Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Leaving Berlin

It's a windy rainy day today, my first awful weather really. I went out to do a little shopping at the big KaDeWe department store (I'll have more to say about KaDeWe in another post) and seeing as I want to stay warm and dry, I thought I'd tie up the Berlin part of my trip. I did a bit of walking last night after taking the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. I wanted to see the Holocaust Memorial and the Reichstag. By the way, I have yet to be asked to show a ticket on any U-Bahn train I've ridden in Berlin. Germans mostly play by the rules and I'm left to assume that everybody has paid their fares in some manner. But being an ignorant tourist I never did properly "validate" the 1 week pass I bought back a couple of weeks ago so I've been riding for free ever since.

The Holocaust Memorial is quite impressive. I have a photo of a portion of it below (The building in middle background is the U.S. Embassy and the Brandenburg Gate is just beyond that.) Jana tells me that many Germans ask themselves every day how the Holocaust could ever have been allowed to happen. Furthermore they ask, what would I have done in that time, and under those circumstances? It's easy from our vantage point to look back at those ordinary citizens who were in the end culpable for the genocide and say, It couldn't happen to me, it couldn't happen in America. And yet, recall just a few short years ago when Bush was drumming up all that patriotic drivel, lying to us as it turns out, about the necessity to invade Iraq. Did any of you feel a little bit shy about saying, No, I don't want this? Even the liberal media swung into place behind the administration lest they be labeled unpatriotic, or worse. I imagine things started out in roughly the same manner back in the 1930s when Hitler began his rise to power.

I took my look at the Reichstag and then began to look for the Holocaust Museum Jana had told me about. I wandered around and somehow missed it. It was Sunday night and getting dark so I headed home on foot for dinner. As I walked I noticed a rosy glow in the sky. The sun was going down and throwing some nice color toward me so I turned to the west and took this shot.

I rode the U-2 train to Zoligisher Garten so I could pass by the Kaiser Wilhelm Church once again. This memorial has me quite spellbound. As a boy I read everything I could get my hands on about World War II. Like many kids I had romanticized war, especially that one because my father and uncle fought in it, were in fact casualties of it, and I guess that's part of the reason this church has made such a strong impression on me. How beautiful it is in the present day. I try to imagine the bombing raid in November of 1943, when it was transformed from the work of exalted art that it surely was into what it is now. The nicks and dents in the stone facades were caused by shrapnel, bomb fragments. The interior bricks are exposed like the bones of a body that once was a living being. More images of people dead or dying all around, people bleeding to death on these very same streets sixty odd years ago: these images will be forever etched in my mind. Perhaps the memorial has served its best purpose.


Christmas is just around the corner and the walks around the church and indeed all the sidewalks nearby are full of little sheds selling food and Christmas baubles. I left the church site and walked down the avenue to Jana's.

She prepared another of her specialties: coriander roasted new potatoes with beets (rote bete salat) marinated in garlic-ginger dressing. An awesome meal, again.

Almost forgot. While we're on the subject of food, my favorite subject I remind my readers, I ate my smoked eel today. Those of you who have had smoked black cod know how oily it is compared to salmon. But you should try eating some of these little guys. Very oily indeed, and delicious. I had a small piece from the middle of one -- I'm not sure eating from a piece with the head still on would be quite as easy to enjoy.

Tomorrow I'll drag my suitcase back to the Zooligisher Garten U-Bahn station and catch a train to Amsterdam. It should take about 6 hours, if I don't screw anything up that is. ;-)