Tag Archives: history of berlin

Berlin will never be Berlin

10 Jan

The history of Berlin itself is enough to draw anybody to visit the city – the Berlin Wall, world wars and the Holocaust. However we were also heading to the capital of the great country of Germany for another reason: to see in the New Year in true German party style. Getting there seemed simple enough – we had booked our flight and well, after you do that, you simply go to the airport, board the plane and get flown for a bit to your destination. That is if you in fact double-check your flight times and don’t assume anything has changed, which we learnt the hard way. After arriving to the airport with more than enough time to catch our 3.30pm flight, we were informed that our flight time had changed and were meant to be in the air and half way to Berlin that very moment. After painfully parting with 600-odd Euros for new flights from Helsinki to Berlin (that’s £5 for every minute we were on the two-hour flight!!), we touched down in Germany. Needless to say we enjoyed a strong and refreshing drink that night. Germany is loved for its attitude towards the need for its people to get merry in a massive tent with hundreds of fellow citizens all dancing on the tables and drinking beer from massive steins (read: Oktoberfest!) – and we love it too and is definitely a great way to wind down after a stressful day!

Burnt holes in our pockets aside, the next day we set off to see what it is in Berlin that so many people rave about… everything. We embarked on a walking tour which took us to the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial, the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the book burning memorial and various other historic monuments that tell us about Berlin’s interesting history. There are many memorable sights but perhaps the one that stands out the most is the Holocaust Memorial. It is a massive public space with 2,711 concrete columns standing, all of varying heights and thickness. The memorial is open for interpretation as the artist hasn’t conveyed the actual meaning of the structures. We immediately think of tombstones but after snaking our way through the memorial, the blocks seem to resemble the city itself where the smaller blocks on the outside build up to the taller ones at the end, perhaps conveying the re-building of the city of Berlin. Or perhaps it reflects the popular saying “Berlin will never be Berlin”, meaning that the city is constantly changing and perhaps the different sized blocks indicate the non-constant that is the city. Whatever the artist intended the blocks to represent, he has certainly got us thinking and I think it’s powerful that the memorial could mean so many different things to everyone who sees it.

Another highlight no doubt is the East Side Gallery – the longest surviving stretch of the Berlin Wall. It is basically a 1.2km long art gallery where each section is painted with beautiful graffiti and murals. Each panel reflects a different story such as the prevailing peace that the city now exists in, of the wall being torn down by Berliners and pictures of hope and survival. There is also the small fascination that is Hitler’s Bunker which is buried beneath a car park not far from the Holocaust memorial. We are taken here on our walking tour and are told how the car park now exists over the historical site and resembles the attitude Berliners have towards the tyrant, that he in no way deserves a dedicated place, but just a car park.

There is also the New Year’s Eve party – obviously a big reason why we were here. It is the biggest outdoor party in Europe to bring in the New Year. There was beer, lights, live entertainment, DJs, excited locals and visitors alike from afar, fireworks and all with the Brandenburg Gate as the backdrop – quite spectacular. It is no doubt a very cool way to see in a fresh, new year, one that we are as excited about as the last. I think it’s fitting for us to be in Berlin, a city of change, to reflect the changing of the years.

I wish we had time to re-visit Berlin and certainly more of Germany as it’s such a fascinating country. There is bratwurst, sauerkraut (no matter what your thoughts are towards it, it’s a weird and wonderful food), steins of beer, the fascinating history and the fact that this is the second time we have experienced good times in this great country. Here’s to an amazing new year and Berlin and Germany, we will always love you!

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Liv Hambrett

An Australian Writer in (North) Germany

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