Wednesday, 6 March 2013

EuroUS Trip 2012 - 2013: Germany


Berlin was a fairly depressing city, to be fair that probably has a lot to do with the sites we visited, which were focused around World War 2 and the Cold War, the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, Sachsenhausen, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the Topography of Terror.

See, totally made it there!
Our stay in Berlin actually included New Years Eve, despite having arrived in town at 4am (alas, the timing of planes and trains were less than ideal), we did in fact make our way to Brandenburger Tor, where the big celebrations are held. We didn't realise at the time that the entrance to the celebrations were actually quite far from the Tor itself, we had to make our way around most of the Tiergarten before we could get in, and once we were in, well it was like a really crowded carnival. It had the same 4 or 5 stores repeated along the entire party mile, each selling either silly hats, lollies, bratwurst, glühwein or beer. There was a single ride, that being a ferries wheel, and as you worked your way closer to the Tor, the crowd grew thicker and the entertainment louder. The entertainment on offer seemed like pretty standard pop music fare, but in German, which did help me enjoy it. Didn't even make it to 9pm before we decided to head back to the hotel.

Personally I think that Sachsenhausen and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe were the most powerful places we visited. Our trip to Sachsenhausen was as part of a guided tour and so were told the history of the camp as we went through it, giving insights into the purpose behind the layout and the sheer amount of time, thought and effort that went into the systems of cruelty. It really drives home that this was not done for purely cynical and logical reasons, but for fanatical ideological ones, enough people really believed in what they were doing. They would have known that the world in general would not approve, nor even the population at large in Germany, but it was a task they felt was necessary.

Alas a reconstruction, but this was taken at about 4am on New Years Eve
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe or rather the museum beneath it, is laid out in a very interesting way. It consists of 4 rooms, in a loop. The first is a fairly straight forward history of the persecution of the Jews in Europe in the lead up to WW2, through to the completion of the war. Finishing with 6 portraits to give faces to the millions that were murdered. The second room is artifacts, scraps of diaries, letters and other records from Jews in the camps, some of them revealing what has happened to them, some showing vague knowledge of what will happen next. The third room is about families, they have about a dozen of them, each with a nice family photo, a map of where they were from and what the family did to try to escape persecution, finally it has a list of all the family members and you can see, that maybe 1 or 2 survive the war of a family of a dozen people. The last room was the most impactful, it was a darkened very simple room, with seating around the centre and plain unmarked walls. It projects a name on the wall and then tells that person's story, first in German, then in English. They all end with "and they died in a camp in X" or "and they were never heard from again". The names just keep coming, with no signs of repeating, I have no idea how many names and stories that they have, but longer than I was willing to sit in that room.

By no means was Berlin all fireworks and depression, we also visited the Pergamon museum, the Bundestag dome and just a lot of walking around. The tours we went on in the city were good and the Street Art tour was focused primarily on the Berlin of today rather than the Berlin of 70-30 years ago.


We visited Hamburg for one reason, the Miniatur Wunderland. The world's largest model railway. It (currently) takes up a floor and a half of the building it is in, with the intent to eventually take up at least 2 floors. I have no idea how my girlfriend first found out about this place, but it we simply had to go there while we were in Europe. We spent the entire day there, exploring all of the various locations they have been inspired by. Switzerland, Germany, America and Scandinavia are all represented along with their own entirely made up areas. There is even a working airport, with planes landing and taking off (atop of transparent poles admittedly).

The entire place is packed with amazing little details, both mundane and fantastical. Even buildings that are almost impossible to see into seem to have fully detailed interiors, they even have a day/night cycle that lasts in total maybe 20 minutes, so you can see Vegas at night, or notice the UFO that periodically drops down to communicate with that alien that is standing out in the open but you simply did not notice until the UFO highlighted it.

It is a bit like Where's Wally, looking around at relatively normal scenes you start to notice little things, like Santas being everywhere (since we went close to Christmas time), or a Unicorn hidden in a cave in a mountainside, a thief tunneling into a bank vault, where police are ready to catch him or my favourite a couple having some fun in the woods. So many neat things that are easy to miss, I only noticed the last because a woman was taking photos of a seemingly boring section of woodlands.

The displays aren't entirely static either, there are buttons that will activate sections of scenery periodically, starting a play to be performed, or setting off a brush fire or starting up a chocolate factory. None of them are particularly well labeled, which can make working out just what has changed a challenge in of itself.

I am sure that Hamburg has other things to offer than model trains, but that was enough for us, maybe next time we are in the area we will actually look at more touristy activities.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, a couple that brought board games or phones into the woods, that's dedication to the very idea of fun! :D