Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Final Report on Berlin

Berlin is quite a city to see and cannot be done in a couple of days!  It is lively, lovely and luminous!  The people are friendly; the food continues to be great, the wine fantastic and f diversification of things to do and see!  

We were driven around Berlin on the second day of our stay and then continued on to Potsdam where we saw the home of Frederick the Great, the house Stalin stayed in (photo here) and the Russian community that was developed there after WW II.

We saw the normal things one sees in Berlin:


The Victory Column (Siegessäule) is one of the more famous sights of Berlin. Designed by Heinrich Strack after 1864 to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian war, by the time it was inaugurated on 2 September 1873 Prussia had also defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War and France in giving the statue a new purpose.

Different from the original plans, these later victories inspired the addition of the bronze sculpture of Victoria, 8.3 meters high and weighing 35 tons, designed by Friedrich Drake. Berliners, with their fondness for disrespectful names of famous buildings, call the statue Goldelse, meaning something like "golden Lizzy".

Many Berliners do not know that originally the column was erected with a height of merely 50.66 meters opposite the Reichstag building. In preparation of executing the monumental plans to redesign Berlin into Welthauptstadt Germania, in 1939, the Nazis relocated the pillar to its present location at the Großer Stern (Great Star), a large intersection on the visual city axis that leads from the former Berliner Stadtschloss (Berlin City Palace) through the Brandenburg Gate to the western parts of Berlin. At the same time, the pillar was augmented by another 7.5 meters, giving it its present height of 66.89 meters. The monument survived World War II without much damage. The relocation of the monument probably saved it from destruction, as its old site in front of the Reichstag was completely destroyed in the war.

Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Memorial 

The Neo-Romanesque church designed by Franz Schwechten was consecrated in 1895. It was all but destroyed by bombs in 1943, during World War II. In 1961, Egon Eiermann designed a new octagonal church in blue glass and a new free standing bell tower.  The old church's brick foundation and stone façade are particularly fatigued. The normal wear and tear on a 100-year-old church is compounded by the pummeling the building took during Allied air raids in 1945, which caused the damage that eventually led to the building's preservation as a World War II memorial.

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is a former city gate and one of the main symbols of Berlin.  It is located west of the city center and is the only remaining gate of a series through which one formerly entered Berlin. One block to the north stands the Reichstag.  The gate is the monumental entry to Unter den Linden, the renowned boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palaces.  It is considered one of Europe's most famous landmarks.

The photo I have inserted here is different from most views one sees as at the time there were what appeared to be a group of “American Indians” performing in the area.

Modern Art Sculpture Berlin By Matschinsky-Denninghoff

I do not know much about this sculpture except that it was very interesting to see.  You can judge yourself by the photo.


Potsdam has several claims to national and international notability. It was the residence of the Prussian kings until 1918. Around the city there are a series of interconnected lakes and unique cultural landscapes, in particular the parks and palaces of Sanssouci. The Potsdam Conference, the major post-war conference between the victorious Allies, was held at in this area.

Potsdam, is one of the leading centres of European film production. The Filmstudio Babelsberg is historically significant as the oldest large-scale film studio in the world. 

Potsdam was taken over by the Russians after the end of the war and occupied while the wall was in place.  As a matter of fact, we toured the part of town where Stalin resided when he came to Potsdam and where a community of Russians lived, the elite and the commoner.  One had to have a passport to enter the Russian section of the city and few Germans were allowed as it was restricted just as West and East Germany were.

Sanssouci Palace

In Potsdam one can view the beautiful Sanssouci palace was the summer residence of Frederick the Great.  Sanssouci Palace was built for Prussian emperor Frederick II as his summer retreat, and its name, which literally means ‘no worries’ in French, reflects the fact that he intended this as an escape from the pressures of Berlin and married life.  He resided there and left his wife (whom he was opposed to marrying) to live in Berlin where he visited her once a year on her birthday.  He is buried there along with his beloved dogs!  People adorn his grave with potatoes as he introduced them into Germany.

02 Stadium

Touted as one of Europe’s most modern entertainment venues and built at a cost of €165 million, O2 World is one of the anchor projects of Berlin.  Opened in 2008, the stadium is the home of the Eisbären Berlin, the city’s ice hockey team, and also hosts games by the NBA and WWE, as well as numerous other large scale sporting and music spectaculars.

Berlin Wall

We, of course, visited the site of the Berlin Wall and were amazed at the length of it.   On 13 August 1961, the boarder with West Berlin was closed and East German troops and workers had begun to tear up streets running alongside the border to make them impassable to most vehicles, and to install barbed wire entanglements and fences along the 156 km (97 miles) around the three western sectors and the 43 km (27 miles) which actually divided West and East Berlin.  The barrier was built slightly inside East Berlin or East German territory to ensure that it did not encroach on West Berlin at any point, and was later built up into the Wall proper, the first concrete elements and large blocks being put in place on August 15. During the construction of the Wall soldiers stood in front of it with orders to shoot anyone who attempted to defect. Additionally, chain fences, walls, minefields, and other obstacles were installed along the length of the inner-German border between East and West Germany.  When the East German government announced on 9 November 1989, after several weeks of civil unrest, that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin, crowds of East Germans climbed onto and crossed the wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere. Over the next few weeks, parts of the wall were chipped away by a euphoric public and by souvenir hunters; industrial equipment was later used to remove almost all of the rest of it.   The wall also ran through parts of Potsdam, which was quite a distance from Berlin but because the Russians wanted to show their force, they built a wall there also. 

As I said, there is so much to see and do in Berlin that I would love to return to visit more of the city.  The warmth of the people is apparent and I was very impressed by the look of the city; its parks, its landscaping, its buildings.  So far Germany has left me with a good impression and I am anxious to see more!


  1. This was really the idea of using this industrial equipments like crane trucks to crash and finish the job. Berlin is indeed a beautiful place. Was this possibly done with these industrial equipments?

  2. I really don't know if the use of crane type trucks was used in the demolition. Of course the War took care of a lot of that and the rest was up to man to figure out!

  3. I'm enjoying the history lesson. Martha