Week 7, part 4

One of the many festive bears that can be found in central Berlin.

The Rheichstag, the seat of Germany's government.

The Brandenburg Gate, covered by scaffolding and canvas.

When we got to Ostbahnhof, we bought 24-hour transit passes for 12 marks (about $5) each. These were good on the S-bahn (kind of like the "El" in Chicago), the U-bahn (underground), trams, and buses ... not a bad deal. Our map showed a sprawling park west of the Brandenburg Gate, and we'd received a recommendation to climb Victory Tower (we THINK the name is right, but since our maps of Berlin are now in a box on their way home, we can't double-check quite yet). This tower is a landmark of the park, and it now sits at the center of a traffic circle. We studied the bronze reliefs and the WWII bullet marks in the marble at the base, then we checked out the tile mosaic girdling the lower parts of the tower itself. We found a door, paid two marks each, and started climbing a spiral staircase through the inside of the tower. The view was worth the climb. Having expected to see the vast expanses of lawn typical of American parks, we looked down upon a forest within the city from high above the treetops. The fall colors were as bright as we could ask them to be, and the setting sun shined through a spinning Mercedes logo atop a nearby office building.

Back in the lobby we studied (as best we could) the history of this monument and the nation it celebrates. From what we could gather (everything was in German), it commemorated liberation from Napolean and the first unification of the early 19th century. Around the time of Hitler, the monument was actually moved. We recorded what we could for future translation and study before rushing off to see a few more things before dark.

Brandenburg Gate was just a little ways down the street, but we didn't get to see it. Like many major sites in Europe, it was in the process of being cleaned up and restored, so it was completely enclosed in scaffolding and the scaffolding was enclosed in canvas. The canvas bore a picture of what the gate was supposed to look like (along with some advertising). It brought to mind a scene in a Marx Brothers movie where Groucho had his head stuck in a vase. By the time he was able to get out, someone had painted a picture of his face on the outside of the vase.

The forest of construction cranes on the skyline indicate that Berlin is a city with a lot of rebuilding to do as it once again becomes the seat of Germany's government. And amid the machinery of construction is the artwork of celebration. The theme of small-scale public art in Berlin is bears: a blue bear stands on its head on top of a building, a rainbow-colored bear stands on its head by the street, and a bear in bib overalls holds the arch of a rainbow over its head bearing the message "bridges unite." This is a city filled with hope, if only they could keep the politicians away.

RoZ and Dagmar, who we caught collecting ginko leaves in a Berlin park.

The Victory Tower, a fixture of old West Berlin.

Looking toward central Berlin from the top of Victory Tower, one could see rush hour traffic leaving the city. Note the shadow of the tower in the left side of the picture.

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