Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Off the beaten path: Berlin Treptower Park

Looking over past posts, I realized that I have left out quite a bit of my trip to Berlin with Stuart. After doing Prague and day trips basically on our own, I wanted to make sure that we had a tour guide with us in Berlin. While Prague was saved during the Nazi occupation, Berlin was so destroyed the collection of rubble from the city created a hill of debris now grown over that held a US NSA listening station.

As I've mentioned before, Berlin is fascinating in it's sense of NOW. It is difficult to walk through the city and get a feel of the past because so much of it is brand new (but rebuilt to look like the past). So without a guide, you happen upon a building you think is hundreds of years old is in reality on 10 years old (or less!). It's a trick of the eye that not all Berliners are happy with. How much is recreating history being authentic? How much of recreated history is worth the recreation? What does it imply?

Berlin is also very rule-bound with respect to construction. The red granite of the Third Reich is so disgusted that new red construction has been destroyed because of rumors that the granite came from the Nazi regime. This makes the memorial in Treptower Park that much more special.

Our guide was getting annoyed with us I could tell. Stuart (being 17 years old) was unable to show any interest in anything and I was so excited about being in Berlin that I was pretty much willing to be shown anything, anywhere. So when she took us into the former East Berlin to see the park, she seemed a little concerned we wouldn't have an interest. Finally she mentioned that this was a Soviet memorial park. Would we mind that? My response was simple. The men who died in the war were no less human, no less someone's son or husband or brother because of their nationality. I was happy to go and ponder the "other side" simply to place perspective on a war that ended five years before my son was born.

This was one of our last stops so imagine my surprise when huge stylized flags of red marble (taken from the Third Reich Chancellory!!!) were used in the memorial.


The sheer size of this memorial is amazing. My son barely comes to the base of the kneeling soldier. But that is nothing compared to the standing Soviet solder at the end of the long garden. It is hard to put this size of this in perspective and I don't believe pictures really do it justice. The soldier is holding a child and stomping on a swastika. This marks another unique facet of this memorial. Swastikas and Nazi symbols are illegal in Germany (even as Anti-Nazi sentiment!)


Let's see if a bigger picture gives better sense of size. Look at the tiny people to the right of the picture.

Treptower Park, Berlin

The park was built after the war by widows and women as so many of the German men were killed in the war. If you travel to Berlin, I strongly recommend going off the beaten tourist path and check out this memorial. It's very peaceful and quiet and a wonderful place for contemplation.

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