Thursday, April 22, 2010
A Grey and Somber Day in Berlin
Skies were steely grey yesterday when we woke up, and rain was in the forecast. We bundled up and went by U-Banh to the Jewish Museum, a stunning, zinc-clad, zigzag of a building designed by Daniel Liebeskind, standing starkly in the heart of the city. Here we spent more than four hours looking at a wide ranging exhibit showing the many thousand year history of the Jewish people. It was an emotional place, packed with history, artifacts, family memories, the proud accomplishments of generations of writers, thinkers, artists, architects, scientists, the numerous persecutions, diasporas, and of course the Holocaust. The building is so understated, yet elegant, and it enhances the viewing experience. It is mostly grey, yet pierced by bright shafts of light throughout. A great learning experience, many interactive exhibits, and yet we both felt we had only scratched the surface of what is there.
Later we walked across the city to Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate. While it was not raining, an icy wind was blowing, and we were glad to have many layers of clothing .... Brrrrr! Both those monuments were, well, monuments. The former just a booth in the street with a pile of sandbags behind it, and a soldier chatting with tourists. The souvenir stands around Checkpoint Charlie looked as big as some department stores! The Brandenburg Gate is grandiose, huge, has a feeling of being a set for a war movie (probably has been many times!).Most stunning was the somber field of stone stele (2711) set as a memorial to the fallen Jews. These blocks vary in height, so that as you walk among them, sometimes they tower over your head, and sometimes you look out across the whole monument. It is sobering and elegant in the minimal use of design to make a huge statement.Last night we made our way using public transportation to an out-of-the-way area for dinner at an Austrian restaurant, where we met our friends Ruth and Nick from Santa Cruz, and their daughter Suzy with her partner, Guenther, who live here in Berlin. We ate wienerschnitzel and goulash and had a nice evening out!And although it rained, and even hailed, several times yesterday, we missed all of it by being indoors!
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