Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Berlin - Fat Tire Guided Tour

Today we did a Fat Tire guided tour of Berlin. It was worth every penny. Our guide, Lauren, is from Calgary and is a German history major. Her field is the study of how the various sections of Germany unified into a cohesive nation. She was an excellent guide. They use 3 speed beach cruiser bikes, which were surprisingly unstable to ride. It was fun. We had lunch at the Tiergarten, which used to be part of the royal hunting grounds.
We learned that the pink pipes running above the streets are used to remove water that is continuously pumped out of the swamp that is the foundation of Berlin. There's a really old word for swamp that is the root of the word Berlin. Berlin has been a city for 750 years. After the 30 years war, the city population was down to 20,000. At the same time, France started ejecting men who were Protestant Calvinists (Hugenots, spelling approximate). The leader of Berlin recruited 5,000 of them to come to Berlin to start the rebuilding. A church was built for them, which caused resentment on the part of the largely Catholic population, so they got their own, identical church on the other side of the square.
This is one of the few remaining guard towers in the death zone on the eastern side of the wall.

We went to the memorial for the Jewish people killed in the holocaust. It's very abstract, but it makes its point. It was funded by a man from New York. The blocks go from being flush with the ground to 12 meters high. There is no signage, he wanted people to take from it what they wanted to.

There were many stops and many pictures, which I need to get labelled before I forget.
Another factoid is that although 92% of the buildings in Germany were bombed, burned or damaged during WWII and the subsequent Battle of Berlin, the statuary from the tops of buildings is intact. Hitler knew what was coming, and had them sunk into the ground to protect them. It was amazing to me how fast he came into absolute power, it was about a year and he was a dictator.
So, the history of this place is everywhere.
The internet continues in its abysmalness so I am not going to push my luck any further, and will now publish. Tomorrow we're doing another Fat Tire tour to Potsdam.

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