Berlin Postings – #4
The Wall came down and the two Berlins were reunited way back in the early 90s. As it turns out, it would take about another 25 years before they came together inside my head.
For the historically challenged, I will explain that the city got drawn and quartered after WWII by four different occupying nations. It was later re-stitched somewhat, but a big chunk was left off. Berlin became two cities, in two different countries, in two different economic and political systems. All the former streetcar lines and roads that had connected the two halves became mirror image dead ends.
European cities characteristically have an old center where the most awesome buildings congregate – the palaces, the opera house and theaters, the massive churches or cathedrals, the impressive museums, the renowned universities, the libraries, the City Hall . . . When the barbed wire went up after the war this old center, “Berlin Mitte” landed in the East and was off limits to me in many of my earlier visits. Instead of all these magnificent structures, I pictured East Berlin as a collection of non-aesthetic gray concrete blocks. But on Day 3 of this trip, we explored lots of the center on foot and those old false images got a correction.
Here’s a taste:
Gendarmenmarkt and the Neue Wache – a monument dedicated to the victims of war:
Bebelplatz which was the site of a huge book-burning in 1933 – I assume the first of many. There was a glass plate through which you can (normally) see an empty underground library – unfortunately the glass was so scratched and fogged up that I could barely make anything out:
Outdoor waiting lines made us decide to put off the museum for our next visit and the chilly air made us all crave a warm café and hot chocolate. On the way, though, we stopped at the Berlin Cathedral and ended up spending quite a while in there:
With a few hours to fill before dinner time, Ly’s sweetheart came up with an inspiration: American bowling. My daughters had never tried it and . . . (Warning! Confession!) . . . I used to be pretty good at it – even had my own ball. It was a riot.
The final highlight of three excellent days was a “jam session” in a club where patrons were welcomed to sing or play along. The sweetheart finagled getting my elder daughter onto the stage by calling her “(Mitzi) from Chicago”. One line into her “Ain’t No Sunshine”, the crowd started enthusiastically whooping and clapping. Then they settled down and really listened. The musicians kept her up there for two more songs and then asked her to come again the next day. While it was going on, my guilty Raven Mother conscience (for bringing my underage daughters into a smoky bar) faded as my inner Stage Mom emerged full force. I turned to the stranger next to me, pointed to the stage and bragged, “MY daughter!”
For going on twenty years now, I have been arriving at Tegel Airport and immediately handing over the reins to the world’s most gracious hostess (and, in later years, the sweetheart host). They drive me around, feed me, act as my personal tour guides. In recent trips, my family members have enjoyed this treat, too, along with sundry strangers from, let’s say, Kiel. In all this time, I never really had to know where I was – Ly had a plan.
For some reason, this time it occurred to me that I had no city map of Berlin in my head. So I finally bought one. I have studied it and located all the places I’ve seen and photographed . . .
That’s where I’ve been! What do you know!!