Sunday, 29 May 2016

Berlin Photo Diary # 1 : Angels of the Cold War

Yay, back in Berlin.  Almost a year to the day.  My abiding passion for this city knows no bounds, so I was over the moon to be back and ready for some exploring.

This time we stayed in a hotel near the Potsdamer Platz.  Once a bustling square of the city, it was almost completely razed to the ground during World War II and left a desolate wasteland during the Cold War years.  The Berlin Wall was the only construction built on this mammoth void where it stood incongruously dividing East and West up until its fall in 1989.  Today, Potsdamer Platz has risen.  It stands as large as life with its tall shiny buildings like polished chrome dominating the skyline.  The entertainment capital of Berlin, there are; multiplex cinemas, hotels, restaurants, bars and coffee shops, large domed shopping malls containing more high end designer brand stores than you could shake a stick at.  Not forgetting your Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts.  It was interesting to see how reunification had focused intensely on this area.  Investment was poured in in what seems like a frantic attempt to wipe out what had gone before, to make everything alright again, and, perhaps, to send a clear message - the West has won.

One of the few buildings that survived the bombings was the Staatsbibliothek (Berlin State Library) A building which, in my mind, will always be inextricably linked with Wim Wenders' angels in Wings of Desire'.  When we ambled past and I realised where we were, I squealed with delight.  

We went inside but only saw as far as the foyer as weren't brave enough to ask if we could enter the actual library; the place where Cassius and Damiel watched over the people, listened to their thoughts and tenderly held them as they went about their business and tried to make sense of the world.  


Some of the most beautiful scenes ever committed to film.


Today, people walk here and there, obliviously scurrying across the Wall marker in their thousands. We crossed from West to East to get from our hotel to the u-bahn.  Meanwhile, fragments of the actual wall stand on display, some purely for tourist photo opportunities.  I inhaled it all like oxygen.  I was in Berlin.

Still, there is still an undeniable weight of history to this city.  On an aimless wander, encounters with relics of the past are frequent.   Neither garishly exploited nor sugarcoated, just left bare as testament to the past.  The grand facade of this former railway station was one example; notoriously used by the Nazi's to transport the elderly Jewish population to the death camps.  It remains as a fragment of history with a modest information board placed beside it.  The trains still run, but you would barely notice the modern station entrance placed at a discreet distance beyond the facade.

I later realised that this was also a location used in 'Wings of Desire' when I happened upon this still from the film.  This made my insides churn with an excitement I just can't explain!  (in case you hadn't guessed, Wings of Desire is probably my favourite film of all time.  Few films have affected me as much as this one.)


Alexanderplatz was also on my list of places to see as I was curious to see some of the iconic Socialist areas from the former Eastern side.  I was happy to see that the main square had largely remained unchanged from those photographs I've seen from the Cold War days, and the famous World Clock was still there.  We also got to drive down Karl Marx Allee but I didn't get any pictures. 

We saw so much this time as it was just me and the Mister and we were able to go at our own pace.  

Got loads more photos to share but will save that for another day

Sarah xxx

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