Berlin Wall
Berlin WallI've always wanted to visit Berlin but for some reason or another I never could quite find the time. Now with reunification it's no longer a problem. Driving West we made a quick stop in the German capital. I didn't expect to have time to see the Berlin Wall as my destination was the Pergamon Museum but as luck would have it we passed one of the few remaining spots where the Wall is still standing. It's very difficult for someone not from Berlin to judge which is the West or East sector of the capital as there is major construction going on everywhere. The only hint that I found was that the older buildings were grimier but this would soon be changed as all of the buildings were getting a good cleaning also.

Berlin WallBerlin WallBerlin WallBerlin WallThe Berlin Wall was erected on the night of August 13, 1961. It was a weekend and most Berliners slept while the East German government begun to close the border. In the early morning of that Sunday most of the first work was done: the border to West Berlin was closed. The East German troops had begun to tear up streets and to install barbed wire entanglement and fences through Berlin. The first concrete elements and large square blocks were used first on August 15, 1961. Over the years the wall was "improved" upon. Some facts about the Berlin wall:

  Persons succeeded in passing the Wall ca. 5000
  Persons arrested in the border area ca. 3200
  Persons killed on the Berlin Wall 192
  Persons injured by shooting ca. 200

Reichstag BuildingAs you can see almost from the moment the wall went up it became a magnet for graffiti and eventually it evolved into permanent canvas as you can see from the pictures here... There are a number of website dedicated to the Wall some almost Nostalgic to the fact that it no longer exists except in the minds of those who feel that there still is a wall between two different peoples.

The infamous Reichstag Building is now used by the Federal Government but with the big line of people waiting to get in we decided to save the tour for another time. The old Nazi ghosts seem so far away on this beautiful sunny day in Berlin. It was February 27, 1933 when the building was burned down and a dazed Dutch Communist named Marinus van der Lubbe was conveniently found at the scene and charged with arson.

One day later a feeble President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permits the suspension of civil liberties in time of national emergency. A supplemental decree created the SA (Storm Troops) and SS (Special Security) Federal police agencies and Germany would embark on the nightmare years.

Pergamon Museum

Pergamon MuseumPergamon Museum"In Pergamon there is a great marble altar, 40 feet high, with remarkable statues - the entirety is surrounded by a Battle of Giants"

Lucius Ampelius

After the Berlin Wall we arrived at my main goal for that day's sightseeing. The Pergamon Museum was a place that I had read about many years ago but because it is situated in East Berlin I was never able to visit it before.  With an annual figure of 600,000 visitors the Pergamon Museum ranks among the most popular buildings of the Berlin State Museums. Its main attraction is the Pergamon Altar (2nd century BC). The frieze depicting the battle between the Gods and Giants is regarded as a masterpiece of Hellenistic art.

Pergamon MuseumPergamon MuseumIf you've seen the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum this must equal if not exceed that work.The presentation is especially stunning. The Altar was erected in approximately 180 B.C. as a memorial to the victories of Attalos I. It was dedicated to Zeus and Athena. The Altar shows a frieze of 75 gods and their adversaries fighting. The frieze represents the triumph of the Greeks over the Persians.

\Ishtar GateIshtar GateFrom there visitors can proceed to the Museum of Ancient Near Eastern Art. One of the major attractions lies along the main axis of this section of the museum. Here visitors can walk through and wonder at the world-famous reconstructions of brilliantly colored Babylonian monuments: the Processional Way, the Ishtar Gate and the facade of the throne hall of King Nebuchadnezzar II (604 - 562 BC). Sections of the buildings were re-created to approximately the original dimensions by meticulously re-assembling the many broken pieces of excavated glazed bricks. Along the walls depictions of lions, bulls and dragons symbolize the major gods of Babylon.