“Ich bin ein Berliner” – I wish!

Is Germany on your list of places to visit? Then you must be male and either a beer or a soccer fanatic! But this belief of mine was shattered when I visited Berlin last month. After spending 3 glorious days in the city, I too wanted to be a Berliner. There are some peculiarities to getting into Berlin, the Tiegel airport is a strange one with security check points at individual isolated gates and not much by way of food or shopping. But at the this airport you can buy a ticket to ride, your pass to all that is Berlin. The Berlin pass allows free access to all forms of public transportation and is also good for reduced entry prices at most of the major museums in the city. The buses and subways (U-Bahn) and trains (S-Bahn) are very user friendly, clean, and generally on time. We stayed very close to the Alexander Platz and the Berlin Dom. The Alexander Platz houses a unique TV tower and a sublime Neptune fountain with the old Marion Church in the background.
This same plaza is also home to the statues of two of the greatest thinkers from the region, Marx and Engels!
Marx and E
Of course THE structure that means Berlin for many, is the now almost gone wall! A visit to the border between former East and West Berlin is still very interesting with Checkpoint Charlie. Some guys are no doubt paid to pose in uniform and give tourists some photo ops.

checkoint charlie

Very little remains of the wall as it was, and cars whiz by and tourists cycle and walk past the one block of crumbling wall.
left wall

A much longer stretch of wall is now the East Berlin Art Gallery with “graffiti” from artists the world over and FREEDOM being the prime thought expressed.
Gal Ray Ch

Very close to Checkpoint Charlie, is a Berlin icon that is not to be missed. The Jewish Museum is spread over two buildings, an old classic and new very modern angular one. The two building are connected on the inside with a series of corridors and stairways.
Jewish muspass
The angularity of the insides is a constant theme throughout the museum. This invokes a sense of unease and a feeling of disconnect that somehow suits this museum perfectly. The corridors branch off into “paths” – one leads to the holocaust ending in the holocaust tower, an eerie uneven pyramidal space with a very small opening to the surface through which light filters in and one can hear childrens voices from a nearby park. Inside this tower one can feel the despair associated with being in a space that is closing in about you and while there is a little ray of hope it is far away and almost out of reach. Another space associated with this event in Jewish history is the memory void. This space is filled with nothing, and on the ground are numerous “autumn leaf-like” sculptures, which on closer examination turn out to be faces with mouths open in primal screams!
memory void faces
The few who were lucky enough to escape the inevitable fate of being Jewish in German, fled with scarcely any possessions, and went into another kind of disconnect, a life without any roots. Their plight is seen in the Garden of Exile. Here concrete blocks of unequal sizes, tipped with plantings of olive trees, make a maze. Warnings are posted telling you to go in at your own peril, and wandering through this is not recommended for those prone to vertigo.
But all is not gloom and doom in the museum; some managed to live and survive in Germany and this section is a monument of hope, with lamps highlighting some individual stories.
stories today

A visit to this part of the city is incomplete without a view of the Brandenberg Gate, which was a setting for complete chaos this visit, as Germany day celebrations were in full swing. The US Embassy is right next to the Brandenburg gate in a brand new imposingly huge building.

The final stop that day for us was (after a long wait to get in) the Bundestag. An impossibly modern interior welcomes visitors, gives a 360 degree view of Berlin (narrated on headsets provided gratis) on the outside
Bundestag and a rare view into the interior of the Bundestag!

It was time for a meal, we saw but resisted the Bolliwood restaurant (it was tempting for a few minutes), and ended up at the famous Master Vuong instead. My Indian looks (a standout in Berlin) got us a table and the food was all that the various tour books had said – simply bursting with flavor and to die for!


7 Responses

  1. Nice Pix!

  2. Thanks Som! It is a great city, I was not expecting to have so much fun.

  3. Great post and pictures! I could almost feel the cold rain while reading it.
    BTW: The park with statues is called Marx-Engeles forum, and was created by the authorities of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1986. They were trying to please Soviets, who had the huge army presence in East Berlin at the time. That part of Germany is still straggling with the aftermath of socialism. Do you really consider Marx and Engels “great thinkers’ or was it a sarcastic remark? 🙂

  4. They WERE great thinkers, I was not being sarcastic. The Marx Engeles forum is an extension of the Alexanderplatz, or separate? It seemed almost connected to it.

