MEMORIAL SITES

Berlin can’t be separated from Second World War and the Holocaust tragedy: to visit Berlin means to retrace some of the saddest moments of human history, and this cannot leave us indifferent. In any case, recalling the past help us not to forget. This is a trip through the Memorial sites of Berlin: it’ll not be easy, but it’s necessary.

The Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

According to Eisenman’s project, the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent an ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.
However, some observers have noted the memorial’s resemblance to a cemetery, cause of the field of grey slabs that resemble rows of coffins. While each stone slab is approximately the size and width of a coffin, Eisenman has denied any intention to resemble any form of a burial site.
The memorial’s grid can be read as both an extension of the streets that surround the site and an unnerving evocation of the rigid discipline applied. Walking in the middle of the pillars, higher towards the center, you can really feel what loneliness, powerlessness and despair mean. Suddenly, You’re totally isolated from street noise and sights of Berlin, wrapped in an unnatural silence.

The space in between the concrete pillars offers a brief encounter with the sunlight. As visitors wander through the slabs the sun disappears and reappears. One is constantly tormented with the possibility of a warmer, brighter life. Some have interpreted this use of the space as a symbolic remembrance of the history of European Jews whose political and social rights constantly dropped.
I read so many hypothesis of symbolism about the different height of the pillars: some claim that the downward slope that directs You away from the outside symbolically depicts the gradual escalation of the Third Reich’s persecution of the Jewish community, first forced into ghettos and removed from society, separated from family and finally, “removed” from existence.
Some have interpreted the shape and color of the grey slabs to represent the loss of identity during the Nazi regime.
And finally, some of the blocks appear to be unfinished. Many see this unfinished appearance as asserting that the task of remembering the Holocaust is never over. 

East Side Gallery

The East Side Gallery is in Mühlenstrasse, to the Sprea riverside, in Friedrichshain neighborhood. Walking in the strip of land between the two wall -nowadays You can see some sections of the west wall-  You can admire the famous Oberbaumbrücke over the Sprea.

East Side Gallery, like the name says, was the part of the wall facing east. At the moment of the fall of the wall, the future East Side Gallery was immaculate white: it became a huge palette for mural artists of the period. Thanks to this, the only piece of remaining wall survived.

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Memorial of the Berlin Wall

This monument celebrates the division of the city and the death resulting from this sad situation. Built in 1998, it’s situated between Bernauer Straße and Ackerstraße, it extends along 1.4 kilometers. It consists in a Visitor Center and the Documentation Center, but the grounds also include the Chapel of Reconciliation and the excavated foundations of a former apartment building whose façade functioned as the border wall until the early eighties.

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Checkpoint Charlie

It was an important checkpoint located between the Soviet and the US sectors. Located in Friedrichstraße. 
Created in 1961 after the construction of the wall, it was the only passage for allied military forces, visitors and diplomatic staff.

After riunification,  the checkpoint was removed and nowadays the original guardhouse is inside the Alliierten Museum. In 2000 was inaugurated a  faithful reconstruction of the first american control cabin, today a touristic “meeting point”.

to be continued…

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UNTER DEN LINDEN

Literaly “under the basswoods”, this is one of the most elegant avenue in Berlin, that connects the Museum Island to Brandenburg Gate, in Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin. This is for sure the most famous area of the city, with many important buildings, like the Opera House and the “Kronprinzenpalais” (palace of the heirs to the throne). The boulevard is also studded with embassies and university buildings.

The Brandenburg Gate, a monumental gate built in the eighteenth century as a symbol of peace, is Berlin’s most famous landmark. During the Cold War, when the gate was located right near the border between East and West Berlin, it became a symbol of a divided city. Curiously, when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, it became instantly the symbol of a reunited Berlin, with people flocked to the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate.

The Brandenburg Gate is situated at the end of Unter den Linden, that cuts through the center of Berlin. The gate was originally part of a wall surrounding Berlin and was the main entrance to the city. It is the only gate that remains of this former city wall. Architect Carl Gotthard Langhans based his design on the Propylaea, the gateway to the Acropolis in Athens. The gate was named Friedenstor (Peace Gate) since it was meant to symbolize a period of peace after years of war during the reign of Frederick the Great. Quite prophetic, isn’t it?

