A Day at the Wannsee

It’s not a short trip to Wannsee, especially with the city’s commuter rail system still lagging.  From Schmargendorf, one must head north to Theodor-Heuss-Platz to catch the 218 bus toward Pfaueninsel, Peacock Island.  It takes more or less an hour, along curved, wooded roads, before the lake comes into view.  It’s serene, and beautiful–two descriptors which make Wannsee’s historical identity all the more troubling.

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A Change in Perspective

Through buildings
There’s a certain comedy to attending language classes in a tourist zone.  First, there’re tourists everywhere.  And though I hate to generalize, tourists seem to all follow the same m.o.  They all seem to have expensive Canon Digital SLR or Nikon Coolpix cameras.  They all seem to push aggressively down the sidewalk heading somewhere…until they stop in the middle of the same sidewalk, and ask each other where they’re going.

Tourists also tend congregate in safe zones: monuments, cathedrals, shopping centers, etc.  But fortunately tourists tend not to ride the city bus to the end of the line, and that’s where our troupe found itself earlier this week.

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Behind Stasi Bars

I’m not sure what one would expect to see at a prison that didn’t officially exist.  On maps it was simply a grey block, and until one is right upon it, the prison fits into the surrounding apartments and factory buildings nicely.
But once a person takes a few more steps toward Genslerstraße, past a grocery store and pay parking lot, the feeling in the air is noticeably unheimlich: strange and unsettling.  Entering the complex with an unsettled feeling highlights an irony of this terrible place.  The Ministerium für STAatsSIcherheit (State security) provided anything but true security for its visitors.

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Enlightened by the Technikmuseum

Anhalter Bahnhof

On a whim, we and a colleague wanted to hit the Funkturm (Radio tower) last week. 

The Funkturm is one of Berlin’s well-known structures, and looks a little like a miniature Eiffel Tower….constructed of steel and exuding that 19th century vibe.  Unfortunately the tower was closed for renovation, but the regional public television headquarters was nearby.  So a little farther than the Haus des Rundfunks (House of Radio) we stumbled into the lobby of RBB (public broadcaster).

Climbing a staircase in a pretty sterile lobby we found radio equipment being exhibited.  Much of it was original–both in authenticity, and in the fact the equipment represented the most basic radio equipment ever to have existed.  It was on loan from the Technology Museum…and today we turned that piece of info into a field trip.

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Amis and Allies


It’s not obvious, but my current residence was once in British territory.  As all segments of Berlin were divided among the Allied (Alliierte) powers Schmargendorf just happens to be British. 

The last real signs of that occupation stand as a small RAF base to our West, and a British-run radio station with terrible pop music (just my opinion, of course, based on a limited sample).

But to the south of us, in Dahlem, was American territory, and in the former Allied Headquarters is a nice little museum documenting the interesting struggles for influence over Berlin.

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Ziggy Wisdom

The Sky

I remember an old Ziggy comic, in which round-headed Ziggy sits with his dog on a cliff’s edge admiring the sunset.  He remarks to his dog, “He does great work, doesn’t he?”  It’s a simple homage to a greater power, and the logic (or belief) behind it can be applied to most anything in life.  I remember and come back to that Ziggy wisdom occasionally because of its simplistic depth…an elementary understanding of something complicated, which to me makes perfect sense.

Now in Berlin, I am reenacting that Ziggy moment almost every night.  Our view of the horizon has brought unbelieveable sunsets into our life, which make for interesting Futter für die Seele. (Food for the Soul)

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The Berlin Learning Curve

It’s hard to understand how many little things go into successfully navigating life, until you’re forced to learn them over again.  Take the supermarket for example.  Over the years, one learns more or less the fair price for an item, where items are likely placed, and how to avoid collisions with other shoppers.  It’s just a matter of experience–when one does something for so long, the procedure becomes self-evident.

But when that experience has to be amended to fit into another culture, often we feel like fish in a new flavor of water.

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