Berlin, the city of poets and dreams.  

  Our first stop in Europe was Berlin where friends guided us through the city with the ardor and knowledge only Berliners possess.

Oh, blessed be thy traveler welcomed to the city of dreams by friends.

  From the Mitte District with its famous Alexanderplaz — central starting point — and Nicolai Quarter — oldest part of the city,

to the Reichstag (victim of the 1933 arson blamed on communists and Jews), where today Dem deutschen Volke (the German people) can watch their elected representatives while in session through a glass structure,

to the Brandenburg Gate, location of John Kennedy’s 1963 Ich bin ein Berliner speech, were in 1987 Ronald Reagan said: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,

to what’s left of the wall on the East Side Gallery,

to a boat ride on the Spree River,

to magnificent views from the Television tower,

we made our way through cobblestone streets, past art nouveau and sky scrapers, in a city where tradition and modernity meet at every corner.

  I loved my time in Berlin — the historical feel, the sense of community as people are constantly out and about, the artsy vibe, famous squares.

  If one such square impressed upon me the most, Bebelplatz with its famous Humboldt University, striking architecture, and historical background sure left its mark.

 Here, in May of 1933, Nazi students burned the works of hundreds of authors, journalists, philosophers, and academics. A book-burning memorial marks the Night of Shame event, showing an empty, underground library.

With the words: Against decadence and moral decay, they committed to flames writings of Heinrich Mann, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, August Bebel, and many others.

  Today, a line from Heinrich Heine’s play, Almansor (1821), is engraved on a plaque in the square:

That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people. 

  Our last day in Berlin covered a tour of Olympiastadion, where in 1936 Adolf Hitler declared the Olympic games open from a balcony later demolished as to not become a neo-Nazi shrine.

  Looking to showcase the superiority of the Aryan race, Hitler was forced to watch African American athlete Jessie Owens, son of sharecroppers and grandson of slaves, win four gold medals.  

Yes, Berlin is here to remind us of the past. To expose it for what it was, a lunacy.  At the same time, Berlin is a proud city, breaming with life, focused on the future.

  A city of arts. Enlightened. Diverse. Welcoming: its outdoors filled with locals and tourists alike, joining in a togetherness of music, poetry, and the verve for life.

  Does Berlin fully represent Germany? I often hear this question.

  No major city represents a nation. Nor should it. Cities are hubs of culture and arts and finance and trade, operating at large cultural and financial distance.  Cities lead the way.Whether we like it or not, cities are the future.

  We owe much of our progress and prosperity to major international world centers such as Berlin.


8 responses to “Berlin

  1. I loved your pictures and history of Germany. You reminded me of my brief tour of Germany, years ago. You also reminded me to call a dear friend, from Germany to say “Happy Birthday.” Then your comment about Hitler reminded me of the book, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT, a story of the Univ. of WA. rowers who went to the 1936 Olympics and won no matter how hard Hitler tried to place the U.S. in a position where we would lose. Germany bears a wealth of history, art, beauty, and yummy food. Thanks for the delightful pictures and memories.

  2. One of my favourite cities! I have never been to Bebelplatz though, so that is now on the list for my next visit, whenever that might be….

  3. Mary Aalgaard

    Fabulous post, Sylvia. Your words ring true. I could see it through your eyes. Enjoy your travels!

  4. So glad you wrote about Berlin and its history, Silvia, and thanks for the photos. You have written with passion describing with strong sense of place. How fortunate you are to have been able to travel there. The name Alexanderplatz always rings with me, for whatever reason. Somewhere within me is a Russian soul, and I am a lover of 19th century Russian literature. Burning books is burning people — yes, for books are people’s souls. Thx.

  5. If you like the history side of things you might want to check out my photoshoot comparing Berlin to how it was during the time of the wall and how it looks now!-

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