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Impressions from Berlin – May 2013

8 June, 2013 (06:48) | Living in Europe | By: admin

Mark and I spent our 16th wedding anniversary in Berlin, where neither of us had been. We had no expectations, so it was a relaxed yet educational trip.

Our first morning was sunny, so we took a cruise down the River Spree and canals:

Its fun to sit back and document the eccentric cityscape from our flat boat.

In my last blog post I mentioned how I am going to paint a building in Los Angeles. Berlin is a city full of interesting color combinations. I found myself taking shots of interesting colors and trim on buildings:

Interesting color combos.

More interesting looking buildings.


Our anniversary itself is May 31st. We lucked out on some great seats to the Berlin Philharmonic, with Simon Rattle conducting. This was a rare treat because although he has been the conductor for the Berlin Philharmonic for 14 years, he only performs in Berlin one week of the month, and May 31st was his final home performance for awhile.

For me this was a real treat, because I saw him enthusiastically (guest) conduct the L.A. Philharmonic over 30 years ago when he had electric, curly black ringlets. He was masterful even then; spirited and accomplished. But there is no comparing the musicianship of L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra to that of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, nor can one compare the impeccable acoustics of the Berlin symphony hall with the boomier Los Angeles Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the 80’s. These days Simon Rattle has electric silver ringlets and holds a relaxed rein with his beloved orchestra, who visibly enjoy working with him. The performance was a combination of the best sounding auditorium, the best musicians, a great conductor and interesting choices in music. What luck!

The Pierre Boulez 12 Tone pieces for piano and orchestra shimmered. We could hear every single harp, timpani, viola, flute – every instrument came through crystal clear. It was stunning, delicate and powerful.

The orchestra got excited during the louder, dynamic parts of the Bruckner Symphony that followed. They were swinging their heads and moving their legs around and laughing and looked to be having a great time. It was a joy to watch.

1- Simon Rattle conducts Berlin Philharmonic. 2 – Self portrait inside Berlin concert hall.
Berlin Philharonic concert hall, well known for its impeccable acoustics. Expressionist irregular forms with a tent-like sweeping main roof make this building by Hans Scharoun an impressive venue visually as well as acoustically.


We spend the next few days kicking around the city and looking up old friends who now live here.

1) Girlfriend KK made us a yummy home cooked meal. 2) Axel took us to his favorite curry wurst stand. 3) Rainer showed us all the cool neighborhoods. 4) Thomas is a new friend, intense yet funny.

More snapshots as we walk around:

1- Mark got a delicious weiner schnitzel from this vendor for 1 euro and 35 cents. 2 – The wienerschnitzel man in context with his surroundings at Alexanderplatz.

1- Mark poses in front of Holocaust memorial. 2 – If Quixote were with us I`d pose him on a slab.

The iconic Ampleman, hatted crossing signal of East Berlin.

Checkpoint Charlie (or “Checkpoint C”) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin during the Cold War.

1 – Gas masks for sale across the street from Checkpoint Charlie. 2 – Modernism meets turn of the century Victorian architecture at the corner of Checkpoint Charlie.

The Brandenburg Gate is today both a symbol for the tumultuous European and German history, but also of European unity and peace.

1- Museum of Technology. 2- This is what happens when a neighborhood is bombed and reduced to rubble and has to rebuild. Pretty cool.

1 – With Rainer in front of the East Gallery (painted Berin wall). 2 – Freischwimmer in Kreuzberg.

Rainer acted as tour guide on two separate days. The first time we kicked around the funkier part of Kreutzer, I only had my iPhone but took several cool shots:

Funky grafitti.

On our second outing with Rainer we walked through the artsy neighborhood of Mitte. The following shots are in the famous Galerie Tacheles, which is slowly closing down and evicting the artists. Only the outside metal sculpture gallery is open to the public at this point.

1- Galerie Tacheles. 2 – I asked the artist if he was Spanish (because he was painting a bull). He replied “nein!”

More rusty sculptures. Some of them are clever, others just passably so. 2 – Interesting mural in Mitte.

The dome of a gorgeous Jewish temple in Mitte:

Everywhere we walk there are interesting buildings. I love this modernist building across from the Bauhaus Museum:

More eccentric buildings:

1 – I like these two buildings, especially the Clark Kent / Daily Planet one in front. 2) Shopping mall near The Sony Center.

Olympic Village

Mark and Rainer overooking the famous track where Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals for USA in 1936 and was subsequently shunned by both Hitler and President Roosevelt.

1 – Part of the colonnade that runs around the outside of the stadium, featuring original lamps inspired by the Olympic Torch. 2 – Goddess of Victory crushing a large snake with her foot. The snake represents enemies of the Third Reich.

The platform where Hitler made his speeches and had youth rallies after the games were over. The tower was burned out at the end of the war and blown up by the British occupying forces in 1947, and rebuilt in 1962.

Behind the Stadium is the Maifeld (May Field), a large field for marching reviews, gymnastics demonstrations, and May Day celebrations. The entrance to the Stadium on this side was flanked by two equestrian statues by sculptor Josef Wackerle.

1- Discus throwers statue. 2 – The Glockenturm (bell tower) overlooks the large open sports field (Maifeld) adjacent to the Stadium. The tower contained the Olympic Bell, which was inscribed “Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt” (I call the youth of the world). We went to the top.

Beneath the Bell Tower is the Langemarck Halle, dedicated to the mythic cult of German student soldiers who were killed during the battle of Langemarck (Belgium) in November 1914 in World War I.

Views of Devil’s Hill from the Bell Tower. This is Where the Americans would listen in on the Soviet communications going on in East Berlin. After the wall came down there was no use for it and now it is a ruin.

June 4 – Goodbye Berlin, we’re heading back home to Barcelona.