The gate has five passages: the central and widest one was reserved for the royals; the adjacent passages were for use of the aristocracy while ordinary citizens were only allowed to use the outer two. The bronze quadriga of victory crowning the gate was created in 1793 by Johann Gottfried Schadow. The four-horse chariot is driven by the winged Goddess of Peace.
In 1806, when Berlin was occupied by French troops, Napoleon ordered the quadriga to be taken to Paris. After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the quadriga was triumphantly taken back to Berlin, and was turned into a symbol of victory: an iron cross and eagle were added to the laurel wreath. At the same time the square near the gate was renamed Pariser Platz and the statue on the quadriga was called Victoria, from the Roman Goddess of Victory.

Gendarmenmarkt is another famous square of Berlin: created at the end of the seventeenth century as a market place – the Linden Markt – it’s really characteristic for the presence of three landmark buildings: the Französischer Dom (French cathedral), Deutscher Dom (German cathedral) and the Konzerthaus (Concert hall). In the middle of the square is a statue of Friedrich Schiller, a famous German poet. The Französischer Dom and Deutscher Dom are two seemingly identical churches, situated opposite each other on either side of the Konzerthaus.
The oldest of the two is the Französischer Dom, built between 1701 and 1705 by the Huguenots, a religious community persecuted in France that sought refuge in Protestant Berlin.


Right in front of Brandenburg Gate, You’ll find the so called Reichstag, an imposing neo-Renaissance parliamentary building. Constructed between 1884 and 1894, mainly funded with wartime reparation money from France, was initially a parliament with weak powers, infact most of the legislative power was in the hands of the chancellor and, until 1918, the emperor. The Reichstag played a significant part in Hitler’s ascend to power, after a fire broke out in the building, with Hitler, at that time chancellor, blaiming the Communists. The building was not repaired and was damaged even more at the end of the Second World War, when Soviet troops entered Berlin, and never used like before till the birth of the reunified Germany. The highlight of the new Reichstag is its striking glass dome, added to the project cause of the insistence of the German government. Nowadays it’s open to visitors, who can look onto the plenary hall below. You can walk onto the roof of the building for views over the area or, even better, ascend a helical ramp that brings you to a viewing deck with unique views over the city.

If You’re not tired yet, You could proceed walking along the Tiergarten, the most famous park in Berlin: it’s bisected by the wide 17th of June Street (Straße des 17. Juni), which culminates in theVictory Column (Siegessäule), a red granite column crowned with the statue of a golden-hued goddess. The monument was built in the late nineteenth century to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Prusso-Danish war of 1864.

to be continued..

HEART OF BERLIN

Next day we decided to explore the Mitte area, the most historical area in Berlin: from our hotel, we crossed Oranienburgerstrasse, where You can find some interesting buildings, such as the “Postfuhramt” – it was an ancient stable with two hundred horses employed to delivery mail – and the “Neue Synagoge”, the largest synagogue in the world, completed in 1866, but sadly set on fire during Kristallnacht in 1938, and after also damaged in 1943 by air raids. It was reconstructed starting from 1987.


We continued to the Sprea island (Museumsinsel), where are located many international museum of the city. The history of Museum Island started with King Frederick William III who, in 1810, commissioned the creation of a public museum on Spree Island.  In 1822 Karl Friedrich Schinkel drew up plans to develop the island, and a first museum building, the Royal Museum – nowadays the Altes Museum – opened in 1830. The museum was built to allow the general public to view the royal art treasures of Prussia. The other museum were established during XIX century. Sadly, most of these buildings were destroyed during World War II and, after the conflict, the collections were split up between East and West Berlin. After German reunification the collections were brought together again and a masterplan was drawn up, to not only restore all five museums but also expand and modernize the museum complex.


