Monday, November 8, 2010

Another Day in Berlin

Monday we went picked up where we left off the day before. We passed the Hotel Adlon where Michael Jackson had dangled his baby from the second floor. We looked in the closed doors of the best bookstore in Berlin. We passed the statue of Freidrich III, a really great guy. When we reached Bebelplatz, we stopped.

In the middle of Bebelplatz is a square of glass that looks down into a white room with empty bookshelves. This is the memorial to the 20,000 books burned during Hitler’s reign. The prophetic quote nearby says, “Once you start burning books, people won’t be far behind.” I don’t think that is exact but you get the gist. The quote was made 100 years earlier by one of the authors whose books were burned in the fire.

From there we walked into the former state library. It is part of the Humboldt University now. Humboldt is where Einstein taught before accepting a position at Princeton in 1932. Can you imagine how different our world would be if he had remained in Germany? On the second floor is a stained glass window dedicated to Lenin who spent his years in exile studying here. The best part of the building was the little café on the main floor. It is called, “Tim’s” and on the window is written, “Good food, good drinks, good company just like back home in Canada”. Naturally, we stopped to have lunch here. It is interesting how much lunch at a "Canadian" restaurant meant to us. When we first started this trip we wouldn't have gone anywhere near a place that looked North American. Now I even took a picture of the Canadian flag inside. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

After lunch we saw the Neue Wache. It used to be a memorial to those who lost their lives during facist regimes. Since the communists are gone, it has been reworked into a memorial to all those who lost their lives during war and tyranny. It has a replica statue inside of a mother with her dead son. The statue sits alone in a large grey room. Above her head is a hole allowing in light and weather. It is quiet and very moving.

Next to that building is the Zueghaus, the museum of German history. We spent the rest of the day here. It was well laid out and HUGE. What I got out of it: the Romans were here, then the Franks, Charlemagne came on the scene about 768 or so and was a great guy so the Roman Catholic church championed him and together they were powerful. During the medieval era there were lots of little kingdoms with feuding kings and the power shifted around as each monarch tried to expand his little area. Around 1400 or so Martin Luther caused a ruckus when he dared to suggest maybe selling little pieces of paper to get into heaven wasn’t the most spiritually sound idea. This and other suggestions eventually split the church and began religious feuding as well as political feuding. A whole lot of feuding went on for several hundred years.

Two of the best pieces we saw were Napolean's hat which was recovered from his carriage when he fled before the advancing Prussians and a mask worn by a doctor during the Bubonic Plague.

We got to the end of the First World War on level one and then went to level two for the Second World War and beyond. This was interesting as it showed Hitler’s ascent to power and attempted to explain how that happened. We then saw an exhibition on Hitler but we were kind of Hitler’d out by then so just went through quickly. It was interesting how many attempts there were on his life. People very high up in his regime realized he had to go and tried over and over to kill him but nothing took. He killed himself at the end of the war. Several of his followers killed themselves as well when they realized their vision of a glorious world free from everyone who didn’t fit their mold would not be realized.

At this point it was dark so we returned home. We had made it about three hundred yards or so down the street.


maryanncart said...

Hope to skype today...I am still cold...going to put on a sweater!!! May even turn on the gas fire place! Love Mom