The next stop on our trip takes us to Berlin. If you missed the last city, Amsterdam, click here.
1945. Spring transitions to summer. Berlin in ruins, engulfed by a cloud of dust and debris – a result of the rhythmic bombardment that has hounded the city day and night. The Allied Forces are hacking away at the remaining roots of the Nazi regime and by May 2nd, the Third Reich is no more.
Berlin is a city rich in history and culture, but much of that is overshadowed by the fact that it served as the capital for a regime that persecuted millions of people and continued to commit acts of genocide until they no longer could. It is said that even on the day that Auschwitz was freed, the gas chambers and crematories were still running as the Russians arrived.
As I touched on in my first article for Inkport, Germany has made an effort to honor the victims at the highest level and pushes to never let those who live in, or visit, Germany forget the atrocities of the past. Somber monuments like the Holocaust memorial and the Berlin Wall allow us to connect with a past that, frankly, was not too long ago. I think for most of us it’s easy to forget that Berlin was not united until 1989, a mere five years before I was born. But the wall not only speaks to the literal division of Germany. It also gives voice to the oppression during Soviet occupation of the country.
I think what made Berlin so special was the ability to blend the past and the future together in physical signs of progress. Berlin’s architecture varies from Gothic-inspired to futurist and modernist designs, all blending together to present a composite vision for the future, one that is sculpted by mistakes of the past, one that serves all members of humanity.
Berlin is a unique city, one that seeks to define itself as a bridge between the past and future, however distant they may be. It doesn’t comfortably sit in either the black or white box, but reaches out from both sides to create shades of grey. But unlike in 1945, even the grey cannot hold such a vibrant city at bay.
This is the Neue Wache, a memorial created post World War II by the Soviets in honor of the “Victims of Fascism and Militarism”. The architectural design of the building allowed for the visitor to become immersed within their thoughts, paving the way for reflection and respect. It was a very moving and beautiful place, transporting you to a part of time no individual would wish to relive. The one bit I’d like to clarify is that the Communist regime did not see themselves as peers to the Nazis and Fascists. While the irony is there in how the Soviets ruled through militarization, the memorial seems to have sent the message to the occupants of Eastern Berlin that no longer would people have to fear for their lives. Now this may not have been true, but it is an interesting nonetheless.
The next three pictures are all from the Berliner Dom, or Berlin Cathedral. I think this may take the cake for the most beautiful interior out of all the churches we saw on our trip. You’re immediately drawn to the focal point of the interior. The marble columns accented by gold create a larger than life feeling as do most places of worship. The design and the detail stand out, all culminating into the beauty that it is.
I love the colors in this picture in addition to the composition. The depth created by the structure in the foreground while utilizing an “infinity zoom” make Berlin seem like a never ending city.
Taken from the top of the Berliner Dom, this vantage point offered a nice blend of the past and present. This is not the original church, with the first Berlin Cathedral being built in 1453 and transforming 5 times after the fact. With this Cathedral in particular you can find styles and techniques from the Renaissance, Brick Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Neo-Renaissance periods, each paying homage to the former Cathedral that was in its place. This one in particular, is heavily influenced by the Neo-Renaissance period. Furthermore, the transformation of the grounds in front of the Cathedral serve as a more modern way to use space and beautify a city.
This picture of the Berlin Wall is from the original location of the wall. Standing there and touching the concrete slabs that separated not only Berlin, but two hemispheres, was chilling. Near the wall are plaques and pictures of every individual who was killed trying to escape the Eastern side. It shows that ultimately in most instances, the people under a certain regime are not represented by that regime, and want the same basic freedoms that you and I desire.
The Berlin Wall went through many iterations of the years. It first began as a barbed wire fence, but as more individuals tried to escape, the fortifications were built up more and more, leading to the concrete wall that was built in 1961. In this picture you can see the rebar that reinforced the concrete, making it into the terrifying symbol of oppression we all know it for.
As mentioned in a caption above, this is a memorial for the individuals killed by the Soviets as they were trying to escape.
This is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It is chaotic, bleak, and designed to feel like you’re lost, cramped, helpless, and unable to change the course of your life. The architect struggled to create something that depicted the experience that the Jews went through during WWII, but this Memorial was a glimpse into some of those feelings that one may have experienced.