Let’s wrap this up eh?
Shall we do Berlin today?
I think so.
Travelling from Verona, via Munich, we arrive at Berlin TX on the 8th July, 2016. From there a bus and train ride to Alexanderplatz, the centre of East Berlin where we were greeted by a summer downpour ☔️ which lasted only as long as it took to run into a convenience store to buy an umbrella! We stayed at the Park Inn overlooking the plaza where there was a wine and food festival happening. We ate and drank very well that week!
Our interest in WW1 and the Western Front was covered in a couple of posts earlier here and here, but we are also very much interested in all things WW2. While in Berlin we booked multiple walking tours to find out as much as possible about Berlin, and about the Holocaust. We were not disappointed. I highly recommend these walking tours. We used Insider Tours but there are many others.
It has not always been pretty for Germany. Memorials to those times are prevalent all over Germany, the Topography of Terror, is one that bears witness to these. Germany is the only place that is ‘working through a process of coming to terms with its own history’ still. Kollwitz’s Pieta’ (AKA ‘Mother with her dead son’) provides the focal point within a monochromatic room behind the columns of the Neue Wache building, otherwise sparse, the open sky peeks through the circular opening directly above it. The eerie Memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe, consisting of 2711 grey slabs ranging in height from 20cm to just over 4.5 metres. As you walk through you are engulfed in the grey, you feel lost and alone and melancholic. You just want to run, run, run, to escape, but where is out??? Is it enough to dedicate such a memorial? Will anything we do be enough?
Hitler’s bunker now filled with concrete and covered by a dirty, unkept carpark surrounded by public housing – is that enough? Visiting the many concentration camps, not only in Germany but in many other places, to remember, to pray, to weep. For those who have visited them you know there is not much to say. You arrive with angst and anticipation, courageous even, and while you think you’re ready – you are most definitely not. I wasn’t. I was overcome even more so than at the Western Front. I could hear their screams in the silence. I could hear their silence.
Nothing prepares you. It is after these particular experiences that my journals save me. Once I get back and even sometimes on the way home to our hotels, my journals are where I put my emotions. I tear paper, sections from brochures, I scribble and draw, scratch and write down things I heard said, feelings I felt and memories I must never forget. It calms me. Then I can sleep and be prepared for the next day. Without my journals I am spent.
It is only then that I can find sanity in amongst all the madness.
After the madness
It was after one of these walking tours that we decided to spend some time on Museum Island. There were two specific exhibits I needed to see with my own eyes. Queen Nefertiti, ‘the beautiful one has come’, stands in the centre of the room at the Neues Museum, surrounded by glass and visible down the centre of a series of open doorways. I fell in love with her.
The second was the Ishtar Gate, I mentioned in an earlier post. “Simply stunning” is all I wrote next to an image in my journal. I was obviously overwhelmed at its impact. You certainly are dwarfed and to be able to walk right up to it and view its detailed stone work was worth it. It was getting very late and they were closing but I was happy to have seen these most wonderful pieces of history.
And so it ends
Alas our 10-day holiday journal adventure has come to an end. Without my journals, my travels would be a litany of endless photographs of people and selfies, artworks and architecture, streets and villas, monuments and landmarks. Pictures and photographs are worth 1000 words. They can be interpreted and discussed, and prompt the most wonderful of stories. Using visuals is a wonderful creative process that I use constantly in my teaching, but the journals are a culmination of the emotions experienced; nothing could replace them.
Thank you for reading my holiday posts and a special mention to those who took the time to engage with comments and clicks. I do hope you enjoyed the travels. I know I took great pleasure in traveling through my journals again, especially in this time of uncertainty. Perhaps I could do it again some time soon. I have many things I did not share. Some I never will, but still…
Thanks for reading 🙂