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Archive for July, 2011

Today’s Berliner Morgenpost included yet another story about a newly discovered Blindgänger, an unexploded bomb from WWII. When a 250 kilogram bomb is found, the surrounding area must be evacuated until the authorities can safely remove the bomb. This is the fifth Bindgänger found in Berlin since our arrival at the end of March: 6 April in Spandau; 5 June in Berlin-Buckow; 30 June in Berlin Zehlendorf; 5 July in Potsdam; and 6 July in Köpenick.

Blindgänger are verrry dangerous.

World War II continues to be very much alive for Berliners, as they read about or experience themselves the evacuation (sometimes as many as 7,000 citizens), as well as public transit and traffic disruptions when roads and tracks are closed due to a newly uncovered Blindgänger.

Today we set off on our bikes for a 20 km round trip to Treptower Park to revisit another reminder of World War II. This colossal monument to the Red Army was built from 1946 to 1949 in Treptower Park, a park formerly famous for the 1919 uprising where Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemberg assembled 150,000 striking workers.

Entry Arch to Soviet Memorial

The Motherland

Today the monument to fallen Soviet soldiers is what the park is best known for and is where 5,000 of the 80,000 Red Army soldiers who died in the Battle for Berlin are buried. The Battle of Berlin was fought from April 16 to May 2, 1945. As the German Army was nearing defeat, Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin. An estimated 100,000 German soldiers and 22,000 Berlin civilians also lost their lives during this battle.

The Red Army is victorious

The kneeling soldier honors his fallen comrades

On May 8th the formal German Instrument of Surrender was signed, stating that the Germans surrender to both the Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force and simultaneously to the Supreme High Command of the Red Army. The signing took place late in the evening May 8th, after midnight in the Soviet Union. Thus, the Soviet Union, and now Russia, celebrates Victory Day on May 9th. East Germany celebrated Victory Day until 1990.

The large scale of the memorial is hard to capture.

Colossal (see the tiny people?)

Those tiny people were Russian tourists.

Friezes along the pathway depict the horror of war and the valiant bravery of the Soviet soldiers.

The Horror of War

Brave Soldiers

The Mausoleum

Up the steps to the mausoleum, there is a room covered in mosaic depicting people grieving their losses. Today someone had lain fresh flowers as a tribute.

Fresh flowers for the fallen

In 2000, Vladimir Putin visited the monument and laid a wreath in honor of the fallen.

Putin visits the memorial in 2000

Pondering the fact that, during World War II, the Soviet Union experienced between 8.8 and 10.7 million military war deaths and about 13 million civilian deaths, the grand scale of the memorial is understandable.

On our way home we passed by a reminder of life after World War II—one of the last remaining watch towers in the border control system between East and West Berlin.

Watch Tower from the Divided City

Riding along the Spree, we had a good view of Molecule Men, the 30 meter high aluminum sculpture erected in 1999.

Molecule Men

According to American artist Jonathan Borofsky, the huge yet light and airy sculpture reminds us “that both people and molecules exist in a world of probability and that the aim of all creative and intellectual traditions is to find wholeness and unity in the world.”

Let us all be reminded not to kill each other.

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This spring we were treated to glorious long sunny days that brought us to Prater, a nearby Beer Garden. In April, only a few people were enjoying the outdoor tables.

Early beer garden patrons

As the days continued to grow longer and the weather cooperated, the crowds grew thicker.

More people at Prater

Warm evenings brought out the crowds

We enjoyed drinking beer in outdoor cafes as well.

Sunny cafe

The summer solstice brought a shift in weather patterns, with fewer sunny days and more socked-in cool rainy weather. Berlin is having the coolest early July in 130 years. Pulling out the guidebooks, we looked for indoor entertainment ideas. The New Sucessionist and Expressionism in Berlin exhibit at a museum near the Brandenburger Tor was worth a visit.

Tanzende by Otto Müller 1903

We wondered about the huge crowd of people nearby—waiting for the Kennedy Museum to open or for a latté at Starbucks?

Starbucks or the Kennedy Museum?

Across the street on Pariser Platz, next door to the US Embassy, the DZ Bank building has an amazing inner courtyard designed by Gehry.

Designed by Gehry

As the rainy days continued, we continued our quest for indoor entertainment. What better thing to do on a rainy Berlin Sunday than visit to the Pergamon Museum on Museum Island? Plenty of people had the same idea.

Pergamon

Pergamon 170 BC

The 6th century BC Ishtar Gate from Babylon was impressive

Ishtar Gate from Babylon

Ishtar Gate

A special exhibit from Tell Halaf, 3000 year old artifacts uncovered by Max Oppenheim in the early 1900’s in what is now Syria, was particularly amazing. In 1943, the Tell Halaf museum in Berlin was hit by a fire bomb and totally destroyed. The artifacts were smashed to smithereens, but somehow archeaologists were able to piece some of the artifacts back together.

Tell Halaf Woman

Tell Halaf couple

The Islamic Art exhibit included many beautiful carpets, hand-written and illuminated Korans, and this beautiful 13th century mihrab made in a city in Iran known for ceramics. The mihrab points in the direction of Mecca in a mosque.

Which way is Mecca?

During WWII, propaganda posters in support of the Allies were drawn in the style of Persian fables. Hitler’s face is placed on the body of the evil bad guy with the snakes coming out of his shoulders and Tojo tied to Hitler’s horse’s tail. Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt are sitting upright on horses, mimicking the heroes from the old fable.

Multi-culti Propaganda

I thought of Iowa potter Clary Illian when I saw this late Roman face pot from Egypt.

Late Roman Face Pot

Viewing so many antiquities put us in the mood for Greek food.

Apollon Restaurant

Richard ready to dig in

Walking home, I admired the Berliners enjoying the cool evening outdoors.

Hardy Berliners

Berlin, rain or shine, continues to intrigue me.

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