Taking a break away from my keyboard for a vacation has been something I am longing for a while, feels like it’s been ages but at the same time, going back to the headache of doing all the detailed planning and study with couple of books in order to tailor my very own itinerary, this hassle, however, is part of the joy I think as one will be amazed how it can be turn out from your own imagination into reality, and executed it in exactly the way I wish, with a desirable outfit, grooming and of course, the mood. When I started to think about my destination this year, my mind has only one place in my head, that is – Berlin. Why? To me, it feels like that there’s something I haven’t finish yet with Germany since my last visit last year, the history of course, is fascinating, yet, for Berlin in particular, the city is filled with historic culture, the traumatic war scars, and, the thriving modernity that changes the landscape of this German capital into an international metropolis once again, which becomes one of the motivation that I decided to go for this time.
Landing on a relaxing Friday sunset, the cool breeze in May with the fading sun above my head feels like a friendly welcome to this amazing German capital city. My first stop upon my arrival, of course, is to see the spectacular landmark of Berlin – The Brandenburg Gate, located in the city center, the Mitte district, the architectural icon that every single visitor, especially for the first-timer to visit the city, needs to pay pilgrimage to, this beautiful historic landmark also witnessed the heydays and traumatic moments of the city, the rise and fall of the Prussian / German monarchy, from WW2 and the Cold War, but one thing that drew my attention, apart from the gate itself, is the ‘Quadriga’ sculpture that located at the top, the sculpture was once taken by Napoleon after the defeat of Prussian in the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt after 1806, not until 1814 after Napoleon’s defeat and having it to be brought back to Berlin, it’s quite an interesting little history and it keeps me wondered how the gate will look like if the Quadriga has not being return, maybe replaced by a Berlin Bear sculpture instead? (since there are so many around the city)
Facing east from this magnificent architecture, here is the famous boulevard – Unter den Linden, and, the Pariser Platz, for some reason when I walked down the plaza then to the boulevard, it somehow brings me back to the Prussian monarch period, imagining the King passing through the central arch of the Brandenburg Gate (which is the exclusive privilege for the monarch to use), then to the plaza and heading down the boulevard, the heydays of elite and high society people walking the plaza in their most elegant attire, horse carriages travelling through, which to me, is quite a poetic experience, of course, nowadays, such crowd has been replaced by tourists around the world and apparently, everyone (including myself) are busy with their camera on having their picture or selfie taken, but just give a little bit of imagination when standing there still for a moment, one can always recapture the imperial flair and magnificent about the area.
Walking down Unter den Linden towards east about five minutes, on the right hand side, it takes me to the Wilhelmstraße, now one may wonder what is so special about this street anyway? It’s only the British Embassy nowadays anyway, well, yes correct, based on what it is nowadays it wasn’t that special (perhaps a little) for some people, but, when looking back into the notorious dictatorship period of the late 1930s to mid 1940s, this is the street where all the major NZ office buildings and chancellery once stood, especially down to the junction of Voßstraße, which is where the former Reich’s chancellery, and, the former Propaganda Ministry building located; It’s pretty fascinating to imagine the devastating scene after the war, all buildings were destroyed after the air-raid and rubbles everywhere, and it keeps me thinking about how haunting and despair it is back then, seeing the city nowadays replaced by the new buildings for offices and residential compound, it is quite an experience actually to link my feeling with the past, imagine that how vigilant it is when walking down this sober street with the notorious officials side by side, then going through the aftermath from the terrifying war that looks like the apocalypse, it’s quite haunting actually.
Keep walking down the Unter den Linden until reaching the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, on the left of the boulevard, that is Humboldt University of Berlin, a spectacular and grandiose architecture with numerous statues of the honorable scholars, it makes this neighborhood feels very literature, and indeed, it’s one of the most prestigious institution in Berlin, but the focus for me, on contrary, is on the opposite side of the university, the plaza called Bebelplatz, nowadays of course is a peaceful square surrounded by historic buildings, but back in the Third Reich period, this is the place where the infamous book-burning event took place, organized by the students and the NZ of getting rid of all the so-called ‘degenerated’ books with a bonfire; when one proceeded to the center of the plaza, there is a memorial which built below the ground, a hallow bookshelves inside the 4 walls with a glass plate on top that one can see through. Once again, it’s such another haunting experience when standing there and imagine how terrifying it is when the notorious influence strikes in, and paving the way to the dark and barbarous eras ahead back then.
Basically, to discover Berlin’s history, being in the Mitte district is the best place as one can almost find the key historic buildings and monument within this area. Here comes to the end of ‘Part I’ of my Berlin story, interested to discover more about where I have visited? Please stay tune for the next blog post.