Friday, November 6, 2015

Return to Berlin: The Germany Diaries, Part III

Prenzlauerberg, Berlin

Since we had seen most of the top tier attractions on our first trip to Berlin, we had time to explore some of Berlin’s neighborhoods such as the former East Berlin neighborhood of Prenzlauerberg. It reminded me of Greenwich Village about 40-50 years ago.

While wandering around Prenzlauerberg, we stumbled on a fascinating museum, Museum in der Kulturbrauerei, about daily life in the former GDR. What I found most fascinating was the government’s attempts to foster group think – what they saw as socialist solidarity. Workers were organized in brigades and were expected to keep tabs on each other informing on those seen as slackers. They were expected to socialize with those in their brigade and even vacation together. Each apartment building had someone charged with keeping detailed records of those who visited residents’ apartments. Of course I knew about the omnipresent Stasi but the details of daily life made it more chilling, more soul-destroying than I had realized.

The Germans are honest about their troubled past and all the history museums we’ve visited in Germany reflect this. In addition to the GDR museum we went to the German History Museum which is worth far more time than we gave it. In addition to the compelling exhibits, the building has architectural interest with an annex for special exhibits designed by I. M. Pei.

Annex to German History Museum designed by I. M. Pei

There were two museums we visited last time and planned to return to. Sadly, one was closed for restoration--the Neue Nationalgalerie with a very impressive 20th century art collection housed in a building designed by Mies Vander Rohe. One of my all time favorite museums was thankfully open--the the Gemäldegalerie with its astonishing collection of European painting from the 13th to 18th century beautifully displayed.

Maybe I do want to go back to Berlin one last time.

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