Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Day 4 Berlin

Today I had an exploration day of the city of Berlin, I started at the Reichstag Building, I did have a ticket to walk the dome of the building but unfortunately it has been cancelled.

On 30 October 1991, the Council of Elders of the Bundestag decided that the historical Reichstagsbau the architect Paul Wallot should be restored and used from 1894 as the seat of an all-German Parliament. The ruins of the Reichstag had been rebuilt in the sixties, but was not used as a parliament building.

Inside there is a funnel-shaped dome light deflection element (cone) with mirrors, the diffuse daylight into the plenary hall leads ten meters below. The light is deflected by mirrors 30 rows of 12 mirrors, so that a total of 360 individual mirrors reflect sunlight. Around 23 meters high and 40 meters wide.

The building has since been completely modernised, and today's visitors can look out from the building's glass dome to get a bird's eye view of the hustle and bustle in the city.

Foster's dome is meant to symbolise the transparency of the democratic government and one can pass between its layers to witness the decision-making chamber of the government. The walk through the dome itself is stunning, culminating in sweeping views of the city.

I continued my walk and came across the Memorial to the Sinti & Roma of Europe Murdered under National Socialism.

My walk then came to the Brandenburg Gate a symbol of unity - While the only remaining city gate of Berlin formerly used to represent the separation of the city between East and West Berlin, since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 the Brandenburg Gate has now come to symbolise German unity. In addition, this gate made of sandstone is one of the finest examples of German classicism.

Built according to the plans of Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791, the Brandenburg Gate is modelled on the Propylaeum of Athens’ Acropolis. On both sides, there are six Doric columns supporting the 11 meter-deep transverse beam, which divide the gate into five passages. In 1793, a quadriga designed by Johann Gottfried Schadow was placed on the gate, which points to the east in the direction of the city centre.

The Pariser Platz in Berlin is considered as the city’s "best room” and indeed is also one of the most beautiful places in the capital. Around Pariser Platz, elegant town houses, embassies and the luxurious Adlon Hotel were built and the Akademie der Künste (Academy of the Arts).

This statue was within the arch I walked through to view the Gate from the other side.

I continued my walk to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The Holocaust memorial at the Brandenburg Gate is a memorial that is a stele-field which can be approached and walked through from all sides, serving as a central place for remembering and reminding people of the Holocaust. On an area of about 19.000 square metres, the New York based architect Peter Eisenmann set up 2.711 concrete pillars - so-called steles - of varying heights to create a grid-like structure. The terrain is smooth yet unevenly inclined. The wave-like shape of each side is perceived in a different manner depending on where one is.

I next came to 97 Wilhelmstrabe which in 1946 housed the GDR, it survived the bombings of the War and is now the tax office.

Around the corner was the Topographic Des Terrors, the terrain known today as the ‘Topographic Des Terrors’ housed the most important institutions of the Nazi terror. The National Central Headquarters of the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Reich SS Leadership, the Security Service (SD) of the SS, and the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA).

Here the wall has been left as it was after the residents took to it with hammer and chisel to break through and see the other side.

Again here you can get a since of the size and impact of the wall with the people photographed beside it.

All along the wall they have left the prison cells of the prisons for viewing, such horror that is so hard to believe was all happening in my own lifetime.

I visited the asisi Panorama: Die Mauer (The Wall) giving a unique perspective on the Berlin Wall. A 360 degree movie of life as it was. The panorama presents everyday life set against the backdrop of the Berlin Wall, on a fictitious autumn day in the 1980s.

The Berlin Wall has been recreated as a monumental panorama on a 1:1 scale by Yadegar Asisi directly adjacent to Checkpoint Charlie. The view from Kreuzberg to East Berlin on a day in the 1980s gives a unique insight into life in the shadow of the Wall. Discover the tears in the fabric of a divided city. The scenes and stories in the panorama show people going about their daily lives: moving house, painting graffiti, getting a snack, being a Wall tourist or the ubiquitous border guards in their watchtowers. History that can be so difficult to explain is made vivid.

