It’s been unsettling reading news from afar about the violence by the hands of white supremacists in Charlottesville and the response from our government. We were talking with Anke this evening and learned the city of Dresden has 10,000 alt-right supporters from the city and surrounding area who show up every Monday to rally. They’ve been doing this for two years. It’s died out in other cities, but remains a strong and consistent event in Dresden. She says a much smaller group shows up in opposition to the alt-right, but it’s not enough to keep the movement from growing or simply thriving. This is why it’s heartening to read posts and emails from friends, organizations, and leaders banding together to fight the good fight! It was also heartening to be in Berlin, where they are working hard as a city to own their past and push forward messaging about peace, love, and anti-fascism.
Berlin was like a living, breathing museum. No matter where you go, you can’t avoid learning about its history. We are sore from all the walking but loved the opportunity to learn more about the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, and other small or significant events in history. We also were struck by all the street art and large amounts of graffiti found everywhere. Berlin is a really stimulating city. Our senses were overwhelmed.
A few things of note:
There are tons of bikes in Berlin. Lots of them are amazing steel frame classics. All types of people rides bikes, from small children to the elderly. There are a lot of separated bike paths where cars and bikes travel separately, but there are also streets like this one where nobody (cars, bikes, or peds) heeds any traffic laws:
Our apartment happened to be near Bernauer Strasse, where the Berlin Wall cut right through the middle of the street, blocking off many through roads and access to the subway. It also happened to be where the following photo (posted on the building) was taken, of an East German soldier jumping over barbed wired to escape. Apparently this was a normal occurrence, so the guards themselves began to be locked into the areas they were guarding so they wouldn’t try to bail, too. The wall also increased in size as years went by and more security measures were deemed necessary. In my photo you can see remnants of the wall on the far right, and lots of kiosks with info about that particular section of the wall.
We also learned about how many unarmed civilians were killed near the wall or in “No Man’s Land.” People were shot accidentally or because they looked like they were doing something nefarious. Some were soldiers, a large amount were children, and a few were actually trying to escape. We stumbled across this memorial with more sections of the wall in the background.
There is a large section of the wall left along the Berlin waterfront called the Eastside Gallery. That’s where you can find most of the tourists and some incredible pieces of art from so many different types of artists. It was captivating. Lots of the messaging felt very pertinent for the political climate in the US and the state of our country.
One of the only tour tickets we purchased was for the Olympia Stadion, where the infamous 1936 Olympics were held under Hitler’s regime. Sue is a longtime Olympics fan and trivia buff, so she was really pumped to see it. The stadium was striking and creepy at the same time, even though the interior has long been updated to host Berlin’s soccer team and major track and field events. There have also been major changes to the VIP area where Hitler and his friends would sit to view the events, most likely to keep neo-Nazi followers from coming and showing their respect.
The glass roof is new, but this is the original Olympic flame holder from the games. Did you know Hitler’s 1936 Olympics pretty much came up with the idea of the torch relay from Greece? It’s been at every Olympics since.
And a view from the other side, with an eerie bell tower in the distance. The bell from that tower was knocked down during the war, but is still on display near the stadium. Swastikas have been adjusted so they are not quite swastikas anymore. There is a new bell in the tower now. There is a large field below the bell tower where a World Cup archery tournament was taking place, which is also where Hitler-Kinder fitness camps happened during the Nazi era. Thousands of children would take part in calisthenics and other training activities on the fields.
We also tried to visit Teufels Berg, or Devil’s Mountain, on the western side of Berlin. It’s a large park with a huge hilltop site that holds the remains of a former US Cold War Listening Station. We were inspired to go visit by some photos we had seen, as there is a lot of cool art mixed in with the ancient-looking structures. Sadly, we only got a quick glimpse because of the INSANE amount of mosquitoes on the premises. I couldn’t handle it and was having a mild panic attack. We essentially just circled the hilltop and continued back down. Maybe next time? You should look it up.
For just 3 euro you can have a photo with these two guys at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the hottest tourist spots in town. You can also almost get hit by a tour bus because the narrow streets on each side aren’t closed to through traffic.
Speaking of traffic – Berlin also loves its vintage pedestrian lights. They love them so much they have their own tourist store in the train station.
They also have really hip advertisements for their new subway line that’s under construction.
The cemeteries are filled with locked watering cans so people coming to tend their family plots don’t need to carry them everywhere.
We’ve also seen more than a few people picknicking, sunbathing, or just reading in cemeteries. This totally makes sense — it’s the quietest place to be in a big city.
We also found out what happens to old headstones? We think?
There is so much amazing street art and sometimes less amazing graffiti, it can almost be overwhelming:
There was just so much of everything. Perhaps a city to be revisited. Here are a few more photos, just because there was so much and we are making a stretched attempt to pull everything together into one post.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, commemorating the up to six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust
Vintage Steel Bicycle cafe and delicious lunch spot
Old church + East German-era TV tower
We’ll leave you with this one to finish. We are deep in the midst of our “Anke Training Camp” in Kiel and need to head out for our afternoon map practice. More on this later. Thanks for reading!