Post Unification

You have to understand that to me, Berlin has undergone a startling change. The last time I was here -- in 1982 -- half of the city was still part of the Soviet Union. Berlin was a semi-circular island of freedom, color, and activity surrounded by barren, drab terrain... a city accessible only by a hurried dash through "The Zone" via a lonely flat highway with no onramps or offramps, often cordoned off by barbed wire and fifty-meter-wide no-man zones.

The iron curtain sliced through the midst of the city, taking the form of a concrete scar topped with concertina wire, and attended by severe East German guards monitoring the border with autmatic weapons and attack dogs.

But that is not the Berlin of Today.

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate
Seeing "Brandenburg Tor" -- without the wall, concertina wire, barricades, and soldiers -- was a very moving experience. For as long as I had been alive, the street that went up to it just stopped there. It was, for all intents and purposes a cul de sac. Now cars and busses race through as if it were merely some inconvenient nuisance impeding their movement from east to west. How quickly they forget. Off in the distance is the once-East-German TV transmission tower in Alexanderplatz.

Very few parts of Berlin are not undergoing transformation. Color abounds, scaffolds shrowd a fair number of buildings in the busy downtown, and huge cranes punctuate the skyline no matter which direction you look. But not every place has seen the benefits of Unification. This abandoned yard along the transit right-of-way recalls the neglect more frequently associated with the East Berlin of not so long ago. Unification Hasn't Touched Everywhere Yet
Unification Hasn't Touched Everywhere Yet

Quiet Memorial
Quiet Memorial
On the grounds of a bombed-out monastery a few steps from Alexanderplatz there's a quiet garden where the din of industry subsides, and a more subdued, contemplative atmosphere exists. This eloquently captures the spirit of the city; at once old and new, hard and delecate, filled with contradictions and juxtapositions. The wounds of the past are gradually being reclaimed and replaced with things of beauty.

Berlin is a city of stark contrasts. Old and new, ruined and rebuilt, baroque and modern. In the distance, the ragged ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) juts into a post-reconstruction skyline as seen along Kurfürstendam. A City of Contrasts
A City of Contrasts

Berlin Dom
Berlin Dom
This cathederal, the Berlin Dom, is one of the treasures that wasn't severly damaged during the WWII bombing campaign that lay waste to Nazi Berlin. That makes this all the more poignant, considering the beauty enshrined within the place.

The Victory Column, a memorial built of abandoned cannons from various campaigns during the "Wars of Unification" of the ninteenth century. It started out being only the cannons themselves, then after victory against Austria and France, the golden statue of Victory was placed atop it. The statue has come to be known as "Golden Else" by the locals. A brief trip to the top pays off with a wonderful view of Berlin. Siege Memorial
Siege Memorial

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