Photo Essay: Heavy Rain and Heavy History in Berlin

by Ekua on June 7, 2012 in captured on memory card,Germany,race/culture/identity

And then the rain came. After that first warm and lively summer evening back in Berlin, a cold storm blew in and it poured for three days. I had more time to spend in Berlin than the average come and go backpacker, but not enough time to justify holing up in my dorm room for too long. I bundled up and went out to explore the history of Berlin, and the dark weather created a fitting mood for Berlin’s often intense and somber past.

The Fernsehturm (television tower) ascending into the fog. It was built in the mid to late 1960s and at 1,198 feet, it’s the tallest structure in Germany. The tower is located in the former East Berlin but is visible from many parts of both sides. Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the GDR at the time, wanted the tower to demonstrate the the regime’s power.

This fountain depicts the Roman god Neptune in the center and he is surrounded by four women who represent the main rivers of Prussia. Once located at the Berlin City Palace, this fountain was relocated to its current location near St. Mary’s Church after the palace was hit by Allied bombing in World War II.

Statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of the Communist movement. These statues were erected in 1986. Just four years later during reunification, citizens debated on whether this monument was a relic that should be torn down or if it should stay because these men are an important part of the city’s past. Eventually it was decided that the statues would remain.

Raindrops stream down bronze reliefs at the Marx-Engels Forum.

I did a free walking tour of Berlin which started on Unter den Linden, a main drag that leads to the Brandenburg Gate. One of the first things our guide pointed out was Hotel Adlon. This hotel has a long history of hosting famous people, including Michael Jackson. In 2002, he infamously dangled a baby out of one of these windows as fans and paparazzi looked on.

The Brandenburg Gate. It’s hard to believe that just over 20 years ago, this monument was walled in on both sides, preventing access for both East and West Berliners. When the Berlin Wall fell, the Brandenburg Gate became a fitting symbol for reunification.

The top of the Reichstag building. It housed parliament from 1894 until the Reichstag fire in 1933. The man who was convicted starting the fire was also accused of being a Communist and that gave the Nazis more leverage and support at the time. It went unused from then until reunification in 1990 when leaders gathered here for an official celebration. From there it was renovated and parliament activities resumed here in 1999. The glass dome overlooks parliament sessions below and it’s open to the public (you must register first). The dome’s location and style are meant to show the need for government transparency and that people are above the government, a change from previous eras.

The outer edges of the Holocaust Memorial.

Deeper inside the memorial, the columns get taller and more oppressive.

A Trabant, the main car of Soviet East Germany. These cars were notoriously dysfunctional, but for both personal and tourist purposes, you can still spot a few chugging along in Berlin from time to time.

I had no idea where we were when we stopped here. This utterly normal looking place was once the location of Hitler’s bunker. It was chilling to learn that we were standing where Hitler schemed and eventually committed suicide.

A socialist propaganda mural at the German Finance Ministry.

A plaque to remember the years of the Berlin Wall.

Checkpoint Charlie. Once the most well known crossing of the Berlin Wall, it is now a tourist trap.

The book burning memorial in Bebelplatz. The empty shelves under the glass recall the night of May 10, 1933 when the Nazis burned 20,000 books in this square.

A building of Humboldt University, a school where several people of note have taught and studied. Albert Einstein was once a professor here and W.E.B. Du Bois, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels were once Humboldt University students.

The National Memorial to the Victims of War and Tyranny at Neue Wache. The statue depicts a women with her dead son. A circular opening in the ceiling above the statue exposes it to the elements.

Detail and a bit of graffiti on the Schlossbrucke (Palace Bridge).

The tops of the Berlin Cathedral and the TV tower jut out behind trees. An ironic twist to the TV tower is that on a nice day, the sun’s reflection on its dome often takes on the shape of a cross, something the the GDR did not intend.

 The abundantly decorated Berlin Cathedral.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

InsideJourneys June 9, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Certainly a lot of history here.

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Wandergirl June 11, 2012 at 6:48 am

Wow – so much history! I’m managing getting to Europe again next summer, and am considering Berlin, as I’ve never really been to Germany. This post definitely inspires me to go!

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Ekua June 12, 2012 at 12:14 am

@InsideJourneys @Wandergirl – A ton of history happened in Berlin in such a short period of recent history… it’s pretty mindblowing. A lot of rough stuff, but I felt that this educational part was a pretty important aspect of being a traveler in Berlin.

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