Beautiful Berlin

Last weekend Petra and I went to Berlin, it is a great city. She arranged the trip for my birthday because I am always banging on about the Pergamon Museum and the Ishtar Gate (seeing it was one of the 101 goals). Berlin has a lovely Museum Island that has just itself become a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and is in need of some work as it looks to have been neglected for years). We also saw the Nefertiti bust at the Altes Museum which was also spectacular, alongside some very interesting painting from the Amarna period, very unlike other Egyptian art.

We also went to see Checkpoint Charlie museum, a museum of international nonviolent protest (obviously focused mainly on the GDR and the wall it backed onto for years). I was very moved by it, particularly the thoughts and aspirations of normal people, it is far too simplistic to just think of Germany at that time of just millions of Nazis who just lost a war. I love to think I would have the physical bravery to resist such a regime but have never been tested. The mayor of Berlin calling out to the allied nations during the Berlin air lift

“You peoples of the world, you people of America, of England, of France, look on this city, and recognize that this city, this people, must not be abandoned — cannot be abandoned!”

Seeing how people tried to escape, risking their lives to try and get to the west and live our kind of lifestyle (which is not without its problems) was interesting. There was exhibits on Ghandi and the rest of Eastern Europe and the fight against opression and it was clear everywhere that people improve their situation and that of others by orgainising and demanding change. As lots of my friends are now from Eastern Europe I am fascinated about how they experienced the fall of communism in their countries. I am a bit quick to dismiss the G8 protesters, people protesting the Iraq war or whatever sometimes, I think I use the fact the world is complex and situations subtle as an excuse for inaction and came away with a desire to direct some of my skills and energies to making even a small difference. I am unsure what it will be though, toying with a few ideas at the moment.

Another highlight was the Reichstag, in particular taking the trip up to the dome. The queue takes too long but the once you are up it is the best view of Berlin and it is wonderful to be so close to the Norman Foster designed cupola.