Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Berlin, while not filled with tons of old buildings (due to 70% of it being destroyed in WWII), has a sense of history that is just as strong as any city filled with old architecture. It feel more pressing and relevant than other cities. This might have something to do with the amount of history that has happened in recent history. The signs of it's recently turbulent history is readily evident. From the little green man telling you to cross at cross walks, to the east gallery consisting of artwork on 1.4km of the Berlin wall, to the patchwork of new cement to fill in bullet holes on the surviving structures.

It is a new city, and construction is evident everywhere. There has been a building boom in recent history, so the center is very modern. This is set against the grungy, graffiti filled buildings of the east. All very neat to walk around. And walk around a lot I did.

I got into Berlin late afternoon, too late to see any museums, so I set out from my hostel (consisting of a bar downstairs with dorms above) to see what I could find. Immediately I stumbled upon the giant TV tower, a sight that I realized could be seen from just about any point in the city. This was convenient since my hostel was only a few blocks away from it, this I could lose myself and all I would need to do is head towards the giant TV tower. From there I headed down the main drag, checking out any building that piqued my interest. Finally I stumbled upon a concert, of all things. There was a festival in one of the main plazas celebrating Berlins hosting of the 2009 IAAS athletic competitions. I was excited because it looked like a band with a small orchestra, always a good deal. I was not prepared for the lighthearted affair that followed. It was truly tacky, if you can even use that word to describe music. Maybe it's something about Europeans, they loved it, I could only stand one song and I was out. Then again it makes sense with the Germans love for David Hasselhof (which I learned he sang swinging from a crane when the Berlin wall came down). Overall not a bad introduction to the city.

I filled my second day with museum visiting, as there was a cluster of museums connected in the Kultureforum. Only one was really worth visiting, from the ones I visited. After getting my fill of Dutch 14-18th art, and Rembrandt. I went off to climb the glass globe that crowned the German parliament. Along the way I stumbled back upon the square with he concerts. I watched a bit of an American performer and then a group from a country in Africa (I wish I could remember the name). The concerts were being sponsored by different counties, so there were a variety of acts over the course of the week. I caught a group of Shaolin Monks showing off their moves. Funny thing was that only two of the ten or so performers looked to be of Asian descent, the rest could have been all American as far as I could tell. But they put on a good performance demonstrating various fighting styles, including the drunken style (always entertaining).

But yes, the parliament. What a building. While the outside facades where original, the whole place had been gutted and a new modern interior installed. On the roof they had added a glass dome that gave a both a look into the main debate rooms, but also a panoramic view of the city. The best part was that it was free. I'm always a fan of viewpoints that are free. And it had a good audio guide that talked about a bit of the history of the building and some of the scenery that could be seen. And while it took almost an hour to get into the building, I was entertained by a group of American students with their eccentric teacher. Burnt red bald head, with a huge white beard, he was truly a character. I also got an excellent front row seat to one of his students doing an excellent Michael Jackson impression. It's good when those around you are entertaining, when stuck in a long line.

Yesterday I went on another excellent free tour. I got a good bit of history about Berlin, and some fun facts. A good at to fill the first half of my day. Although it was sad to see how some points of interest had been touristified to the extreme, leaving little desire in me to see the point of interest. It's always sad to see something of importance in history filled with tourist traps on all side. At the same time it was interesting to see just how the Berlin treated it's own history. While there is a $27 million memorial to the Jews killed, they have chosen to bury other parts of their history. Like the bunker of Hitler, where he killed himself. It is now sealed off, located 15 meters below an in use dirt parking lot. Only a small sign tells of what is located in that area. It makes sense in the fact that a sight like that is to grave to become touristy and all significance lost (like many of the other touristy sights). So better to make it completely inaccessible.

Berlin is full of interesting history, and the way it is presented (or not) is very interesting as well.

Anyway, after the tour I went to the long gallery along a section of the Berlin wall. I was expecting amazing works of graffiti and wall paintings, by alas most pieces where rather disappointing. I know thy the point was an expression by an international art crowd of the fall of the wall and reunification of Germany, but looking at it from an artistic perspective a lot of the artwork wasn't that great. Oh well, it gave me a nice stroll.

I spent my dinner (a chicken burrito from a chic food joint) at a park people watching. And what an entertaining bunch. I had a huge group of goth and punk teens around me, a set of kids break dancing and stepping (showing off for the girls), little kids running through the fountains timing it just right to not get wet, and several dogs playing catch in the fountain. It was good for a few hours of entertainment.

Well less than a week left till I fly back. Today is my last Tuesday in Europe, and I'm on way to my last big city before I go to London to fly out, Amsterdam. It's exciting and weird to be getting to the end of traveling. What seemed like a long time at the beginning has gone by rather fast (looking back). I've been away from home for 3 months, a quarter of a year. But I'm looking forward to seeing family and friends. As great as it is meeting people along the way, I'm a bit tired of the one or two day friends of traveling, and look forward to seeing people that will be around for a while.

Well, that's all for now.


Small orchestras...bad music...not good...but the history of Berlin, that's something to dwell on.
So glad you saved the best for last!
Can't wait to measure that beard!
love you much,silverstreak

The Hollywood of Europe???

Hey Jordan! Wow, that was fast. I can't bellieve you are getting near the end either. Seems like just yesterday I saw you in your office! Well, enjoy the rest of your time and safe travels back.