Saturday, June 13, 2009

Berlin, Day 1: Irony and Interesting Stuff

Ok, seems like my mood has gotten less whiny and a bit more spunky now that I have touched down in Berlin. The weather was great (although a bit windy for ultimate though good for cooling hot tourists).

Again, a bunch of observations and perhaps a question or two for the three readers out there:

  • My last picture in Paris was of (the or a, don't know which) Communist Party office while my first in Berlin was of the CDU (conservative party). What does that say? Perhaps that hotel prices are much higher in Paris rather than Berlin, so that I could afford a hotel in a better neighborhood? Definitely a nicer hotel with wired and wireless internet and hopefully more reliable at either/both.

  • In the Tiergarten--the huge park in the middle of the city, there was a series of statues, each one demonstrating a fair amount of violence. Hunters fighting off a pack of dogs, hunters killing a buffalo or something, and so forth. Later on, outside the modern art museum, which used to be a palace or something, had an old statue of a God or hunter about to stab an animal with a spear. Much more violent statues than I have seen in other cities, perhaps suggesting the psycho-social/quasi-national roots of Nazi Germany?

  • So far, I like the beer gardens in Berlin (sample size of one) to those of Munich 22 years ago, which were tourist traps.

  • Second irony alert: in the middle of the park, along the major boulevard, there is a statue (Siegessaule) that was begun after the Prussian war against Denmark, and the completed after the victories over Austria and France to cement German unification in 1871. The figure at the top is the Goddess named Victory. Yep, a statue dedicated to victory, and, yet ever since this statue was completed, Germany has won many battles, but has lost every war. What does this mean? Apparently, golden idols for the Gods is an insult of some kind.

  • There is a road in the park along the Spree (canal/river) named John Foster Dulles Allee. First time I have seen a road named after a US Secretary of State outside of the US (any inside the US?). I would not hold my breath waiting to see Condi Rice Strasse or Bvld de Colin Powell or even Hillary Clinton Avenue any time soon.

  • The Germans are incredibly obedient at the crosswalks, only going with the green walking signal (which seems to have led to a souvenir business of little green walking dudes), even if no cars are in sight.

  • Ok, perhaps it is not just Texas and Russia. Lots of countries seem to have the bigger is better fetish. Not only is the Reichstag huge, but so are many other buildings. Reminds me of a certain alien planet on Babylon 5, yes, the one responsible for all of the wars, although their buildings looked a bit more like Budapest.

  • CNBC is so much better than CNN International. Only had the latter in Paris, have both in Berlin, and CNN is repeated stories I have seen a bunch of times, all news or crappy news. CNBC has Conan. No need to think about it anymore. Bad news for me trying to get work done transcribing the notes from Friday....

  • Thus far, the most expensive museum during my trip was the Checkpoint Charlie one--and they didn't take credit cards. Good thing there was enough interesting stuff outside to make the decision easier. The picture is my shadow, standing astrike of the marker where the wall used to be.

Reader Feedback Needed

  • Does anyone know of a great book or article (in English, of course) on the move of Germany's capitol from Bonn to Berlin--this must have been controversial, politicized and with all kinds of unintended effects and 2nd order effects. Perhaps Michael Lewis or Malcolm Gladwell said something about it?

  • Ok, how do I order beer in German? I like the beers that are less yellow and more orange, dark perhaps but not necessarily black.
A great day. Tired feet, but more stuff to see tomorrow.


Vladimir said...

Maoz Azaryahu has a piece in political geography 16(6) re: renaming street names in east berlin. He makes a point regarding marx, the street bearing his name that was left is actually just a continuation of one with hegel's name. It seems that the intention was to honour marx the thinker whilst removing his name from other parts of the city that were considered politicized space.

Megan said...

As a librarian, I can't help but offer a quick citation.

Dettke, Dieter. 2003. The Spirit of the Berlin Republic. New York: Berghahan Books.

Paterson, William E. 2000. "From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic." German Politics, 9, no. 1: 23-40.

And from an architectural angle:
Wise, Michael Z. 1998. Capital Dilemma: Germany's Search for a New Architecture of Democracy. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.