willcommen in berlin

I recently took a few days off to travel to Berlin for the first time. I had been told by many friends that it would instantly fall in love with the place. Skeptical as always, I found they had proved themselves correct. I did.

I particularly went to see “The One Grand Show” playing at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. The costumes were specifically designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier. Part aerial acrobatics, part song and dance cabaret, part fashion retrospective, this revue was well worth the trip. And a highlight among many.

But for me personally, it was experiencing the more recent history of this city that really hit home. Berlin seems to not shy away from the evils of Germany’s past. In fact, it seem to embrace them, to expose itself to hard truths. I was heartened by the amount of Jewish monuments and memorials to the holocaust that are casually scattered around the city. There, in among the everyday things, the everyday streets, the every day lives. Like at graffiti tag, it said that these fellow Germans were here, that they existed, and that their memory at least, is home again. It is tragically bittersweet.

And you cannot go to Berlin without the ever historic wall looming, remnants of this spectre still lingering. I remember watching on television in Australia that time when the wall was torn down, when people were reunited without the prospect of being shot. You see it most clearly in Potsdamer Platz and at the Topographie des Terrors. It was on a casual stroll back from the Mauerpark Flohmarkt in Prenzlauer Berg, that I came across a memorial of the wall in between residential buildings, in the very place it divided lives and families. There were vintage pictures of people holding newborns in the air, hoping that family members on the other might catch a glimpse of these new additions to the bloodline. It struck me how commonplace this wall became, how people can adapt to the absurd. In world where politicians find favour in wielding insular and inward-looking rhetoric, these memorials make it startling clear that they are still very relevant as warnings of what could be again.

Berlin is all this to me, and so very much more. Cannot wait to get back there again for another visit.

High-res versions of these photos and more can be found on my Flickr page here. Please note that CC Licences apply.

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