Nazis + Communists= One Interesting City

Brandenburg Gate

Berlin, to say the least, is one of the most interesting cities I have ever been to. There is essentially no history more than 70 years old (because everything was destroyed in the war), but it probably holds more modern history than any other place in the world. Between the Nazis and the communists with the Berlin Wall, they really cover a lot of their bases over there in terms of big events in modern history.

If you don’t know by now, I went to Berlin last weekend on a solo trip, all by myself. I was a little nervous going into it, but I think in the end it was an awesome experience, and I am very glad I did it. I think I gained a little self confidence from it too, and realized I can figure a lot out on my own. The picture above is at the Brandenburg Gate, and as I was by myself, is one of the few pictures I have with a person in it. It’s basically just their big gated official entrance to the city. I’m going to try to give you an idea of what Berlin is like, and what I thought of the city in the three days I was there, but there were so many things to see, so it may be a little hard. Let’s see how we can do:

Holocaust Memorial

We’ll start with some of the Jewish history and monuments there, because that was one of the main things I found myself seeing all the time. If I had to come away with one thing from Berlin, it would be that the German government has really made a true effort to attempt to make up for some of their past mistakes, and basically shed light on how horrible their track record is. It seems like every block there is a new monument for this or that, many of which were dedicated to the Jews. The most interesting one by far was the Holocaust memorial (above). The picture doesn’t do justice. It is basically a big maze of grave-shaped blocks, that slowly get bigger as you make your way to the middle. Walking though is very powerful, as you feel like you get lost in the graves, as they tower over you. The only disheartening thing is this one small detail I learned on a walking tour. The entire monument was covered in this special paint to make it graffiti proof. Unfortunately, the company that makes the paint was the same company that supplied the Nazis with Zyklon B in the Holocaust.

Besides a couple old cemeteries and synagogues that were completely destroyed in the war, the other really neat Jewish related thing was the Jewish Museum. In the beginning of the Museum, I found myself walking through this entire exhibit comprised of just blank white walls (see picture below). Some of the walls looked like there was something there before that had been ripped off, but I basically thought they had just taken down an exhibit and hadn’t replaced it yet. After walking through these blank rooms for about 3 or 4 minutes, I got to a small sign that explained the rooms and the theme of the museum. The walls were not white for no reason, it was representing the “absence of Jews from German society” for 15 years in the 30’s and 40’s. The entire museum had different things like this, and was a very powerful experience.

Jewish Museum

Sticking with the uplifting WWII theme, another place I went to was Bebelplatz, the location of the famous Nazi book burnings. A plaque lies on the ground that reads (my German is a little rusty but this was the idea): The place you burn books, is the place you later burn people.

Bebelplatz

The creepy thing about this quote is the story behind the guy you wrote it. I should probably look up his name, but he wrote many of the books that were burned by the Nazis in Bebelplatz, and I guess he had changed his mind, as he was there right alongside that night, throwing his own books into the fire. He wrote the quote about 15 years earlier, and was one of the few people standing at this next site in our tour on one particular day in 1945:

Hitler's Grave

This tree and car park area today, was the location of Hitler’s bunker, and the location that his body was burned after he committed suicide. They referred to it as “Hitler’s grave” and is really just a creepy place to be. One of the tour guides (not mine unfortunately) refuses to leave until someone pees on the tree…

East Side Gallery

Alright, enough of the depressing stuff, let’s move on to the communists. Above is a picture of the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of the Berlin wall that still exists today. The whole thing is covered in these amazing murals, but is now unfortunately filled with graffiti. The interesting part wasn’t as much the Berlin Wall itself, but all of the stories that goes behind it, especially of those trying to escape.

TV Tower

Above is the TV Tower, built by the East Berliners to try to show their technological dominance to the west side. They hired Swedish engineers, who thought it would be funny to design it in a special way so when the sun hits the tower, a cross appears. The west of course thought this was the funniest thing ever…

8th Wonder of the World

What looks like an ordinary gigantic bowl, used to be the “8th wonder of the world.” This bowl used to be the biggest solid piece of granite known to man. It stands in front of one of the big museums where Hitler used to give a lot of his speeches. So naturally the Nazis decided to move it to give more space for people to stand, and when the communists took over, they wanted to move it back. To make a long story short, they only used one crane, dropped it, it cracked in half, and the 8th wonder in the world is now just 2 pieces of granite super glued together.

Don’t worry, I’m almost done. Here are a couple goofy things that the Germans do, that I thought were pretty funny.

Tree #1

That’s right. The Germans number their trees. In all of their organized crazy ways, someone along the lines thought it would be worth it to number all of their trees. Here is tree #1. If you don’t believe me, you can see the official count, along with other interesting Berlin facts, on this website.

Hotel Adlon

If you don’t remember it from the news, this is the famous hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony.

Now, because this post is a little too mature for me, here is another “Shmuck” bank, and “Exclusive Uhren”:

Shmuck Bank

Exclusive Uhren

Cheers

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2 Responses to “Nazis + Communists= One Interesting City”

  1. Bilbo 2 Says:

    they number the trees? Even I’m not that organized!

  2. rachel Says:

    I thought that was a very interesting blog. I learned a lot and wish i had gone there….one day.

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