Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A History Lesson

So, the weird thing about being in Berlin is that being in Berlin isn't weird. I realize we've only seen a tiny slice of the city, but so far, it really doesn't feel that foreign. A lot of the buildings are newer than those in Vancouver, which is a youngster on the scene. People speak a gamut of different languages - just like in Vancouver. There are a huge variety of ethnic restaurants, and oodles of coffee shops. Again, just like back home! Of course, there are lots of differences. Our public transit system can't hold a candle to the system here. Also, you can buy a beer from a corner store at 10:00 a.m. and drink it while walking down the street. A fact which Mr.Q finds quite...charming!

 But so far, much of what we've seen lacks a sense of the true history of this corner of the world. I certainly had more of a feeling of history as a presence in the twisted cobblestone streets of Old Montreal last fall. Today, though, we got a bit of that sense in Berlin. On the recommendation of my yarny-enabling pal Anne, we booked a walking tour of important Third Reich sites. Mr.Q is quite the history buff, especially with WWII, so this was right up our alley. We had to imagine a lot of what was, seeing as many of the sites didn't survive the war or the years afterward, but a few buildings were intact.

This used to be part of Goebbel's Ministry of Propaganda:

 The Finance Ministry now was originally built to house the Air Ministry, out of which the Luftwaffe were commanded by Goering and his merry band of goose-steppers:

A piece of the Berlin wall, built over the ruins of the Gestapo Headquarters (we were walking in the "Dead Zone" between East & West Berlin):

An interpretive site, over the foundations of the Gestapo Headquarters, in the empty space behind the Wall:

A building which is now an art gallery, whose purpose to the Third Reich has escaped me (There was a LOT of information!)

Bullet holes, riddling the stone walls of the building above:

Bombed-out remains of a huge train station...whose war-time duties included ferrying Jews and other Undesirables to "Re-education Camps."

A quick shot of Potsdamer Platz from behind the Canadian Embassy (Our guide chose to take us there because he needed a quiet space to continue the lesson, and as he said, it's always quiet where the Canadians are. I may have annoyed the Tea Partier in our group when I commented that yes, being Canadian was why we were so polite getting on the bus...oh well!)

The tour wrapped up at the location of Hitler's infamous bunker. A sign with some essential information marked the spot....

 ...but that was the only indication of what was under our feet. Our group, on the packed dirt and sparse grass, is standing right over what rubble remains of the bunker.

It was very....surreal. To say the least. It was a really interesting experience; quite the mind-fuck, actually. But it gave us a totally different perspective of - and appreciation for - the city.

Heading back "home" for some dinner before Mr.Q's gig, we found ourselves feeling almost like pros at maneuvering the transit system.

The pic was taken moments before Mr.Q shifted over to make room for an elderly woman. When she thanked him in German, he told her (in German) that we were tourists from Canada, staying in Prenzlauer-Berg. Her face lit up, she pulled a photocopied picture out of her bag, of Prenzlauer Allee (The main street near us), about 100 years ago. She talked and chirped at him for the rest of our ride; telling him about growing up in the same neighbourhood. She was quite sweet, and very concerned that we were getting off at the wrong stop. I told her it was OK, we were going to a restaurant for dinner, and she looked very relieved. It felt like we'd been briefly adopted or something: a perfect, magic moment!

Back to "our" 'Wurst stand, where Mr.Q tried the famous Berliner currywurst:

 The verdict:

(He was actually way more impressed than he looks!)

Now: out the door to a gig! Life is so surreal...Awesome, but bizarre!

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