Saturday, May 8, 2010

Berlin Mitte Tour

Janet's friend Carol gave us an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G tour of Berlin Mitte. I had known that Berlin was a place full of history, but I hadn't fully comprehended just what "full" actually encompassed. This place is HUGE, and on almost every corner is some sort of remnant of the past. Even if it wasn't a full blown monument, the knowledge that somewhere deep below you lay something, SOMETHING from the past--it was almost overpowering. On the tour, Carol discussed the death zones that kept the East Berliners even further from the wall. She told us about a bar or restaurant that once existed years after the war that was beach-themed and had a floor of sand, the same material, ironically, that was found in those death zones. She never ate there, she said... and I don't think I would've either. That's just too...something. I wouldn't be able to do it.
Just that knowledge it seems--that awareness-- that something lay deeper below you... it's poetic. Masks, impressions of things from the surface, identity, layers, deeper meaning, symbolism, layers, layers, layers. Sorry for the craziness. It's late. Anyway, it just impressed me that SO MUCH could be hidden below. And that consciousness of this deeper history was something that definitely kept cropping up in all the monuments and commemorations that we saw.
One of the first places that really utilized the importance of location, and how it related to history, was the Ministry of Finance building. This building was built in the 1930's, and so it's architectural features demonstrated the overblown and cold characteristics of Hilter's sought after Germania. These features of the building were even further exaggerated when compared to a building from across the street, from only a decade or two earlier.
The Ministry of Finance building was once the old Luftwaffe headquarters and it was able to survive because it was made out of steel reinforced by concrete. We learned that in 1953, there was a workers' strike. Dozens were killed. Now there is a commemorative piece next to the mural completed just a yearor two before the strike. The piece is a long, enlarged picture of the striking workers, taken from a newspaper.
The mural is filled with depictions of what could be, what should be... and located mere feet away from the piece. The irony is SO. GOOD. The thought that was put in to that--combining reality with the idealized--just. so. good. I was really moved by it (obviously, haha).
Anyhoo, shortly after, we came upon Topographie des Terrors. And that was just in itself amazing. It dealt completely with those layers I was talking about earlier. It was placed on the old palace grounds of Prince Albrecht (I have no idea of spelling on this one) and was also the old location for the center for the secret police. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!? Like, really, those are such big things, big HISTORICAL, history-filled, important, noteworthy THINGS.
It turns out that on the 750th anniversary of Berlin brought a lot of renovation in the east. There was going to be an exhibition showing the history... and as Carol put it, "you couldn't just gloss over 12 years." So essentially, in the middle of the night, a group of people started digging. into those layers. of history. so cool.
You can see the lower levels of the Gestapo headquarters. You can see the remains of the wall. I'm glad they included all the hairy details. We can't forget.
So my paragraphs are getting shorter and my eye lids are getting heavier and the minutes keep flying by. I meant to be in bed two hours ago. I have a lot more I would love to tell you all about from this tour, but I just don't have the stamina. So I'm gonna go sleep now. We have a big day tomorrow. :)

"... everyday Germans telling on each other."
in regards to Topografie des Terrors and the whole system of the secret police.

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