Kabuki took her global team to Berlin for a week for some team building and all I got was a lousy teeshirt. Isn’t that what those stupid teeshirts say? Well in my case my wife outperformed (as she often does) and I got to hang out in Berlin for 4 days in her swanky hotel. “Schwing” as Wayne from Wayne’s world would say. Like many people — at least of my generation — I associate Berlin with those heady days in 1989 when the wall came down. It was such an optimistic time and it created the template for peaceful revolution that allowed other countries and people to believe that this could happen. Well, as this trip would prove, that was a long time ago. Not that the mood of optimism has vanished — to the contrary — but the distinction between east and west, the “wall”, the tension of the cold war, all of that has gone. I guess in a way that was both the promise of the revolution and a reasonable expectation of more than twenty years of integration. Anyway, I hadn’t intended to get on a podium and philosophise so let me get off my high horse and share some pictures from the trip.
First, and to shift the mood completely away from high-minded idealism, here are pictures of a duck. I like ducks. Really I like birds in general, I’m not overly preferential of ducks but being part of the larger bird family makes them good by me. Fortunately for my duck friend I had an amazing f2.0 prime lens in my bag and got some pretty decent shots of said duck:
Now obviously very few people travel to Berlin to see the ducks so much as it pains me … it’s time to move on to other topics. Most of the remaining pictures were taking in and around the Tiergarden which is in central Berlin. Around the periphery of the park you have the Holocaust memorial, Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag building, and many other fine tourist attractions. Much cooler than a duck but maybe not quite as personable. Here than is the Tiergarden … enjoy:
The holocaust memorial in Berlin was build in 2005 and has over 2,000 cylindrical blocks spread over 3.4 acres of land. It was built to create a sense of uneasiness and confusion that was representative of this tragic time. It was weird though being there as there were solemn moments in the memorial where you could reflect and feel the intent of the architects but on a warm summer day over 60 years after the end of WWII there were many young people who were playing and laughing and seemingly not behaving in a manner befitting of the memorial. Personally I went back and forth on this as I think you could argue their happiness and disregard for the seriousness of this memorial is an icon for human renewal that is both a great strength and potentially a curse to repeat our mistakes throughout time. Either way, I don’t think anyone had any bad intent and being a “glass half full” guy that I am I’m happy to pass on criticising their behaviour.
The Reichstag building is a classic. Build with heavy masonry and of an architecture very different from the modern era. After reunification the Reichstag again became the centre for German government. As there had been so much damage to the building during the war the modern Reichstag was built to mimic many of the older features of the building but also has an ultra modern core and dome structure at its centre. Pretty cool architecture and the contrast between the two styles is pulled off really well.
Because of my association of Berlin to “the wall” I was quite keen to see what remained of it. The answer? Very little. It’s amazing that something so important and iconic could disappear to the amount that it has here. I guess for some Berliners this is a very good thing. The wall represented the problem, the absence represents the integration and that things are back to normal. That said, I’ll speak up for the tourists and say I’d like more wall please. We did see a little part that was restored but it is in rather poor condition and I doubt it will last to many more years:
And of course it is considered “best practice” to always include at least one picture of yourself in your pictures so as to prove that you were indeed “there” rather than simply pulling others pictures off of google. Note the photographer is my lovely wife who made sure to include the word “madness” directly above me in the second shot. Accident? No, I don’t think so.
And then there’s “Checkpoint Charlie” which is now manned by beggars in fake uniforms who carry American flags but speak with a distinctly un-American accent.
Oh and a trip to Berlin wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the couch in our hotel. To be fair, it is pretty cool. At a distance the couch looks like it was a fabric on its surface but on closer look it’s just nails that have been bent over. Did I sit on this bed of nails? No. But I did admire it and capture it on digital film: