Dec 28, 2008

The Berlin wall

I like riding subways. I don't know where it comes from, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience in London in 1981, and have sought out subways where available when playing tourist. People like to ride the double-decker buses in London, but I found that being stuck in traffic annoyed me. I'd rather ride to my sightseeing destinations quickly in mysterious tunnels, my brain furiously working out how many stops to go or did I just miss it? No, wait, it's after the station we just passed - or walk.

I carefully counted out the change I would need to buy two subway tickets - Potsdamer Platz and back - only to be fooled by a ticket machine that would not take copper coins (the smallest cent coins). A nice young Berliner took pity on me and gave me the 10 cent coin I needed, wanting nothing in return. Berlin is a nice city to be a tourist in.

Potsdamer Platz. No sign anywhere of it being bombed to smithereens during World War II, or intersected by the wall during the cold war. Except for all the very large and shiny and new commercial buildings, of course.

According to my map, the outdoor museum of what is left of the wall (except for a graffitied stretch along Karl Marx Street) was south of the subway station. I came across this helpful sign:

That's what they call it, the outdoor museum: Topography of terror. The street that runs along it, Niederkirchnerstrasse, contained the headquarters of both the Gestapo and the SS, and is the birth place of the German communist party. A modest street, flanked by a modest wall. Looks can be so deceiving.

Once again, you had to wait in line to see or do anything, so I didn't. Wait in line, I mean. I wanted to see the wall.

Note that there is no getting close to the wall itself.

The irony is not lost on the locals. Who ever thought that they would need to protect the Berlin wall?

Several of the Norwegians I travelled with had been to Berlin during the cold war years. Some had even taken a quick trip to the DDR side, ever mindful that a wrong comment could mean not getting back to the other side, to freedom, to safety. Here you see the western face of the wall, followed by its eastern face.

A plaque showing the wall and its checkpoints.

There were some stunning buildings on the little, modest street. I found out one was the restored exhibition hall, the Martin Gropius building. Here are a few details:

It was time to head for home, to change for dinner. This fancy building is actually my subway station!

9 comments:

NicoleB said...

Beautiful pictures and a neat story.
I never really liked subways.
And the last time I have seen Potsdamer Platz they were still building those fancy new things

Protege said...

What I find interesting is the way that the subways wary from city to city. In some places the subway/subway stations are shabby, scary and dangerous places to be in, while in other major cities it is a state of art type transportation and almost a pride of the city.

When it comes to pictures of the Berlin Wall, I always come to think of Conrad Schuman, I am sure you are familiar with his story:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conrad_Schumann

Your pictures and the story behind is very interesting.

Keera Ann Fox said...

Nicole, I haven't been to many cities that have subways, but those I've used, I have felt safe in.

Protege, I hadn't heard of Schumann. Thanks for telling me about him.

Sparkling Red said...

Funny how a plain old wall can have so much meaning and power. It's not much to look at, but there's so much more than what can be seen.

I love the Toronto subways. They're clean and quick. Better than a car anyday!

Keera Ann Fox said...

Spark, what gets me about subways are the tiles. The tube in London tiles its tunnels the same way the U-bahn in Berlin does. How about Toronto?

Tom said...

Having grown up in the cold war era like you (and as a teenager having nightmares about nuclear war - thanks, Reagan) I really must visit the wall one day.

Thanks for these pictures, they're wonderful.

But I do have to ask - enjoying the London underground, especially in the early 1980s?!

Maybe it was a novelty and if that's the case I can tell you it wears off quickly!

Keera Ann Fox said...

I'm glad you enjoyed my pictures, Tom.

Re subway: Anything that becomes routine loses its novelty.

Gal Friday said...

I have been enjoying your Berlin entries this morning after having discovered your blog by way of Protege's blog. I think I will be back to read more from time to time, if that is alright with you.

I have a special affection for Berlin(and subways, too--rode the Boston ones for a few years and still think it is a great, safe way to travel a city and good for people-watching, too) but the last time I was in Berlin was a few months before the fall of the wall(1989). At that time the wall was still up completely(and the men with guns in the towers above ).

~~Tina(Gal Friday)

Keera Ann Fox said...

Hi, Tina, and welcome! You got to see a historical Berlin.