Archives page

Posts Tagged ‘germany’

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, city of culture for the bizarre

Gorilla outside the gallery shop

Gorilla outside the gallery shop

I’m in love with Berlin already. There’s graffiti all over the place, art galleries of the bizarre and obscure, fantastic displays of architecture, restaurants to cater for anyones taste the world over, and enough to keep you busy for a very long time.

Just as the tube map looks remarkably similar, Berlin looks and feels like it could be London’s long lost brother. Hopefully I feel this way after 5 days here. I found one free art gallery hidden away down a side street off of Friedrich Strasse which left me wanting to buy everything. I’ll most likely compromise and buy a postcard instead. Iron exhibits both huge and small fill the central courtyard and various huts off to the side as bunch of those artists responsible sat around making more.

It felt like I’d walked into some sort of rennaisance fraternity in gotham city – they had their own bar, which nobody seemed to be interested in using, a group huddled around an open fire, and a small burger van tucked away in the corner.  If the rest of Berlin stays like this (and first impressions indicate it will), I might not even mind staying in a city for longer than days.