A Day of Memorials
We started our day with another excellent breakfast at the Arco Hotel.
Our day’s touring began by setting out for Nollendorfplatz to see the memorial for gay Holocaust victims. We couldn’t locate it so I went into Bruno’s to get directions from the interesting guys there; they were very helpful.
With information in hand we returned to the Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn and found the memorial for gay Holocaust victims: it was attached to the Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn wall:
Nollendorfplatz was the centre of gay nightclub and social life in the Berlin of the 1920s and early 1930s, and best known to English-speaking audiences through Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, made into the musical Cabaret.
We then hopped the U-Bahn and went to Potsdamer Platz (by the way, riding public transit in Berlin is based on an honour system, which feels very odd. We always felt like we were cheating the system by simply walking on to the U-Bahn).
Once at Potsdamer Platz we wandered around the square a bit before visiting the massive Sony Centre:
Some sections of the old Berlin Wall were left in Potsdamer Platz as reminders of the past:
We then headed north to see the somber and moving Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe (aka The Holocaust Memorial). Briefly, the Memorial is dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. It consists of a 19,000-square-metre site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae”, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. According to the project’s architect, “the stelae are designed to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason”:
After moving through the maze-like structure above ground (the so-called “stelae”), we paused for coffee and tea at Dunkin’ Donuts (of all places), then went down into the memorial’s underground Information Centre. There, we spent a long time with the heart-wrenching displays. Hundreds of personal artifacts of Jewish prisoners, exterminated at the hands of the Nazis, were displayed along with films and other media from the Holocaust. We moved slowly through the building and its exhibits and, although it was full of people, no one said a word. We were moved to tears and made speechless by some of the exhibits. The sense of loss and tragedy here is simply overwhelming and hard to articulate.
The Memorial To The Murdered Jews Of Europe is a fascinating and somber memorial. There’s so much more that needs to be said about this memorial, so if you’d like to learn more, click here.
We left the memorial, composed ourselves, then continued on to the Brandenburg Gate and Pariser Platz:
The tourists were having a good time with the actors in Pariser Platz at the Brandenburg Gate:
We ventured down Wilhelmstrasse, past the British Embassy, to have lunch at the Block House restaurant. We ate on the patio outside and the meal was absolutely delicious – German food scores a 10 out of 10 so far!:
After lunch we ventured into the beautiful Tiergarten to see the Memorial To The Homosexuals Persecuted Under The National Socialist Regime. It was an odd memorial – it consisted mostly of a film that was looped repeatedly, and could only be viewed by looking into the cube. I felt disappointed by it as I had expected more from this memorial:
Leaving there, we wandered down through the Tiergarten to the Berliner Philharmoniker Concert Hall (the fellow at Bruno’s had suggested we take a look – after checking it out we didn’t see what all the fuss was about).
From the Philharmonie Berlin we located the fascinating Topography Of Terror exhibit, where we read/walked through the entire display (which took about an hour and a half – fascinating and frightening stuff). The Topography of Terror is an outdoor and indoor exhibition tracing the history of the Nazi regime; another “must-do” when visiting Berlin. It’s located on the site where, between 1933 and 1945, the principal instruments of Nazi persecution and terror were located: the headquarters of the Gestapo, the high command and security service of the SS, and from 1939, the Reich Security Main Office. The old Berlin Wall runs through the one side of the exterior exhibit:
After viewing all of the exterior displays we were too tired to go through the interior Topography Of Terror museum, so we decided to call it a day.
It was about 5:30 at this point so we walked back to the U-Bahn and caught the train to Nollendorfplatz. We walked back to the Arco Hotel from the U-Bahn, first stopping at an electronics store called Conrads where I picked up another Compact Flash memory card for my camera. Once we were back in our hotel room we uploaded our daily pictures to the laptop, then rested for a while.
At about 7:30 p.m. we headed out to the Saigon and More restaurant at Geisbergstrasse 12, just down the street from the hotel. It was authentic Vietnamese food and extremely good! The restaurant was a neighbourhood place where the locals came and brought their own wine (and dogs!). We ate outside on the patio where a very cute neighbourhood dog was playing enthusiastically, keeping everyone amused and entertained (a terrier, wouldn’t you know it). The restaurant owner was quite an odd, eccentric character, but we were warned of this by the hotel’s staff. The owner absolutely insisted I try his homemade smoothie, which I did – it truly was fantastic!
We finished up at the restaurant around 9:00 p.m. and headed back to the hotel to catch up on the daily journal and plan tomorrow’s activities.
Off to bed after another great day out in Berlin.