We took the chance to visit the Pergamon Museum, where you’ll find a remarkable collection of Greek, Roman and Babylonian antiquities. Highlights include impressive monuments such as the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, the Market gate of Miletus and the enormous Pergamon Altar. It’s really impressive to see such kind of artifacts included in closed rooms, with for example, Ishtar Gate that nearly reach the ceiling.

After the visit, we took a stroll around the Museum complex: crossing the colonnade, You’ll reach the Dom, Berlin’s main cathedral, that was built at the end of the XVIII century as a protestant counterpart of the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The cathedral is lavishly decorated in the Baroque style.




The basement of the cathedral holds the Hohenzollern family crypt. It contains more than ninety sarcophagi, including that of Frederick William, the Great Elector.
If You don’t have fear of heights, you can climb to the dome and enjoy a great view on the rooftops of the city.


The garden in front of the Dom is called “Lustgarten”. The garden was originally created as an exotic garden for Princess Luise, spouse of the Great Elector. King Frederick William I, the so-called ‘Soldier-King’, turned the garden into a military parade ground. Here you find Altes Museum, reopened in 1966 as a museum of contemporary art, it houses nowadays ancient Greek and Roman antiquities. The building resembles infact a Greek Ionic Temple.


to be continued..Cris

 

CITIES OF THE WORLD: BERLIN

I’m not sure about where I have to start speaking of Berlin. In February I leaved without many expectations to visit it for the first time, so I admit I’ve been taken by surprise from this city. What do you think first about Berlin? Probably the first things you remember are historical events: Second World War, the cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall…and so on.

What can I say is: you’ll find in Berlin all of these, but also much more. Strolling throught the streets of the several quarters, you’ll perceive the many souls of the city: there is a Renaissance Berlin; a contemporary one; a place where abstract and graffiti art have significance; a city which offers ideas in many fields, sometimes alternative and still a bit subversive.

Personally I was surprised by the capability of this city not to succumb to the shadows of its past: Berlin could have eclipse after the destruction and the senseless violence of the war: ever since the creation of a unified Germany in 1871, the nation’s tumultuous history has had a profound impact on the history of its capital Berlin.
Many historic neighborhoods and monuments were destroyed during the Second World War, but since the reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, historic areas like Potsdamer Platz and Pariser Platz have been completely revamped. Nowadays, Berlin is once again one of Europe’s main cities: lively, dynamic and inviting.


With the following posts, I’ll retrace my steps and accompany you across some of the salient points of Berlin, starting right now from the Castle of Charlottenburg. We arrived in the afternoon, and we started right away our exploration from this western district, even if we couldn’t visit the inside of the residence.

This is the biggest historical palace left after the Second World War in Berlin, though burned to the ground during the Second World War but it has been completely reconstructed. The palace was built at the end of the 17th century and was greatly expanded during the 18th century. It includes much exotic internal decoration in baroque and rococo styles. A large garden surrounded by woodland was added behind the palace.
Originally commissioned by Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich III, and built as a modest summer residence, the Schloss still nowadays show the grandeur of the Hohenzollern dynasty who for centuries ruled over Prussia.

The central and oldest part of the palace is the domed Altes Schloss (Old Palace) Here you can visit the apartments of Frederick I and Queen Sophie Charlotte. The rooms are decorated in a sumptuous Baroque style with plenty of stucco, wood paneling, gilded ornaments and frescoes. Other interesting rooms include the Oval Room, which looks out over the garden; the opulent Schlosskapelle, a chapel with an impressive royal box; and the Porcelain Chamber, laden with more than two thousand pieces of Chinese porcelain.

to be continued…

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: BERLIN

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“Per visitare Berlino bisogna saper vedere anche quello che non c’è più e saper intuire una ingannevole realtà. Qui gli eventi sono cicatrici sul volto della storia, ma la loro capacità evocativa è intatta. A Berlino nulla resta più visibile di ciò che si cerca di cancellare.”

“To visit Berlin must be able to see what is not here anymore, and be able to grasp a deceptive reality. Here events are scars on the face of history, but their evoking ability is unaltered. In Berlin nothing remains more visible than what you are trying to delete.”

(Johann Bernhard Merian)