Published: November 10th 2005November 11th 2005
It gets dark here really early now. Berlin is really far North, about as far up as the southernmost part of Alaska (Southernmost part of Alaska is about 55° Lattitude and Berlin is about 52°). By about 1 or 2 in the afternoon, the sun is low on the horizon and it starts getting dark around 4pm now, wich sunset around 4:30. By about 5pm it feels like the middle of the night. Sunrise too is not until about 7 or so. It has also been getting significantly colder too, with highs in the lower 50s and lows of just above freezing. There are not too many days left for outdoor excursions so I am using my time to do as many of of the remaining ones as I can.
Today I made an excursion over to the other side of Berlin to visit Treptauer park, which is another one of Berlin’s many large parks, but also a particularly important one which has the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin and is also the final resting place of some 5000 unknwon Soviet soldiers. The memorial is both typically communism, with its overkill and gaudy magnficence but also quite impressive and moving. It is a large square, a little longer than a football field and a little bit longer. Around the edges are poplar trees and some other sort of tree. They are pruned so that all of their branches bow inward in mourning for the soldiers. On one end of the memorial is the sculpture of a Russian woman, probably a mother, mourning for the loss of her son (a remarkably common even in Russia, which lost 1 in 8 citizens in the war - many of them soldiers). One could also interpret her as Mother Russia herself mourning for the loss of her sons. Then, there is a long set of concrete steps going up the center of the memorial, which is a broad platform flanked by two red-granite triangular slabs, each with a russian solder underneath bowing down in mourning. Then at the far end of the park is a hill with a small shrine on top and a huge statue of a Russian Soldier, carrying a massive sword who is crushing a swastika while he rescues a German baby from the future under Nazi Germany. It is a impressive statue. It is also about really big! - about 30 feet tall. Inside the shrine is desiged to look like a Russian orthodox church, with, what I think is supposed to be Stalin, bowing in respect of the fallen soldiers.
It was an interesting excursion. I am realizing how important the Second World War has been Russians and their national pride. Our tour guide was telling us at the Russian-German museum, that many Russians see WWII as the one good thing in their history this century, which started with the Czars, then WWI, then the Communist revolution and purges and after the war, more communism and purges and corruption. But WWII is something they see that they did right - fighting against one of the most dangerous and evil men in history and defeating him at massive personal loss. (Needless to say, the more recent openness by the Russian government about the atrocities that it committed during the war and that Russian soldiers committed has badly damaged this pride).
After the memorial, I went to a performance by the German Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonie house. It was a great performance. They started with something called Toccatta for Orchestra by a guy named, I think Tubin (the programs cost like €3 so I did not buy one and therefore cannot check on that). Then they played Dvorak’s first Cello Concerto (one of my favorite concertos) and then Mahler’s First Symphony. We played that with Amherst, but it is so great to listen to it live all the way through by a professional orchestra. I had forgotten just how magnificent piece of music it is! Mahler was a strange composer, but he was also a musical genius!