Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday evening in Berlin

11 pm in Berlin—sitting in our room at the Hotel Palace Berlin and listening to the celebrations in the streets outside—cars honking and people cheering. Spain just won the UEFA soccer cup; they beat Italy 4-0. The other night it was the Italians cheering in the streets after having beaten Germany. Now midnight, and the celebrations continue…….

Dinner tonight was pasta at a restaurant called Noah’s, where our friendly waiter, after noticing that I had finished a particularly spicy penne all’ arrabbiata dish, commented that I had done a ‘good job’ since I had finished it despite its numbing effects on my lips and tongue. It was very good, even though it was probably the hottest version of this dish that I have ever consumed. Sat outdoors and just breathed in the scent of the linden trees, and enjoyed the warmth of the summer evening.

Spent some time sorting through all my photos of Berlin and Leipzig (about eight hundred or so). What would we do without digital cameras these days? I cannot even remember what it was like to use film, although I do remember some trips in the 1990s when I took a few hundred photos using film. Many of my photos of Berlin this week came out really well, especially photos of the East Side Gallery—a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall that consists of 105 paintings by artists from all over the world; it is located on Mühlenstraße in the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. It has to be experienced—the paintings are incredible. I’ll be posting some photos from this exhibit shortly.

Reflecting on our stay here in Berlin. We’ve done the Berlin Wall walking tour; what struck me was how this part of history was also a part of my generation—we grew up hearing about the Berlin Wall and reading newspaper articles about the misery associated with its existence, and then experiencing the fall of the wall in 1989. Visiting the Chapel of Reconciliation was particularly moving; this chapel was built on the site of the old Church of Reconciliation (Versöhnungskirche) on Bernauer Straße in the Mitte district of Berlin. The chapel had a black-and-white photo exhibition until the end of June (we caught it just in time) called Mauerkinder (translation ‘Wall Children’) by Thomas Hoepker, which was emotionally-wrenching to see, mostly because the children, photographed during the early 1960s, seemed so unaware of what horrors were going on around them--innocents in a world that had become hell.

Thinking about the sparrows that are in abundance in this city; like sparrows everywhere, they are nearly tame, and will take a piece of bread right out of your fingers. We watched a number of them help themselves to one young man’s French fries while we sat eating our hamburgers at Burger King. Then there was the caged crow at the Berlin Zoo, who ‘talked’ to me while we stood there and watched him, and who followed me in his cage as I walked away, cawing loudly. It’s tough to see birds and animals in cages; I have mixed feelings about zoos, more so now that I am older. You wish for them what you would wish for yourself—the freedom to live an unfettered life. I know it’s not always possible, and yet, it’s still a wish. A wish for animals and birds, and a wish for mankind too, especially for those individuals who suffer at the hands of dictators and totalitarian regimes. 

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