Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Favorite European City

Berlin Germany

It's not that I don't like Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Munich, Amsterdam, London etc. It's that Berlin is ultra special. Marco and I spent Father's Day weekend touring Berlin. It was my third time in the city and it has yet to dissapoint. Name any other city that was completely leveled by war, split in two. Built back to somewhat original form on one side and constructed for utility on the other. Then it was brought back together again to form a vibrant, young international city.

As you can see by some of the pictures, Marco and I had fun. We always do. He's quite a trooper. In my dreams I didn't dream this kid up. He wil go and go and go. As long as you feed him, he continues on. On our first day alone we easily walked 8 miles and not one single complaint. Just laughs and excitement of the things to see.

Berlin played host to the 1936 Olympics. The stadiums is still in use today. It was here where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals in the face of white supremacy. Etched forever at the top of the results wall is his name. The man of the Olympic games.

Marco is at the stage right now where he doesn't like to smile for the camera. I got him to smile by saying "All happy dogs wag their tails". It worked.

This stadium also played host to the World Cup Final in 2006 where Italy defeated France in the big game. This year it will host the 2009 Track and Field World Championships. The Blue track is beautiful. A fitting place for the World Stage.

The Wall. It will be forever a part of this city. The people of Berlin proved that no wall is tall enough to keep them apart. Although it stood for 28 years, it came down.

Brandenburg Gate. The French tried to tear it down centuries ago. Hitler used it as a show of power as he marched troops through it. Kennedy stood in front as did Reagan. It stands as the gate to the city and is quite a site.

The Holocaust memorial. Too bad you had to be 15 to go inside. We're confident Marco could handle it but we obliged. It sits 200 meters from the Gate.

The Rreichstag

Congressional building in Berlin. This buiding burned down during the April/May 1945 final stand. It's a beautiful building. The pictures of it in 1945 are sad.

One of the more famous signs in all of Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie. The gate in Berlin between East and West. Ground Zero of the Cold War. At one point there were US Tanks pointing at Soviet Tanks. I'm sure the soldiers who stood guard have great stories about their time here.

The Russian War Memorial

Many people don't see this when they visit Berlin. If they do it's as they drive by on the way to the Holocost Museum or other places of interest. They look and probably don't know what it is. In April and May of 1945 the Russian army laid seige on Berlin. They came with vengance. Although the numbers were probably fuzzy they knew the damage Germany had done to their country (25 million Russians lost their lives). For two months they bombarded Berlin. It is estimated that 20,000 Russians died in those two months. Along with 20,000 German soldiers and 30,000 civilians. By September of that same year this memorial was built. There are 2000 Russian Soldiers burried there. There are also two Russian Tanks and two cannons on the memorial. It's a show of force and of respect for the Russians. What's interesting is they were so fast to build the memorial, they did it before the city was split. This memorial is in former West Berlin. It was closed down for years.

Marco and I had quite a time getting to this memorial. We had to get around a big Bike Race.
Berlin is so much more than the war. It's more about the 70 years since the war. Today you can find and increadibly diverese and open community of people. Former East Berlin with it's huge utilitarian apartment buildings and one of most vibrant underground cultures in the world. Berlin has an openly gay mayor. The Chancellor of the country (Berlin being the capital) is a woman. If I had one city I could go back to it would be Berlin. I'm sure I've only seen a small part of this great city and I'd love to see more.
It's a good life....

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