June 19-22, 2000
Now I entered Germany to see if the stereo types through out Europe were true about Germans. What are they? 1) They keep their cars meticulously clean, a trait my father has, but I have not inherited, 2) They pay fine attention to detail, and 3) everything is done with precision.
My first stop wouldn't be until Berlin, and I could see some of this engineering in the forests. The re-planted perfectly lined trees made all sorts of dizzying patterns, then all line up together to see straight through and then repeat over and over again as the bus whizzed by on the autobahn.
The bus driver demonstrated his strict discipline (I can't stop thinking of WWII scenes). While he seemed nice, he insisted on no food in the bus, no bags in the overhead area, an extra fee for people with many bags and no reclining of the seats!
About 12 years ago, here in Berlin, the city was divided in half by the famous wall. The amount of construction going on in the city, nearly a building on every street, is amazing. In central areas entire city blocks are being built up and Berlin will be a large part post 2000 in the next five years.
While it's hard to see for the short term visitor with seamless underground subways and trains, there is still a major difference between East and West. Socio-economically, there is still a merging process. With capitalist Europe growing East and the rapid construction of Berlin, I'd imagine the plan is to have this be a Northern central point of the future free Europe.
As for the wall, it been reduced to a line in the road for most of where it once stood. A radio tower and decent apartments on the East side are near the boarder so the West would see how great it was on the East. At the previous boarder crossing, Check Point Charlie, there's a museum where you can learn of the hot air balloon, personal submarine, tunnel, person carrying gas tank were used to get to the other side. Not everyone was successful. As the picture shows, Michael Bachmann (no relation) could not outrun the bullets between the two walls.
Those who did make it across became instant heros on both sides.
Nearly at the same point along the wall is where the SS offices once stood. No one wanted to remember those days and all was destroyed after the way; however, a basement excavation now houses an open air historical account, with photographs of the city then, entitled the Topography of Terrors. It was at this place where hundreds of people were interrogated, tortured and then sent off to concentration camps. This was the central point of administration of all the camps.
On a lighter note, there are four obnoxious American's in my room. Actually, there not so bad, just young college turks, but there was a mistake in my reservation and I got to move the next night to a bigger room - this time with 6 fun loving Italians. One, Francesca, I spent exploring the parks of Potsdam with the next day and then through a few other famous points with the rest of them around Berlin.
We ponder and kick around thoughts on Nazi Germany. Q> "Surely, they must not have wanted to go straight to hell and not bombed all the churches...?" A> "They were Nazis. They didn't care."
And the political views of our nations today. One of the girls is actually from Austria, where they also have freedom of speech like in the US; however, one expression is punishable by fine and imprisonment: the swastika.
It's here you begin to feel a major difference between America and Europe. The history is here, but so were the wars.