Berlin: a half day before returning home


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January 21st 2019
Published: January 21st 2019
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Morning Three: Berlin

Just enough time to walk to the Jüdisches Museum before heading to Schönefeld Airport. We have planned a route that zig zags past various sites but the ‘cold and the fret’ (Richard Scott) is full in our faces so we default to the shortest pathway possible.

We visited the museum, famous for its angular design, when it had just opened in 1997. It still feels like nothing is truly vertical or perpendicular. It is the building that you are visiting and understanding more than its exhibits.

The only entrance is through a old baroque building then via a staircase that descends to the main space. Three axes present an uphill struggle for the visitor. One to Exile, one to Holocaust and the last to Continuation. You ascend each of the pathways but their destinations can’t be seen. They cross each other, nothing is simple, with a cold tower and only a slit of light, a garden of 7x7 pillars set an angle, or an empty void of grey concrete with roughly cut steel plate faces scattered upon the uneven floor like autumn leaves.

We are glad that we saw the museum when it first began. The feel of the Kreutzburg district was different then. My memory is that there was much open space with the angular building standing in isolation. And the building was completely empty....... now there is more script on the walls and artefacts behind windows in niches ....... I was affected by the quiet desolate feeling of the place.

Having said that, my favourite experience on this occasion was in a first floor space designed for temporary exhibits. The question, ‘What is it to be a Berliner Jew these days?’ was asked of children, artists, and activists and a busy inviting set of their displays captivates. The children’s video installations were particularly to the point using animation techniques and simple juxtaposition of ideas and images to reveal their understanding of Jewishness.

And there was the opportunity to make comment on cards and hang it on chains of previous visitors’ cards.
The elephant in the room? Amongst numerous hopes for peace and tolerance a good number said words similar to this card: ‘How can a culture/religion so terribly oppressed, killed and abused (6 million Jews killed in WW2) now allow the state of Israel to persecute and pursue the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians?’

And we pass a huge mural of an elephant on the way back to Hotel Angleterre where we pick our bags.

The railway ride to the airport passes the old Berlin Tempelhof airfield. A huge arc of the terminal building remains by what is now one of Europe’s largest public spaces.

At the airport we meet Ewan who ate out at a restaurant last night recommended by German doctor friends. He and Helen was sat at a table adjacent to Angela Merkel!

So goodbye to Berlin. A fabulous but rather short stay. We must come back.

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