First Day in Berlin

I started the day with breakfast at the hotel. Breakfast in Germany is a little different. It consisted of rolls, deli meats, and fresh fruit like peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. There were also hardboiled eggs, various breads and spreads, and cereal. After breakfast, I grabbed my backpack and camera, and hit the streets. Not knowing where I was in relation to anything, the first thing I did was find a map. Luckily, there was a newspaper and magazine stand that had a map. I bought it, figured out where I was, and set off. The first street I headed toward was Kurfuerstendamm. This was a fairly big street I had read about, and my map showed it headed straight for the Gedaechtniskirche (Memorial Church), which I had really wanted to see. The church itself consists of three buildings: the bell tower, the old tower, and the new memorial hall. The old tower was severely damaged in World War II, and was not completely rebuildt. Instead, a new bell tower and hall were planned. The new hall is an octagon with colored glass panels set into concrete honeycomb walls. In this building is a giant organ with 5100 pipes. The Stalingrad Madonna is also located here. This is drawing of a mother and son made by a German soldier while he was in besieged Stalingrad. He did not survive, but his art did. I came back to the church later in the evening for organ vespers. The sound is so beautiful, and I was carried away from myself. Go listen to it if you are ever in Berlin.

After I finished exploring the church, I headed toward the Tiergarten. This is a giant park on the west side of Berlin. The 17 of June Street (commerating a workers uprising in East Berlin) runs through the park toward the Brandenburg Gate. The Siegessaeule (Victory Column) stands in the middle of the park. Originally built as a monument to the three wars that led to a unified Germany, it now stands as a testament to German history. Many of the monuments and memorials in Berlin have been redefined by the people and government. They no longer stand for nationalism, but instead stand for reconciliation and openness. The view of the city from the top of the Victory Column is very impressive, and I could see everything- the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Fernsehturm (TV tower in East Berlin), and the whole Tiergarten. I then walked to the Brandenburg Gate, which appears to be the place to protest anything. (The two days I’ve been here there have been two different protests there.) Near the Brandenburg gate is a small place called the Room of Silence. It is totally quiet inside as an appeal to tolerance and meditation for all. It reminded me that tolerance and acceptance starts with listening, and listening can only happen when you are silent. To find a place like that in the middle of a bustling tourist area was very surprising, but very enlightening.

It was getting late, and I wanted to get back to the Memorial Church for the organ vespers. I wound my way back through the Tiergarten. I stopped by the Bellevue Palace, where the German president lives. It has a huge lawn, and looked to be a great place to hang out in front of. After the vespers, I stopped by a grocery store and picked up some rolls and fruit for meals the next few days. I finally made it back to the hotel, exhausted but content.

Old tower of the Memorial Church.
Old tower of the Memorial Church.
The crucifix inside the new memorial hall.
The crucifix inside the new memorial hall.
The Victory Column in the middle of the Tiergarten.
The Victory Column in the middle of the Tiergarten.
One of the memorials to Soviet soldiers killed while attacking Berlin.
One of the memorials to Soviet soldiers killed while attacking Berlin.
A very famous monument in Berlin.
A very famous monument in Berlin.
A statue of Otto von Bismarck in the Tiergarten.
A statue of Otto von Bismarck in the Tiergarten.
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