Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Sunday, 3 September 2006

Ik moechte eine Berliner sein

It was an intense, tiring, exciting and touchy weekend for all of us, and particularly for me. In seven years Berlin has remarkably changed. Potsdamer platz, the historical square where the first WWII bombings took place, testament of destruction and desolation soon after the war and divided by a grey wall for 28 years became a building site in '99, full of cranes resembling colourful giraffes. It was exciting to think that from the Phoenix' ashes a new city within the city, planned by the greatest artists in the world and led by Renzo Piano, was raising. Unfortunately, the end results are rather disappointing. Although at night the square is shining, the Sony Centre is quite impressive and the glass DB building stylish, the ensemble is awful: buildings clash one against another: there is no armony whatsoever in terms of shape, material, position and heights. What were you thinking, Renzo, when drafting the urban plan? Perhaps they got a bit carried away in front of the white canvas they got offered.
I found the city much cleaner, more organised and a bit more expensive. The euro can do miracles! Tours about the Nazi or red Berlin are at hand nearly in every angle of the city, new hostels (including ours) flourished like mushrooms. Even an organised tour to Sachsenhausen is now available! The aspect that most stroke me was that at the time it was almost taboo to talk about Nazism or you had to be very careful about the choice of terms. When my dad came to visit me, we went to Sachsenhausen, one of the first concentration camps used as a model for the others. It lies in the north part of the city, in a rather secluded place, not very easy to reach by publich transports. I was not even aware of its existence until my dad mentioned it. We caught the underground and then we had to change two buses to get there. On the way I asked for directions: "Entschuldigung, wissen sie wo die koncentration camp ist, bitte?" (Do you know They would correct me by saying: "Meinst du die Denkmal?" Of, course this is a dark shadow of their history which is still so present. Since then though, they have faced their past in a much more open and structured way. A museum dedicated to the rediscovery of the modern German identity is placed in the German church ("Deutsch Kirche"). Intellectuals in the German universities regularly run lecturers on the meaning of being German and three amazing memorials have been built since. The Jewish memorial made of grey stones lined up one next to another can easily remind an abstract cemetery or can recall the stones of the Jewish symbology. The Jewish museum aims to offer a comprehensive of the Jewish community throughout the centuries, highlight their persecutions over the times. It took us two good hours to browse across the three floors of an amazing structured planned by Lebeskind. The architecture is inspired by the David cross and shiny blades sparkle from different sides. The section devoted to the holocaust is proportionally a bit small but still emotional, in a not pathetic way. The minimalistic ground floor, in particular, gives way to personal thoughts and reflections. This choice for an understated pathos is perfectly understandable if we think of the context in which it was conceived. I could going on talking about the *Memorial of all Sufferings* in the historical part of the city, controversially embodied by the undoubtely most acute personal sorrow: the mother's grief for her son's loss. I could keep talking of the *Nazist Ministry of all Ministries*, an imposing structure bizzarrelly remained untouched during the war and reused by the communists. It is today the Ministry of Finance (the current German terror!). I could told you the story about the baroque Royal Palace which was destroyed by the Russians except for its central body with its balcony, which was left to be reused for their communist speeches. They are currently planning to reconstruct the Palace exactly as it was, but, apparently, they don't have the money. Incidentally, Berlin has faced a really grey financial period and is still suffering of severe unemployement. Is this perhaps an appendix of the wall's fall? Someone still does believe that it was better when it was worse: that it was easier to live in the red era. I could tell you about Checkpoint Charlie, the border between the American and Russian sectors, where for a moment it was feared that the cold war could explode into the Third World War--just to prove that wars always arise for territorial borders! I could go on about the chilly emotions experienced at the Topography of Terrors, where the Nazi planned all their infamous acts. I could go on and on and on, simply because this city is in my heart... So, my views could be a bit impartials. However, we all agreed that Berlin arguably remains the only city in the world where contemporary history is so tangible and so touching. Berlin is also the only city where change is integral part of its nature... Where all this developments and becoming will lead the city is still to be seen. It was a priviledge to spend this long weekend with my best friends (one is missing in the photo below!) and embark together into this new adventure which is being thirty. But they know all of this already. More photos available on the right hand side column.

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