Across the road was Checkpoint Charlie, along with Glienicker Brücke (Glienicker Bridge) was the best known border-crossing of Cold War days. The sign, which became a symbol of the division of Cold War Berlin and read like a dire warning to those about to venture beyond the Wall – YOU ARE NOW LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR – in English, Russian, French and German - stood here. It is today an iconic marker of territorial boundary and political division. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, it signified the border between West and East, Capitalism and Communism, freedom and confinement.

Today, the museum at Checkpoint Charlie shows an almost incomprehensible number of original means and tools that people used in their escape out of the "DDR": from the hot-air balloon to the Trebant up to the chairlift.

One must see the tiny car, whose trunk was not checked on the border because no border patrol could imagine that a person could be hiding in it. Or both of the cut open and placed together suitcases, in which someone also escaped. One of the most nightmarish exhibits is surely the spring gun machine, with which the "DDR" lined its West German borders.

The sign still stands today.

I walked then to the Gendarmenmarkt a beautiful example of an architectural ensemble full of harmony and it includes both the French and the German cathedral as well as the Concert House.

Built in 1688 according to plans by Johann Arnold Nering, the square was originally called Linden-Markt and later on Friedrichstädtischer Markt and then Neuer Markt. However, after being used from 1736 to 1782 by the military for sentry duty and housing their horses, it came to be known as the Gendarmenmarkt. After 1777, the square was developed uniformly according to plans by Georg Christian Unger.

Severely damaged in the war, the square was rebaptised “Platz der Akademie” in 1950 on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the Academy of Science. In 1991, it got its original name back. Numerous restaurants, businesses and hotels are located around the Gendarmenmarkt.

Neue Kirche (New Church; Deutscher Dom, i.e. German Church) Located across from the French cathedral, the German cathedral was built by Giovanni Si-monetti between 1701 and 1708 according to plans by Martin Gruenberg. From 1780 to 1785, Carl von Gontard completed the building by adding on the domed tower. The cathedral was destroyed in World War II and, after extensive restoration work, it reopened again on 2 October in 1996.

The Concert House (formerly Theatre house) was built as a theatre in 1821 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who was replacing the National Theatre, which had been constructed between 1800 and 1802 by Karl Gotthard Langhans and which had burned down in 1817. The design of the Concert House, or the Konzerthaus as it is known to Berliners, integrated what remained of the Langhans's rectangular shaped building and added a larger and wider building which was crowned by a pediment. After being destroyed during the war, the building was initially preserved and then the systematic, faithful restoration work began in 1979. After the reopening in 1984 concerts instead of plays were given in the Konzerthaus.

The French Friedrichstadtkirche was built between 1701 and 1705 based on designs by Jean Louis Cayart as a church meant for French Protestants (Huguenots) who had fled to Berlin. In 1786, while the Gendarmenmarkt was being transformed, the impressive tower of the French cathedral designed by Carl von Gontard and Georg Christian Unger was opened. The cathedral was severely damaged in World War II and was rebuilt starting in 1977.

I took on the ideology of Kevin always climbing to the highest point, and I headed up the 247 steps to the top of the French Cathedral and there were amazing views over the city.

I then continued my walk towards the famous boulevard Unter den Linden where I found the St Hedwigs Kathedrale.

And then the Humboldt University Buildings

On the street I saw this car one of the original cars from the days of old in Berlin

I next decided that I had time to see the Museum of History.

Minerva as herm made of marble.

Across the road was the Neue Wache a central memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany to the victims of war and tyranny.

I then returned tired and full of reflection to the freedom that I have always had the privilege to enjoy throughout my life, something that those in the West do not think about and take for granted. It is not surprising that as I walk the streets I smile at people and I do not receive anything in response, I just think that there is a heavy price paid by those living in Berlin of old and even through the lineage of the memories of the past to those who did not live through the atrocities. I am grateful.

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