February 16, 2012 § 5 Comments

This weekend I had the opportunity to join twenty other classmates in the exploration of Berlin, Germany.  As part of our curriculum, DIS (the international school I attend) takes students on study tours across Northern Europe.  Accompanied by cameras, sketchbooks and our deteriorating historical knowledge, we dug our architectural minds through this capital city for three chilly days.

The city is weaved together by layers of history that create its fabric.  No where in the city can one escape the past.  Berlin is a capital city– it first claimed it capital seat in 1701 as the Prussia Empire Capital, then the Germany Empire, onto the Weimar Republic and then Hitler’s Third Reich.  After German defeat in 1945, the city was divided in two– East and West.  The East controlled by the Soviets and the West by well, the west.  To further divide the city, the Berlin Wall was constructed in 1961 around Western Berlin that split the city into two.  As the USSR collapsed in ’89 so did the wall.  Berlin is now reunified and again holds the capital seat within the reunited Germany.

So how does this city identify itself?  As a victim? As the perpetrator? Erase the memory of the war?

Depending on the generation, all of these answers are true.

Berlin serves as a landscape for the memory.  The city is a museum itself.  Due to the great devastation and destruction of Berlin during the war and the more recent fall of the Wall, Berlin is collage of architecture– new, old, ruins and everything in between.  The gaping holes within the city have been filled with new architecture, yet much of the damage has been restored.  We visited several sites that were remodeled to exhibit the damage from the war.  Even in the new Berlin still shows the scars of its history.

As an American college student born the year after the fall of the Wall, I have always been so distant from the turmoil in Germany.  However by wandering through the streets of Berlin, the reality of World War II, the Cold War and fall of the Wall have become so apparent to me.

No longer was this history flattened into the page of my history book.  It now stood before me.

A memorial to the Wall that once divided East from West.  Coreten steel rods line the path where the wall once stood.  Throughout the city the Wall and its ghost are still visible.

Norman Foster’s addition to the Reichstag is a glass dome providing a 360 view of Berlin.  We were just lucky enough to eat a delicious lunch at the top!

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a powerful 5 acres of undulated concrete blocks.  The disorientation experienced while wandering through the sea of stelae is to evoke the journey of the Jews within Europe.

The Neues Museum is beautiful remodel of what once was the original Neues Museum. Bullet holes still sprinkle the walls and crumbling columns frame the ancient artifacts and art that are displayed within.

World renown architect, Daniel Libeskind’s most famous project, The Jewish Museum Berlin is an experience in itself.  The architecture takes visitors through the history of Jews in Europe through exhibitions and the voids within.

Ending on a happier note, the food!

The weekend was filled with delicious food from Germany and abroad.  Schnitzel, German beer and the first burrito I have eaten in six months were some highlights of the weekend.

What a experience in Berlin.

Danke Berlin, auf Wiedersehen


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