Thursday, June 12, 2008

More Berlin

So now I've finally more or less settled into life in Hannover, and have a bit of free time, it's time for me to post more photos from almost a month ago, in Berlin. Eventually I'll get up to photos from Köln and Amsterdam, possibly by December.

The Siegessäule, or Victory Column. Built by the Prussians to celebrate their victory over the Danish, and then updated with more frills and bobbins when they beat the Austrians and French.

This is one of a series of four statues along Unter den Linden, on the bridge crossing the Spree to Museum Island. All were very dramatic, as you can see with this one.

Humboldt University. The most notable thing is the vendors tables out front. Because the students who organized the Nazi book burning in 1934 were Humboldt students, the university now organizes the sale of books, 365 days a year, at discounted prices from in front of the university's gates.

Potsdamer Platz. This part of town was completely flattened during the war, and following it was a focal point of the Wall. After the fall of the wall, construction began, and this is now the most modern part of Berlin, with skyscrapers that look out over much of the city. The central tower contains what they proudly trumpet as "The fastest elevator in Europe!". They don't mention how many slipped discs are a result. I travelled to the top, where you get a panorama view of the entire city. Unfortunately, turns out I'm not totally over my childhood fear of heights and could only spend a limited amount of time up there. Oh and by the way, Europeans are very proud of their skyscrapers. When the church it the tallest building in many cities, anything bigger than 10 floors becomes a sightseeing point, even if it is an eyesore.

Memorial to the 1933 book burning, known as Bibliotek. It is found in the centre of Bebelplatz, the site of the infamous event. The memorial is a 7m x 7m room, sunk underground, lined with empty bookcases. The room has no door. The idea is that there is a "presence of emptiness" and that we cannot enter the room to get to the shelves - read: we cannot go back and change the past. An inscription nearby reads "Where books are burned, in the end people will burn" - Heinrich Heine; importantly, written in 1820.

This is the inside of das Sony Center, looking up. Awesome. This is also part of the modern reconstruction in Potsdamer Platz. The German premieres of Made of Honour and Sex and the city both took place here while I was in Berlin.

There was no sign or description for this sculpture in Marx-Engles square, making me think it is one of those things that's supposed to make you decide for yourself. Damn I hate thinking. Take note of the people contorted into unnatural positions, forced together into uncomfortably close proximity. Sleeping standing up. I'm thinking whoever made it didn't like the idea of communism?

The Palast der Republik, the former DDR headquarters. The building's being taken down because of what it stood for, and how that contradicts Germany's current aspirations for the future. Unfortunately, communists being cheap bastards, the place is full of asbestos and so can't be demolished, so it is being disassembled piece by piece.

The Rot Rathaus - or red city hall, the seat of government for Berlin. In front is the fountain of Triton. I had a better picture of it but someone ruined it by reaching into the fountain while I was taking my picture and now there's a butt in the foreground.

This is the headquarters for Berlin Water management. I think the idea is that if they screw up and the city floods, they can just swim away in their fish-building.

The best example I found of urban decay in the former Ost Berlin. Most buildings in this state are being repaired, restored or replaced. Berlin is currently the largest construction site in Europe, and with good reason. If they don't do something, all the old buildings built by the DDR will just collapse.

The Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche. This church was badly damaged during the war, but stabilized and kept as a memorial to the war. A new, uber-modern church was built right beside it and both are open to visitors.

Murals like this are all around Friedrichshain, former Ost Berlin. I don't know if they date before or after the fall of the wall, but they sure are interesting.

The Kreutzberg Turkish Market. We were recommended to go here by several people and so we headed down and had a walk through. I got some authentic Turkish delight, and others got small bits of food too, but you could really buy anything you wanted from food to fabrics to shower drains. And all while people are yelling at you to buy from them all the time.

This is near the Gemaldegalerie, an art museum. Of all the schrapnel damage all over this city, this was some of the most pronounced I saw.

Alexanderplatz Bahnhof. I went to this train station to get to classes in the morning. This station lies in the middle of a busy square with all sorts of cool stuff around, like department stores, bars, and the TV tower (Fernsehturm). The soviets established it as the center of their Berlin, and it remains a major centre of the city today.

Every postcard rack has at least one of this thing, the world clock. Not sure quite how to tell time from it, but it's pretty cool. The atom-thingy up top spins around.

Schloss Charlottenburg. The first King of Prussia, Friedrich I, built it for his wife, Charlotte. Lucky lady.

This is at the parade of the Karneval der Kulturen in Berlin, the largest festival the city holds every year. Devils seemed to be a recurring theme. Regrettably, I keep getting reminded of Borat when I see this picture......

Karneval der Kulturen parade again. These people were all super-dressed up and on stilts. You can't see it in the picture but one of the ladies was topless. The guy in front was a badass, kept showing off his full wingspan and staring down the crowd.

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