Following a busy spell of wedding Photography
Following a really busy spell of wedding photography, a touch of motorsport photography and a sprinkling of commercial photography we got a spare week. So what do you do when you have some spare time? First of all we decided to have a few days away. We decided to head to Berlin. I thought it might be interesting, educational, with a few sites to see. What a surprise, it was great.
We had been told that Checkpoint Charlie was a bit of a tourist trap. Well, perhaps the checkpoint on the street is a bit of a tourist trap but the museum next door is excellent. It’s a private museum named after the famous crossing point. On display are the photographs and related documents of successful escape attempts from East Germany, together with the escape apparatus: hot-air balloons, getaway cars, and chairlifts.
Bernauer Strasse is a street situated between Gesundbrunnen & Mitte. When Berlin was divided the wall erected in 1961 ran down Bernauer Strasse. Bernauer Strasse is a famous place due to the escapes that took place from windows of apartment blocks in the eastern part of the city, down onto the street, which was in the West. It’s one of the few areas where you can see what the wall used to look like. Some people are surprised to discover that the wall consisted of two walls, a signal fence, anti-vehicle trenches etc. The most well known feature is the last wall known as the “Wall”.
The Jewish memorial is also known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. There are 2,711 concrete slabs. I knew the image that I wanted to capture. I took it late in the evening knowing that it would be grainy and gritty. All the slabs are different sizes and heights. Even the ground has undulations in it. The idea is that you feel lost and uneasy when you’re walking among the slabs. Some must be 2 metres high.
Hans Conrad Schumann was an East German soldier who defected to West Germany during the construction of the Berlin Wall. On the 15th August 1961, the 19-year-old soldier was sent to the corner of Ruppiner Strasse and Bernauer Strasse to guard the Berlin Wall on its third day of construction. At that time and place, the wall was only a single coil of barbed wire. West Germans on the other side shouted to him to “Come over”. Conrad Schumann jumped over the barbed wire and was promptly driven away from the scene by the West Berlin police. A West German photographer called Peter Leibing photographed Conrad Schumann’s escape to the West. His picture became an iconic image of the Cold War.
The Jewish Museum, Berlin is located in what was West Berlin. It wasn’t what I expected but was very interesting just the same. It consists of two buildings. One is a baroque old building, the Kollegienhaus that formerly housed the Berlin Museum. The second is a new, deconstructivist style building by Libeskind. The two buildings have no visible connection above ground. You have to go into the older building, down stairs under street level, through an underground passage that comes up in the new building. The Libeskind building is made up of twisted zig-zag corridors and spaces.
Installation Shalekhet – Fallen Leaves is a really interesting part. It’s made up of 10,000 faces punched out of steel which are spread on the floor of the Memory Void. Visitors walk on the faces. The noise level was intense when a few people began walking about looking at the individual faces.
Trabants were produced from 1957 to 1990 by former East German car manufacturer VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke Zwickau. It’s pretty much a symbol the former East Germany and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. Trabants are loud, slow, poorly designed, badly built, inhospitable to drive, uncomfortable, confusing and inconvenient. Also, Trabants have a hard plastic body mounted on a steel chassis. These days everyone wants to have a ride in one. Incidentally, you can book a tour in one to take you round Berlin.
In Summary, Berlin was great and we enjoyed every minute. It was very much in contrast to what cities are usually like. What was noteworthy was how friendly everyone was and that it wasn’t overly busy.
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