  5. Wiki: “The area now occupied by Marx-Engels-Forum was a densely populated Old Town quarter between the river and Alexanderplatz,The GDR authorities in 1977 set up plans for a green space between the Palast der Republik and the Fernsehturm.”

    Marx and Engeles are considered great thinkers by brainwashed, cluless students in American universities, and by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela only. Cuba simply doesn’t want another bloody revolution to get rid of Fidel’s regime. So they are biding their time. China runs weird, government hybrid version of capitalism. Russia couldn’t shake off the 72 years of socialist dependency mentality, but they tried very hard.
    Everywhere else they had been discredited…for a while, before leftist professors brought it back from dead. Marx wasn’t even a good economist. Trust me on that – I taught Marxism-Leninism and political economy in Russia. Their Utopian theory looks good on paper only. ANY country that tried to implement it in reality, failed miserably, millions died from hunger or while fighting for non-workable Marxist ideas.
    Did you know that Marx advised to kill 20% of people engaged in communist/socialist struggle for the good of future society? Lenin made it 40%, and so did Mao. Hitler was a great thinker too, wasn’t he? There’s no real difference between communism and fascism. My family lived through both. These very similar ideologies equally worship benevolent government and its dictatorship over individual liberties. Communists prefer to kill its own citizens the most. Fascists start at home, then usually proceeded with their ‘work’ abroad. Sorry for the long comment.

  6. “John Maynard Keynes saw Marxism as an illogical doctrine and referred to Das Kapital as “an obsolete textbook which I know to be not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world.”” – Wikipedia. But Keynes himself, and Keynesian thought was seen as an impediment to progress by the Hayak school. However no one can doubt Keynes’ scholarship. I think a thinker is a thinker and should be lauded if he synthesizes old data to build new ideas.

    “Marx and Engeles are considered great thinkers by brainwashed, cluless students in American universities, and by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela only.”

    Tell that to three states in India that have a communist government! I am NOT a proponent of the philosophy, but of recognizing scholarship, and being able to evaluate it and see if it is worthy of practice or needs to be reevaluated.

    “Did you know that Marx advised to kill 20% of people engaged in communist/socialist struggle for the good of future society? Lenin made it 40%, and so did Mao.”

    And today some feel that worry about world hunger and making sure we feed all on the planet is a useless exercise, it will only lead to population growth, and we need to be culling it instead of growing it. Let the fit and able survive and let other succumb to their fate. A case can be made for this extreme philosophy too, but I am still on the side of the hungry!

  7. I so enjoy our conversations!!
    Just to let you know -I’ve never liked Keynesian economics, because it advocates government spending increase -(multiplier effect)–thus doubling of government’s power over individuals.
    Keynes characterized Marx’s Capital as a “scientifically erroneous” and “obsolete economic textbook” that contains “nothing but out-of-date controversial sing.”
    Yes, Marxism is nothing more than an ”ideological doctrine’ that sounds good and righteous, until you actually start living it. Tread carefully on a ”progress’’ thing too. It’s not always what it seems. ‘Progressives’ of today pretend to worship climate change and look at human beings as an unnecessary evil polluting mother Earth.
    People doubt and question renown ‘scholarships,’ and theories (including Darwinism) all the time, as they should; otherwise they end up with Al Gore for a scientist, and non-existent global warming for a religion.
    About world hunger. Local governments, tribal leaders politicians AND UN bureaucrats don’t want it to end, or they stand to lose billions in global funding and unlimited power over people’s lives. Unfortunately, we can’t “feed all on the planet,” because they won’t allow it to happen. If we succeed for a while, they’ll come up with another calamity or create one. Bad LOCAL agricultural policies and decisions contribute to the hunger a lot! (Zimbabwe)
    Sometimes I feel sick, watching the clueless celebrities hovering around hungry, destitute folks in front of the cameras. Hey, Brangelina, empower people, help them take care of their families themselves, give them the freedom to prosper (or fail) through the right economic policies and small business friendly environment. But, no, the mentioned above corrupt, power hungry elites will never do that–instead they entangle poor in dependency and helplessness, so it’s easier to buy votes or submissiveness. American capitalist system (in India, Russia it’s not real capitalism, just a subversion) has many faults, and should be fixed, but so far, it’s the best system on Earth. Moving away from it spells a disaster.

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