Berlin, Germany Day 116

Can I say how much I love Berlin? It’s not the prettiest city in the world, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in history, culture and an all-around cool factor. It reminds me of Paris in that there’s so much I want to see, and not enough time! I still have one full day left, so I’ll just have to push it tomorrow to get in the rest. This city definitely has the best transit system I’ve seen yet. It’s such a big city; I guess they really need efficient mass transit in place. It is so easy to use, and fast! I’ve just bought a day pass yesterday and today for 6.30 euro and you can hop on, hop off the U and S Bahn all day long. It’s fabulous!
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I woke up to torrential rain today. That made my decision easy about where to go first, the Berlin Jewish Museum, and what an incredible museum this was! It doesn’t just cover WWII and the holocaust; it starts at the beginning of Jewish communities in Germany and tells the story of how life evolved for them in this country. It wasn’t pretty. The Jewish people truly have been persecuted from day one. Permanent Jewish settlements started in Germany in the 10th century. Things were peaceful between the Jews and the Christians for periods of time, but once the crusades started in 1096 many were massacred because they were blamed for killing Jesus Christ.  Between the 12th and 13th centuries entire towns and families were driven out or murdered. It’s really quite shocking how they were treated from the very beginning. You can sort of see how the stage was set from hundreds of years ago to help fuel the atrocities that happened during the war. I’m taking a bit of a special interest in the subject because my family has a sneaking suspicion that we may have Jewish ancestors on my mom’s side. One of my cousins has done some research and there are some names from our family tree that are definitely Jewish, but we don’t have any contact with anyone from that side of the family, so there is no one to ask the questions to. I’m curious, and I sort of feel like it’s an important piece of a puzzle that I’d like to put together. I have no real idea of where to start, but it might become a pet project when I get home. Is it possible I might get to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah one day? In all seriousness, I’ve always said if I had to practice any religion, I’d probably choose Judaism. I’m not religious in the slightest, but there’s something about the Jewish culture that I like. It’s not just about religion, it’s about tradition, family and ritual.  I can get behind that!

The building was designed by the Polish architect Daniel Libeskind.
This was a space called The Holocaust Tower. It is 24 metres high, unheated and is only lit by the crack of natural sunlight from a window at the top. The architect called the space “the voided void.” I could feel the negative energy of people’s discomfort of being in there.
This is an installation by Israeli artist Menashe Kadishman. It’s in one of the architects “memort voids” in the building. The 10, 000 faces littering the floor are dedicated to the innocent victims of war and violence. It is called “Shalekhet” or “Fallen Leaves.” The noise of the steel faces banging against each other as people walked on them was amazing. It was an incredible piece.
After spending three hours at the museum I headed to a place called Tachelles. It’s an artist collective made up of studios, a café and a bar. It was built in 1907 and used by the Nazi’s and SS during WWII. I was sort of expecting it to be like the Eastside Culture Crawl that we have in Vancouver, and it *sort of* was, but just a lot more, well, edgy. I have never seen so much graffiti in one place at one time. It was all over the walls, all over the stairwells, all over the windows (well, the ones that weren’t broken.) And it wasn’t pretty graffiti, it was just kind of there for the sake of someone that had a can of spray paint and they felt like drawing any old crap on a wall. There were a couple of interesting artists in there, and it was an experience to see it, but I couldn’t have a studio in there… the stairwells stunk of urine and the graffiti would make me mental. It just seemed really ill kept and a little anarchist for my tastes. What can I say? I like pretty things! I’m glad I checked it out though, and I would recommend other do the same, it’s an experience!
This was a beautiful and touching sculpture outside one of the U-Bahn stations. It had a plaque that said this. 1938-1945 Trains to Life. Trains to Death. Somebody put fresh flowers in their arms. Very sweet.
Scary lady selling hot dogs!
Checkpoint Charlie’s was on the way back to my hotel so I stopped to have a peek. This was the checkpoint between East and West Berlin established shortly after the wall was built in 1961. It was neat to see, but I decided to not go into the museum. You can only absorb so much, and after the Jewish Museum my energy was depleted.

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