The Messina Family

The Messina Family
Barcelona 2010

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Berlin, Germany

Berlin became known as the city of spies for many years during the Cold War. This is an actual piece of the tunnel that the Americans built under the wall to go to East Germany and place wire taps on the phones. This was discovered, by the way.
This is a small set of white crosses that continue to commemorate the people that tried to go over the wall and escape from East Berlin to West Berlin. 1065 were shot and killed trying to escape.
This is the holocost memorial in Berlin. It was inaugurated on 10 May 2005, 60 yrs after the end of WWII. It is on 19,000 sq m and has 2,711 concrete slabs that are various heights but their length and width are 2.38 m X 0.95 m. It is unsettling with the random difference in heights of the slabs. An ironic of the high S.S. officers, Berger, had his shelter in the right hand corner of this area. The holocaust memorial was placed directly over his bomb shelter.
The German flag flying....
The Brandenburg Gate was built in 1793 with the angel on top the gate named Victoria (her original name was Irene - go figure)Napolean actually had the nerve to steal the chariot off this gate. is back. Rich will finish his marathon here. The Brandenburg Gate was locked away in the "no man's zone" or better described as the "Death zone" when the wall was put up. As an icon to the people of Berlin, it was a very sad time. In Nov 1989 the wall fell and on Dec 22nd, 1989, this famous site was reopened to the public.
The Brandenburg Gate

The Siegessäule, with its golden statue symbolizing victory. Originally meant to be a national monument to Germany's "Wars of Unification", it was built 1864-73 to commemorate victory in the Prussian-Danish war.
Pictures of Gail Halvorsen "the candy bomber" and his mission to bring candy to the children in Berlin during the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49
Gail Halvorsen - Ambassador of Airlift...Also know as the Candy Bomber. During 1948-49, there was a 323 day standoff in Berlin. The Russians closed off all the roads to the western part of Berlin and that left several hundred thousand people without any supplies. The U.S. started the Berlin airlift. The Brits and the French also joined in helping save the people of Berlin. Flights originated from Hanover, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Every 13.5 minutes, a plane took off to drop a load in Berlin. There were 2,778,000 flights made! They brought everything...coal, newspapers, construction material, clothes, and of course, food. Gail Halvorsen felt bad for the kids of Berlin and he would drop little packages of sweets and candies with white handkerchiefs as parachutes over Berlin. He told the children they would know it was him because he would "wave his plane" by tipping his wings when he flew overhead. Rich and I were very fortunate to meet and talk to the candy bomber, Gail Halvorsen, and his wife, back when we lived in North Dakota. He still keeps in touch via letters with some of the children he dropped candy to in Berlin over 60 years ago. Some letters were in the Allied museum. This is a picture of him during that time... Our guide was very impressed when I told her I had met him.
The real Check point Charlie at the Allied Museum
one of the towers that was on the Wall...
A section of the Berlin Wall that was at the Allied Museum.
A sign outside the Allied Museum that I wanted to share with everyone...One thing that I really took away from this trip. Not every German during the WWII was a Nazi...they suffered a great deal at the hands of a few that were in power. They were tortured or killed if they didn't follow their crazy leader's ways. They suffered a great deal and then were outcasted by the world as the atrocities of the war were exposed in the years following the end of WWII. Our guide was very passionate about making us understand that Germans are not "evil people."
The Berliner bear outside the allied museum. This one was called Candy Bar. (I think in honor of perhaps the Candy Bomber which was part of this city's history)
random art within the city
antoher view of the ruins of the church.
The inside of this church was very beautiful before the bombing ruined the building...
The inside of the Memorial Church
The Gedächtniskirche or Memorial Church on Kurfürstendamm is a monument to peace and reconciliationMayra and Cyndi with a Berliner Bear
Do you remember those painted cows that were all over the U.S. back in the late 90's? They were on exhibit in Chicago and then moved to different states later....anyhow, the Germans must do the same thing with these bears. We saw several of them. This is Craig with one.
This church was bombed during WWII...and the people of Berlin asked to keep it as is as a church of remembrance of all that happened during that horrible war. It is a museum now. The tall building next to it is the new church.
Berlin is a gorgeous city. There are 3.4 million people living there with 169 different nationalities.
This is Check Point least a replica of it where the actual spot used to be. In front are an American soldier and a French soldier. They are actors. Actually...I have to say how upset this whole thing made me. I was so looking forward to seeing this...I had heard so much about it. Near here is where the Russian and American tanks had a stand off (Berlin was separated into four quarters after WWII - American, Russian, French & British) This ended up being an entryway that only diplomats, foreginers and allies could use. These two men (who I actually thought were real soldiers from their respective countries) were standing there. I was moved...until they were taking money from tourists to have their pictures taken with them at this check point Charlie replica. Then I knew they were actors...and that kinda ticked me off. They were pretending to be soldiers...charging money for pictures and also for taking money to put a checkpoint charlie stamp in your passport (is that even legal?) my soap box now, but if the bus hadn't been leaving, I was seriously considering creating a national incident. grrrrr...

Deutscher Dom (German Cathedral) in Gendamenmarkt Square

Gendarmenmarkt is one of the most beautiful squares in Europe –
St. Hedwig's Cathedral - one of the older Catholic churches in Berlin. Most Berliners are Lutheran.
This was a very interesting monument to the war. If you look closely in the window on the ground, there are empty shelves in a room below the ground. In 1933, the Nazi movement started taking hold 25,000 books were burned due to their unacceptable politcal views or Jewish views. This is a monument to the memory of how it all started...
Cyndi by the Berlin wall. The wall is 3.6 meters high. This section was 1.3 km long. The total length of the wall was 153 km.
Mayra and Cyndi at the Berlin Wall
Cyndi and Craig at the Berlin Wall
Cyndi, with her baby brother, Craig, and his wife, Mayra, at the Berlin Wall
Craig touches the Wall...just to say he did. The guide kept talking about the great art on the wall...we were all a bit puzzled by that, as most of it looked like a lot of grafitti to us. However, there were some other sections that were a lot better looking. This year is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall. Surely it hasn't been that long???
Mayra enjoys a Bavarian pretzel on the train ride to Berlin. The young college student in charge of our car of the train had told us we were getting pizza. We were a little surprised when we ended up with baskets of pretzels! :o) A little lost in the translation. :o)

Some other random thoughts about Berlin that I didn't mention in the captions...The Russians actually are the ones that freed Berlin. 2,500 Russians died freeing Berlin. The allied troops didn't join them until 2 months later.
Hitler wanted Munich to be the capital of Germany rather than Berlin because he felt there were too many "sympathizers" in Berlin.
Over 55,000 Jews from Berlin went to concentration camps. There is now about 15,000 Jews that live in Berlin today.
There is a very large gay population in of the largest in Europe.
During WWII, 70% of the buildings in Berlin were destroyed. Most of the men were gone and never returned after the war. The women of Berlin rebuilt the city.
JFK is well-loved in Berlin. He gave a famous speech on 29 June 1963 calling the Berlin Wall "an offense against humanity." Berliners loved him. Aug 1961 is when the Russian/U.S. tank stand off was. By October 9th, 1961, the Russians began building the Wall. It finally came down 20 years ago, in November 1989.
The differences between the old east and west Berlin is still evident. Some parts of the city have flourished were others still have that "Cold War Eastern Bloc" feel to it. I would highly recommend a trip to Berlin if you get the chance. The food is good, the people are friendly and the recent history of the area is very impressive.

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