03 September, 2012


Shira and I just returned from a glorious 10-days in Europe.  5 in Berlin, 5 in Amsterdam.  Having only traveled to the Third World together, it was, frankly, a relief and real joy to vacation in a place with ample toilet paper, clean drinking water, paved roads, and English speakers. 

Here's a brief primer of our time in Berlin with some of our photos.

The city, unbeknownst to us before we arrived, is a hot-bed of awesome Asian food.  On our first night in town, we hit Monsieur Vuong, a hip Vietnamese place with really good veggie curries and noodle dishes.

The next morning, we explored the Jewish Museum.  The architecture of the two seemingly unconnected (from the outside) structures were just as interesting as the museum content itself.

                                                                  (from wikipedia)

Here's a shot from the Garden of Exile, which attempts "to completely disorient the visitor. It represents a shipwreck of history."

And here's my favorite shot of a spirited Cantor from a visiting photo exhibit at the Museum, documenting Germany's many Russian immigrants.

Later that day, we headed to Checkpoint Charlie, the best known border crossing between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

Berlin is full of public art.  It's not uncommon to see a nice-looking apt. building, exploding with graffiti.

Speaking of public art, the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall left-standing has been devoted to Peace-centric murals, painted by artists from all over the world.  The stretch is known as the East Side Gallery.

We were lucky to hear about the Prinzessinneng√§rten.  It's a sprawling urban farm in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of East Berlin which we rode our rented bikes to one afternoon.  

A department store sat on this piece of land until WWII, when it was bombed.  Until recently, it was sitting empty.  A small group of people now lease the land from the city, uncertain of its future.  

On site is a restaurant sourced with the farm's produce.  Everyday, a different, fresh and affordable meal is offered.  

We were served some-kind of polenta mash, citrus-y fennel salad, and colorful quiche.  

 Of course, it would have been impossible to be in Germany without confronting it's history.  We took the train about 30-minutes outside Berlin to Orianenberg where the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp sits. 

"More than 200,000 people were imprisoned in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp between 1936 and 1945. At first the prisoners were mostly political opponents of the Nazi regime. However, increasing numbers of members of groups defined by the National Socialists as racially or biologically inferior were later included. By 1939 large numbers of citizens from the occupied European states arrived. Tens of thousands of people died of starvation, disease, forced labor and mistreatment, or were victims of the systematic extermination operations of the SS. Thousands of other prisoners died during the death marches following the evacuation of the camp at the end of April 1945. Approximately 3,000 sick prisoners, along with the doctors and nurses who had stayed behind in the camp, were liberated by Soviet an Polish soldiers."

(work will set you free)

We also made it to Berlin's Holocaust Memorial.  Frankly, it was pretty disappointing.  It was abstract where it could have been sincere but still creative.  It's basically "2,711 gray stone slabs that bear no markings, such as names or dates."

I think the most disturbing holocaust sightseeing we did was in West Berlin, in a suburb called Wannsee.  It was here in this beautiful neighborhood, in a gorgeous mansion on the banks of a lovely lake where top Nazi officials discussed how they'd carry-out the Final Solution.

Strangely, just down the block is the former summer villa of great Jewish-German impressionist, Max Lieberman.  His house is now a museum too.

All in all, Berlin was awesome, gritty and bike-friendly, pretty and easy to navigate, hip and odd.


Blogger scott davidson said...

I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from Wahooart.co, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/Opra/BRUE-8LHS4U, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.

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