Sunday, November 20, 2005
Berlin - Marathon walk
I knew that I had my meeting at 11 a.m. so I got up early, thinking that I'd go for a walk to get more comfortable with the city, take some pictures and have plenty of time to find my meeting location.
My best guess is that I walked 6-8 miles from 8 to 11 a.m. I was so proud of myself for about 3/4 of the trip until I suddenly couldn't find my place on the map. (Is this scenario beginning to sound familiar? Forgive me, family, but I really am trying to use maps.) The fact that I had to seek help in getting back is a small detail by comparison to what I saw. I walked from my hotel, through the commercial district, and then to Strasse des 17.Juni - the huge avenue that runs straight through Berlin and the center of Tiergarten Mitte (a wonderful park in the center of the city). The remnants of the major cathedral standing before WWII are in the middle of the commercial area; only the front facade of the cathedral still stands and a new tower has been erected behind it (picture at top).
Strasse des 17.Juni is punctuated by traffic rotaries and huge monuments. On one end is Ernst Reuter Plazt, Sieges-Saule in the middle (next picture), and the Brandenburg Gates on the far end (previously the divider between east and west Berlin - pictures on that later). After I walked Strasse des 17.Juni, I walked through the embassy row area and back into the area of what was previously east Berlin. It was obvious throughout the walk that the history of the east was carefully protected throughout the division of Berlin - neighborhoods have lots of character and charm.
One of the things that most struck me about Berlin is that it is a city inspired by ambition. No monument is small and every one of them reflects great artistic inspiration. I couldn't help but think about how ambition can be such a stimulus for greatness - achieving things far beyond imagining. However, knowing the history of Germany and its strife as a country, I also couldn't help but wonder how ambition can be more effectively kept in check so that it doesn't end up abusing or destroying others.