Day #4: Sunday, February 17, 2019
Last day in Berlin! We ate pancakes for breakfast (and they weren’t absurdly tiny this time) and then headed to the Afrikanischer Viertel (African quarter.) Once there, we were informed that this part of Berlin would more aptly be called the colonial quarter. We were guided by Mboro, who grew up in Tanzania. He and other activists are trying really hard to change the street names from colonists who committed atrocities to up-standers (among Africans living under colonialism) but doing so has been difficult. Our guide informed us that genocides of groups like the Herero and Nama are almost never talked about in Germany (Like in the US!) This is very upsetting, why does Germany talk about the genocide of Jews but not of the peoples in their colonies in Africa?
After this, we took the subway to a Turkish restaurant, then it was off to the Jüdisches Museum in Kreuzberg. The building itself was very disorienting. Though walking on the slanted floor wasn’t necessarily a pleasant feeling, this felt very fitting for the memorial. The exhibits evoked many emotions that we are not sure how to express in words. There was no way to visit them without being fully immersed.
We came to a gorgeous square, home to Humboldt University. We briefly looked at the Book Burning memorial and the memorial to anyone who has lost anyone in war. Then we went to the Pergamon museum, which had the breathtaking Ishtar gate. We had seen a tiny portion of it at the MFA (a lion) but didn’t know that the rest of it was here! Then we all dispersed to look at middle eastern and near east art. There was a room in which we could take off our shoes and walk on vibrantly colored rugs (which Nadia enjoyed immensely). From there we went to the gift shop and purchased an excessive amount of postcards.
We went then to the DDR museum, which gave us a very vivid understand of life in Soviet- controlled East Berlin. There were rooms set up to simulate the typical household (we sat on the couch and watched early claymation for a good 15 minutes.) It was all so interactive, and the whole thing gave us major children’s museum vibes.
Finally, we went to the Rosenstrasse Memorial— this was a not-very-good memorial to a very important event. It was for a large group of (“aryan”) women who protested the deportation of their (Jewish) husbands by the Gestapo. Shockingly, their protests worked and all of their husbands were sent free. We photographed graffiti and went for dinner at a really tasty pho place.
Berlin, we’ll miss you!
— Nadia and Raina
left: Detail from Fallen Leaves installation by artist Menashe Kadishman at the Jüdisches Museum
right: a portion of the Ishtar Gates, originally Babylon, at the Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Today we first went to the African quarters in Berlin where a tour guide explained to us the significance of the area. Going there and hearing the brutal treatment of the people who were taken from German East Africa was saddening and enlightening, as I had never fully known the history of Germany’s role in colonialism. It was alarming to learn that the Black community in Germany is still fighting to get the skulls of the victims of the genocide sent back to their home countries.
Today was day four of the Eastern Europe trip and it was the most interesting day so far, it was a true museum day we went to a total of three museums and two memorials. We started the day with breakfast at the hotel as we usually do, we got up the latest for one of the busiest days so far. First up we had a walking tour of the African quarter, it was very interesting and informative, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the tour but our guide was from Tanzania and was very knowledgeable about Afro-German history. In comparison to all of the other things we have seen it didn’t particularly stand out to me personally, however it was very informative and helpful.
Next up was the “Jew-Mue” as Ms. Freeman called it, this was my favorite museum on the trip so far, it was so different and abstract. First we went to the tower, this was just a plain tower of concrete which was just so sad and cold and lonely. I went into the tower with a group and left feeling alone. Next was the garden to commemorate the Jews who fled from the holocaust, this was essentially the holocaust memorial from yesterday but I felt more trapped here than in the memorial to the murdered jews just because it was so different and yet the same, it was more and was more compact with leafless weeping willows on the top of the pillars. Next we went to the memory void, the best way I can describe is it is as long hallway with metal faces on the ground, the metal faces were on top of eachother and clanged on top of eachother. Each face was shaped differently and weighted differently, I think that this symbolizes the weight of each person's mind and the impact that that mind had on other people. I really liked that because it was an abstract description of the memories lost encapsulated in those metal faces.
Next we went to the memorial to burned books, it was a window into empty shelves which could have shelved 20,000 books that were burned on one day. I wasn’t a huge fan of this memorial, it wasn’t the best memorial but it did represent the number of books that were lost, if I could have changed this memorial I would make it more interactive, make there a way for us to actually access the shelves, all we can see was the shelves through the window. We then walked to the Pergamon named after the Pergamon alter which the museum was built around. Sadly we were unable to see that alter but we did se the Ishtar Gate, this gate was painted in lapis lazuli and was massively impressive. I liked it so much that I bought a poster of the gate for my room. We went to the second floor which was primarily Islamic art. I’m not the hugest fan of Islamic art so I did not spend to much time on the second floor but I did take a few photos of so art that I did enjoy. I then went back to the first floor to see the rest of the Greek and Roman art and I was blown away, they had so many artifacts that were so well preserved.
We then went to the museum for the East German Socialism and I got the opportunity to make a socialist. Finally we went out to dinner and I got tagliatelle con truffle which was amazing, there were shaved truffles and it was prepared in a wheel of parmesan, a lot of the food in Germany is so much better than the food in America.
I want to leave you with a sense of hopefulness for the future since that is what most of the museums left me with. I hope that y’all back in Boston have a great day and strive to be better than you were yesterday.
2/17/2019 04:02:00 pm
Thank you, Nadia & Raina, for this eloquent and detailed description of Day 4! I can only imagine the feelings one would have standing in these historic sites and buildings, and I'm glad you're all there together supporting one another and processing it on this blog! I'm glad you are loving the city as well and finding great food to sustain you. On to the next adventure!
2/17/2019 04:10:10 pm
It is great to be able to follow along, and I am really enjoying your thoughtful reflections on what you are seeing. Also keep the amazing pictures coming.
2/18/2019 08:46:33 am
Thank you for all of the blogs so far. And thank you Max for ending on a hopeful note.
2/18/2019 08:51:56 am
It snowed here in Boston last night. Keep up the great blogging!
2/18/2019 07:37:24 pm
Thank you bloggers Max, Meley, Nadia and Raina for your descriptions and thoughts about day four activities and sights. I came back to the entry a few times, and each time a new person had weighed in! It is fun and lovely to hear from each of your perspectives - sometimes overlapping, sometimes not. I keep worrying that you all will feel overloaded by the historic trauma commemorated in the sites you are visiting. Your words show me what a multidimensional experience you are having, sadness at the tragedy and also: the humor in tiny pancakes, outrage at the lack of attention paid to genocides in Africa, and enjoyment at stepping barefoot on beautiful rugs and eating tagliatelle con truffle! I am so proud of you and the entire group for embracing this adventure.
2/19/2019 02:29:52 pm
A shout-out to all of you excellent bloggers. I open this blog every morning eager to hear what you are experiencing each day. I appreciate the combination of emotional intensity you feel along with delicious descriptions of the food
2/19/2019 02:39:50 pm
You are tasting. You are witnesses to an era of history that is almost impossible to understand or absorp. I’m impressed with your juggling these new and grissely facts with such honest feelings.
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