We drove to Berlin on a cold and rainy day via the Scharnebeck boat lock where boats are moved up and down in a huge lift in place of many locks. It sits as a 10 storey building, in the midst of a rural landscape where it creates a vital link in the canal traffic between the mountains, the flatter northern industrial areas of Germany and the North Sea. It is an amazing concept and one China is emulating on the Yangtze.
We saw another wrapped schloss (castle) in Ludwiglust and began to think that Christo is franchising! This schloss, as others, sits amidst huge 150 acre parklands and dates back to the 1730’s. It was built for Duke Frederick von Mecklenburg-Schwerin and as we had visited another of his homes the day before in Schwerin it felt as if we almost knew him! The guide books have a number of ways of describing the impact of the period after WW2 on such buildings and as we walked through this schloss we read:
“After dispossession during the course of land reform it housed the local administrative authorities” This doesn’t describe the massive damage and neglect that took place and the
Schloss at Ludwiglust
Every castle and important building in Germany seems to be undergoing restoration -this is one example with Col, Gerd and Deanna all going in different directions in the forecourt
immense cost to everyone in restoring important buildings to anything like their former beauty.
The first getting lost in Berlin occurred on our drive into the city. Between the navigation system lady, the four of us, many kindly citizens, a policeman and a rival hotel we managed eventually to reach our hotel in a quiet side street close to the centre of the city where Reinholt and Anna Marie joined us the next day (but only after the second getting lost when Col and Gerd went to pick them up at the airport).
Not being completely stupid, after those experiences, we left the car in the hotel car park and took to foot, bus, train, boat and taxi to explore Berlin and what a city of contrasts it is! There are hundreds of building cranes where a frenzy of building has the new beside the old, and the repaired bullet holed walls of churches and museums sit alongside stainless steel and glass constructions. To see Berlin from the land by bus or foot and then from the water is to see very different cities as you link the remnants of the old and new, the east and the
west. The authorities seem intent on tearing down all signs of communist occupation eg: Berlins City Castle was blown up, leaving only a single façade, by the GDR who built the East German parliament and an entertainment centre on the site, and it is now being pulled down to reconstruct the palace. This is causing tension for Berliners who grew up in the Eastern part and see it as part of their history and believe that only their history is being destroyed not that of the West.
There are only a few remnants left of the 155 km wall that divided Berlin. One tiny section has been preserved to provide a history and show the damage done immediately after the wall was torn down by looters and those who wanted to tear it down with their bare hands. Another part of the wall along the river is claimed to be the world’s largest open air graffiti gallery - 1.3 km long.
For some reason I had always imagined the Tiergarten as a pleasure park but it is a beautiful 3 km long, 200 hectare park in the middle of the city going right up to the Reichstag and
Above the Reichstag
The roof was destroyed in the war and has been replaced by this spectacular glass dome.
the Brandenburg Gate. It was originally royal hunting grounds that became public park lands. Looking at it now in its spring greenery it is hard to imagine it in 1945, in a time of famine, when they chopped down most of the trees to plant potatoes. There and along the streets and waterways a massive tree planting exercise is covering those kinds of scars.
After reunification in 1990, the German government determined that the horrors of earlier generations were not to be forgotten. The Jewish museum and the new holocaust memorial are both very informative and moving to visit. The Pergamon museum is incredible and reminiscent of the British museum has one of the world’s greatest collections of marble, tapestry, pottery and sculpture from Greece and the Middle East. The parliament is in the Reichstag which has a cupola over the plenary hall and you can walk up to the top. (Formed like the Opera House car park as a double helix, it is high above the ground with magnificent views). It is clear why this building is significant for all Germans. The wall was immediately in front of the Reichstag separating it from West Germany. The space in
front was where demonstrations, speeches and visitations took place and perhaps it is no coincidence that they are building a small temporary replica there of the Olympic stadium (where the World Cup matches will be held) so that people will be able to watch the games on big screens. Only this time it is a commercial undertaking!
The Bauhaus Archive was a must for us to visit. There are no remains at Dessau or in Berlin of the original buildings so Mies Van der Rohe designed this museum to preserve and show some of the achievements of the Bauhaus movement in the 20’s and early 30’s. We saw a few familiar chairs there!
The disparity between the extreme wealth of the rulers and the poverty of all others lies at the bottom of unrest over the centuries and when you see how the wealthy lived it is understandable. We visited Sanssouci, the residence of Frederick the Great in Potsdam. It has countless rooms of marble, gilt and sumptuous furnishing. He built another palace in the grounds specifically for drinking and carousing decorated with images of wine, women and satyrs and with tiered gardens in front to grow figs
Another view above the Reichstag
Your worst fears are realised -multiple lots of Col and Lyn!!
and grapes for his debauched feasts! His wife was left to tend to her own affairs in the huge palace at the bottom of the grounds and was probably very thankful!
Neo Gothic, Baroque and Rococo features abound in the memorable churches and castles we’ve visited, and it is hard to believe that many were reconstructed after fires and war damage. The Kathe Kollitz sculpture of a mourning mother in the Neue Wache war memorial is a moving memorial to the victims of war and tyranny. Kollwitz lost her son in WW1 and was a peace activist herself so this seems a fitting place to put a replica copy of such a beautiful piece.
On a lighter note we went to the Philarmonic (quite reminiscent of the Opera House in its interior detail) to see a Gala night of Opera. The ACO will be performing there next month whilst on their 2006 tour. We went to the Brohan Museum with it’s large Picasso collection and we visited the Leibermann House, home of one of Germany’s leading impressionists, at Wansee where Peter (a friend of Deanna and Gerd’s) guided us through. It was at Wansee that the National Socialists
So much history happened around this site!
made the decision to exterminate the Jewish population throughout Europe and it was an eerie feeling driving past the building where the conference was held.
On our last day we visited the remains of the Kaiser-Wilhelm- Gedachtnis-Kirche (church) which is left as a permanent reminder of the effect of WW2 and then we wandered by bus, tram and train through this city we both have come to admire in our short time there. There is so much to see in this city of over 3 million people and it is hard to leave.
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