We visited Trier, Germany, while we were on the western border. I'm now in Berlin, which is another city I visited while in Europe two years ago. I visited on a cold and overcast weekend in November. This weekend is amazingly beautiful, clear, and warm. It's been wonderful to be back, to see places I'd been before and to see new things.
Much of modern Berlin seems to have progressed beyond WWII and the legacy of Hitler. However, there are constant reminders throughout the city of what happened here. We had a wonderful tour guide who was a former German Ambassador to Luxembourg, Colombia, Cuba, and other countries. He was deeply informed about the Berlin of the 1930s and 1940s because he had to live through it. While a Catholic, he is extremely responsive to the story of the Jews who were persecuted and murdered during the Nazi regime. The story of WWII Germany started across the street from our hotel - the Nazi headquarters in 1944 where some of Hitler's own soldiers plotted his assassination. We visited the courtyard where these courageous soldiers were shot to death as a statement of Nazi power. We saw many, many buildings riddled with bullet holes, or left to decay after the war. One of the most powerful moments was at the site of the picture above - a memorial at one of the Jewish Synagogues that was burned during the Nazi persecution. This picture is of a sculpture that portrays the death trains that left Berlin to take the Jews to death camps out of the city. The weight of the train car is borne by the cramped, struggling, and hopeless Jews who were pushed into these cars. This sculpture, different than the Holocaust memorial by the Brandenburg gates, was equally as powerful a statement.
On a more positive note, I pursued my typical "find the music" scramble the instant I arrived in Berlin. The result this time was completely fortuitous, as it usually is with me. I had attempted to get advanced tickets for the Berlin Philharmonic for Saturday night but they were sold out. Strange thing - the Philharmonie Hall's rough caught fire earlier in the week, resulting in the closing of the theatre. The Philharmonic concert was moved to an amphitheatre at the site of the 1936 Berlin Olympics (picture to the left), allowing many more tickets to be sold. I scrambled, along with 10,000 other people to get tickets to what was an amazing performance of Hector Berlioz' Requiem. The ensemble on the stage included the Berlin Philharmonic, the adult chorus, and probably 300-400 in a children's chorus. The evening was comfortable, clear, and incredible. I found my way to the amphitheatre without any difficulty and I joined with these wonderful Berliners in an appreciative performance of a brilliant piece of music conducted by one of the world's best conductors - Claudio Abbado.
I really can't understand how things like this happen to me. It seems that I am constantly in search of great music and every time I set out, it finds me.