Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Willkommen in Berlin!

So one of Ben's favorite things to do is look for "Denglish" what I would probably call "Deutschlish" with my general way of renaming mixed languages, but apparently "Denglish" is a well accepted term. Anyhow, that accounts for the title of this post.
There are soooo incredibly many things to tell about my week in Berlin, so this will just be the beginning, a taster, a tease. Something to whet the pallet.
I arrived in Berlin Sunday evening, the first of March. I was greeted warmly by Ben and Sarah Vierra, and was incredibly excited by the prospect of spending a week with these amazing people, and seeing this fascinating city. For those who don't know, I should give a real brief background on the people in question. I've known Ben since I first moved to Blodgett when I was 14. Having spent the past 12 years of my life being convinced that Ben's I went to church with were meant to be enemies, I quickly created Ben out to be such. Fortunately, I figured out within a year or so that this was a pretty stupid thing to do, so I can pretty safely say we've been friends since I was 15, which puts it at half of my life by this point. We went our separate ways in college, but would always catch up on life, and the tales of piano bandits, psychotic squirrels and deranged ponds whenever I'd come back up to Blodgett. I'd only met Sarah a few times before they got married, and only a couple more times since then, so I was looking forward to this week as an opportunity to catch up on the old times with Ben and to get to know his wonderful wife a bit better.
They're currently living in Berlin so that Sarah can do research for her dissertation which is focused on the Turks living in the city. She spends much of her days buried in museums doing research, while Ben works on his German and cooking skills. It's a pretty great situation, and they have an incredible flat to stay in. Fortunately that flat was also big enough for a guest, and so I happily descended on them for a week.
All that being said, I had a pretty massive history soaked city to explore. Monday morning I headed out of the house around ten. Ben had a meeting with a Hungarian lady whose husband works at the Hungarian Embassy. They met in German classes and now get together once a week for her to practice her English in order to better engage in small talk at the big embassy parties. So while he was off chatting, I set out to see what I could see in their area of Kreuzberg.
My first stop was a nearby cemetery. Anyone who knows much of anything about me knows that those are always HIGH on my list of things to see and do.
Should I get married? Should I be good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?
Don't take her to movies but to cemeteries
Tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets

(From Marriage by Gregory Corso)
So, yeah, I was excited to go there and wander around amidst the quiet, the still. There is something that is just so intensely powerful about spending time amongst the sleepers. I spent about an hour there and took some pictures that I really enjoy :)

After the cemetery I headed over to Victory Park. This park is situated at the top of the "berg" or hill for which Kreuzberg gets it's name. From here, on a clear day, you would be able to see most of the city. Berlin is very flat for the most part, which turned out to be a good thing for me as I walked a LOT while I was there. I hiked up the hill and got what I could of the view.

It was too bad the waterfall wasn't working at this time of the year. I'm sure it really is a very nice place in better season and weather, but instead it ended up being a wee bit disappointing.
After the hike I hurried back to the U-Bahn and headed to the famous Unter den Linden. This is a long street that runs though a lot of the oldest and most famous sights of Berlin. It's a wide street with a parkish area that runs down the middle of it which is surrounded, not surprisingly, but Linden trees. I made my way down the street and ended up at the foot of the Brandenburg Tor (or Gate). This was where I met Ben who was kind enough to take my photo :)

Next we headed to the Reichstag building where the Bundestag, or Parliament meets. This building was highly damaged during WWII and has been rebuilt with a huge glass dome on top where people are now allowed to go. From this dome you can look down and actually watch them when they are in session. The goal was to promote transparency in government. Interesting idea. Anyhow, after standing in the dripping cold for ages the line finally moved enough for us to get inside. We had to go through a security check and then took a huge elevator up to the rooftop. Again, the view was definitely dampened by the atrocious weather, but we still took in what we could of the view and had a nice walk up to the top of the dome.

Did I mention yet that I did and saw a TON on this trip? Cause I did! From there we went back down and headed over to the memorial for all the Jews killed in the war. This place was really fascinating. The artist purposely didn't give any sort of explanation for why he did things the way he did. He just wants people to come here and experience it on their own. It's hard to explain how it makes you feel to walk along through the lines of rectangular shapes. They vary in size and the ground undulates beneath your feet. Voices come to you from afar, and while you can see the outskirts of the monument it's easy to feel lost and small at the same time. There is such a weighty feeling in this place. One cannot help but take pause and recall the suffering...

Ben and I headed back to Unter den Linden when we were finished with the experience and he walked me through a number of the sights along the way. He admitted that Sarah was a much better tour guide, but she was busy working, and he had plenty of information. I don't even remember all the things he said, so any more would no doubt have been too much anyway.
There were naturally some people who didn't feel that the Memorial to the Jews was enough, as many other people have also died in wars, so we stopped by the memorial that is built to honor all lives lost in war. It was an impacting sort of place as well.

We moved on from there and went past the Berliner Dom, which is a very famous church. We weren't able to go inside, but it was impressive enough from the outside.

We also stopped by Marx-Engles Platz where Ben got friendly with the massive statues :)

I will leave you now with two of the most famous people in all of Berlin. Enjoy :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What fun. Wish I'd been there to tour with you when you were out exploring on your own. Jan