Culture and Confrontation
Berlin was a divided city after World War II but in 1961 the building of the Berlin Wall came to symbolize the Cold War. The famous Checkpoint Charlie is just a few blocks from my hotel. Along with its nearby museum, the site is a window into the past history of daring escapes and heartbreaking attempts that failed. What remains of the actual checkpoint is a sanitized replica where street performers pose for photos with tourists hoping to feel what is was like to pass between East and West Berlin.
I had a free day before the official start of the RIAS program, so I went in search of a free ballet performance that was advertised on a German language brochure in the hotel. Although the brochure appeared to be for the state opera house in East Berlin, I found it closed for renovations and was directed to the other opera house in West Berlin, also closed. Turns out the ballet was in a third location that was too far away. But I ended up at the ruined Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church in West Berlin. Destroyed by a WWII bombing raid, its ruined tower stands as a monument to the futility of war. It draws various kinds of protestors, including this demonstration in support of Israel. Around the corner was a much smaller alternative demonstration in support of Palestinian relief efforts.
On a lighter note, Berlin’s official symbol is the bear and statues like this one are all over the city, sporting creative decorations. This one shows the chariot statue on top of the Brandenburg Gate.