where Tiergartenstrasse 7a looks like it should be (from where we're standing and without walking closer) seems like... its where the Philharmonic building is. So, I'll have to research more on that later.

For now, we head to Potsdamer Platz to catch an U-Bahn home. Side note: I ran across this original S-Bahn sign (see photo below). Pretty cool, as I think it's the one seen in a recent AMAZING video we just watched that shows Berlin right after WWII (in Kodachrome!). It is cool and, simultaneously, horrific to see the "WWII ruined" city we've been living in for the past few months. And in it, is an S-Bahn sign (around minute 4:09), just like the one below:

And thus ends a busy, busy day of checking things off my to-see list. Yesterday, zero photos and under 3,000 steps. Today, over 200 photos and over 20,000 steps! Yahoo!

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