Farewell 2011, Long Live 2012

I’ve seen tons of 2011 retrospective blog posts over the past month. Not having one is making me feel inadequate, so gathered from various stats on my machine, and social networks – last year, I: »

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Field of Stelae

Field of Stelae

At first I thought it was a crazy art exhibit which got horribly out of control. As though the artist kept laying down more pieces, and just kept going because nobody told him to stop. It reminded me of the Anthony Gormley exhibit I saw back when he had the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, and filled a room with person sized blocks which you could walk between and around.

Just south of the Brandenburg gate is the Field of Stelae, an almost 20,000m² field of 2,711 concrete blocks each with a pathway in between to find your own way through the memorial. Thousands of concrete blocks might seem like something out of a 60s nightmare, but the effect is stunning.

Walking from one side to another is a feat the will very likely find you meeting suited businessmen carrying coffee, tourists (such as myself) hunting for a clear stretch to take photos, young children tumbling and giggling as they twist and turn around aimless unknown corners, teenagers racing down the 1 metre wide passageways oblivious to pushchair dangers lurking behind the block, parents shouting names of lost young children still tumbling and giggling, and the best location in the whole world for a game marco polo.

The whole piece was designed by Peter Eisenman and you might be quick to suggest meaning behind the concrete blocks, the pathways and the shadows cast. The information leaflet I picked up is quick to disperse those ideas, and claims the memorial is unique in that it uses no symbolism. One of the FAQs at the back: “Why are there 2,711 stelae” is answered quite frankly that it is the result of “measurements chosen by the architect for the location”. Well, duh. It goes on to say that it bears no relation to the number of victims, or hold any symbolic significance. It is, just because it is. This is one of the most refreshing displays of both remembrance, and art that I’ve ever seen, and I love it.

The Bundestag. And it’s new spirally mirrory thing.


Inside the glass dome on top of the Bundestag

The Bundestag sits on the western edge of Berlin, and is now the official home of the German parliament (again).  Back when it was named the Reichstag, a fire in 1933 was one of the events Hitler used as pretext to sieze power.  Seems pretty suspicious to me.  “Guten tag Herr Hitler.  Wie geht’s?”  “Ja, sehr gutt, und du?”  “Oh mein gott, was ist das?  Das Reichstag ist “… what’s German for ‘on fire’?  “…geblazen.” (???)  And while they were all distracted putting it out, Hitler seized power, eh?

Fitting that it’s the same way he left the world then.

Actually, that whole paragraph was just so I could show off how good my German has got in just 3 days here.  Four years of studying it, and I still can’t hold a conversation beyond “Ja, sehr gutt.  Und du?”  Even shopping is useless  I can go into any bakery and ask, “Ich mochte ein butterbrot, bitte”.  Except I don’t want the damn sandwich.  I want the cake.  Ich mochte cake.

So anyway, that’s kind of how Hitler came to power.  It was properly restored from 1990-1999 or so which also saw a new dome erected on top which houses a central funnel of mirrors and two separate spiral walkways towards the top of the dome.  It is without a doubt, really, really cool, and well worth the hours wait in the rain I queued to get in.  Can someone check for me – I can’t be bothered to research for my own blog, but – was he involved in the Mayors building on South Bank, too?  Probably not, but the design reminds me of that anyway.

Berlin – The hunt for Giants

The Little Giant on Day 2

The Little Giant on Day 2

Cut to this morning, and I’m in the search of giants.  Walking along Unter Den Linden (which roughly translates as “Tourists will buy anything”) is a lot like walking along tourist districts anywhere else in the world.  Huge imposing buildings filled with art and stolen treasures from all over the planet, and statues to fallen heroes scattered around wherever possible.  Alongside tourist (“I Love Berlin”) shops, and Starbucks are the expensive showrooms of Ferrari, and other “small c*ck” car manufacturers I can’t remember.  Some even have exclusive bars inside with bouncers on the door.  Walking boldly in, I was quite obviously turned away.

At either end of Unter Den Linden are the first sites for Die Riesen Kommen.  They’re really just teasers for the events that will follow tomorrow, and through the rest of the weekend much like the wooden spaceship that landed in London.  I finally found Schlossplatz to be the giant building site, opposite the giant cathedral I’d been using to shelter from the rain.  Schlossplatz, it appeared – was mostly a giant building site which would soon be home to the brand new Schlossplatz U-Bahn station.  Walking around it a couple of times I thought that maybe those crazy Royal De Luxe guys had caused this themselves.  Digging a giant cavern in the middle of Berlin seemed like just their sort of thing, but I was questioning whether they would have found city approval.

Then I heard screams of excitement off in the distance where I’d seen a small tent being built earlier – so rushed that way to find … another fenced off hole in the ground.  Taking their cue from the shows in Iceland, Royal De Luxe had engineered a geyser in the middle of Berlin spraying water 50-60 ft into the air every 5-10 minutes.  “Come stand over here for pictures” a helpful German student advised me.  “Hah”, I laughed, knowing it was right where the water had fallen minutes before.  “How about you stand here, I’ll just wait right here”.  As the water erupted high into the sky, I let loose on the camera, continuing to stay my ground as said water came crashing right down on top of me”.  Apparently the German student, found it particularly amusing.  “Never seen it go that way before”, he chuckled.  “Fuck off and die”, I thought.

The D90 rose to the challenge however, and after having a (cold) geyser thrown over it, I’m now sure it can perform well in almost all wet weather conditions.  The same can’t be said for my coat.