Sunday, January 4, 2015

Berlin, Germany

After visiting the GFZ Dendrochronology Laboratory in Potsdam Germany and giving a talk on my research, I travelled to Berlin with my two great tour guides Alex Mueller and Franziska Slotta.  Alex is a technician at the German Archaeological Institute that I met at WorldDendro in Melbourne in January 2014 and we enjoyed the post conference tour together in New Zealand. Franziska is a PhD student at the Free University in Berlin and works at the GFZ Dendrochronology Lab.  She was in my group at the Tasmanian fieldweek and is doing some interesting tree-ring work on the African Boabab tree. In this picture, we are taking the Berlin Underground railway from Potsdam to Berlin. I found that Berlin (like most European cities) had great public transportation. I only had about 15 hours in Berlin before I took the train to Prague first thing in the morning, but we really packed a lot in to that short time.

Habitation in the Berlin area was first dated to AD 1174 from the wooden parts of early structures in the area and currently has 3.5 million people making it the second most populated city in the European Union. In the 1920s, Berlin was the third largest municipality in the world. There are many monuments and historical architectural structures throughout the city.

The Fernsehturm (Berlin TV Tower) dominates the Berlin Skyline and provides a landmark that can be seen from all over the city (unless it is eclipsed by a close building). It is 368 meters (1207 feet) tall and has 1.2 million visitors a year. The building was originally designed by the East German architect Hermann Henselmann in the 1960s and has been a landmark ever since. 
One of the most striking things to me is that the entire city seemed to be under construction. The city is still rebuilding from the ravages of World War II. Only one church steeple was left standing in the city during bombing in World War II and that was left intact as a landmark for pilots. In this picture, you can see the construction cranes along the Spree River and the Berlin Cathedral in the background.

The Evangelical Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church in Berlin (also known as the Berlin Cathedral) was opened in AD 1905.

The Old Museum on the north side of the Lustgarten was built in the neoclassical style by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and completed in AD 1830.

Humboldt University was founded in 1810 as the University of Berlin. Its name was changed to Frederick William University in 1828 and was later renamed Humboldt University in 1949 in honor of its founder Wilhelm and his brother Alexander von Humboldt. The latter is a world renowned geographer and considered one of the first biogeographers (which is my specialty). This is one of Berlin’s oldest universities and is considered one of the most prestigious universities worldwide for the arts and humanities. Bebelplatz is an open meeting place outside of the opera house and some of the buildings from Humboldt University where the nationalist German Student Association conducted a book burning on May 10th, 1933 that burnt books by many authors including Karl Marx and Albert Einstein. Today there is a memorial by Micha Ullman at this site that consists of a glass plate in the ground with a view of empty bookcases that could hold the 20,000 books that were burned.
This is the French Church of Friedrichstadt which is located across from the German Church (located behind me as I take the photograph). 

Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities was founded in AD 1700 by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz who was a prominent figure in mathematics and philosophy. He developed calculus independently form Sir Isaac Newton and also contributed to the binary number system that is the language of computers. 
The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin is an 18th-century neoclassical triumphal arch commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace and built by Carl Gotthard Langhans from 1788 to 1791. It was much damaged in World War II and was restored from AD 2000 to 2002.

The US Embassy in Berlin which is located right next to the Brandendurg Gate. It looks more imposing than inviting, but I liked the bike locked out front to the traffic retention barricade.

The Reichstag building is the central governmental building in Berlin and was constructed in AD 1894, although it was severely damaged by a fire in 1933. The building fell into disuse until it was renovated after reunification in AD 1990. 
The Chancellery (New Parliament Building) which is the largest government headquarters building in the world and a great example of modern architecture designed by the German architects Axel Schultes and Charlotte Frank. It was completed in 2001 and cost 230 million Euros ($276 million USD). According to the website, only government officials are allowed inside of the building because of security concerns.

This is the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma victims of National Socialism which is dedicated to the memory of the 220,000 to 500,000 people that were killed in the Nazi genocide. These two were gypsy cultures that were also a target of the Nazi administration. The monument was designed by Dani Karavan and was dedicated in 2012.

“The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (German: Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold. It consists of a 19,000 m2 (4.7-acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or "stelae", arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field ( Downloaded 1/3/2015).” This monument was dedicated in 2005 to honor the 6 million Jews that were killed in the Holocaust.  I found it to be very impactful and amazing memorial, but there has been controversy about its development and construction.

Berlin was divided by the Allies after World War II into four quadrants representing the United States, United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. In 1948, the Soviet Union set up a blockade restricting access to West Berlin which Western Allies opposed through airlifting supplies into West Berlin. The Berlin Wall was constructed in AD 1961 by the East Germans under Soviet control. The Berlin wall was brought down on November 9th, 1989 at the end of the Cold War which I remember seeing on TV. Parts of the wall are still on display in the East Side Gallery.

I like the juxtaposition of the pieces of the Berlin Wall and the modern architecture surrounding this site. This panel of the wall is covered with bubble gum along the bottom which makes an interesting pointillist painting.

I also appreciated the juxtaposition of the history represented by the piece of the Berlin Wall in the foreground with the graffiti calling for Peace Now with the oversized capitalistic advertisement for the new iPhone 5c (the phone that I actually have) in the background. I wonder if capitalism and the current economic strength of Germany could have been predicted when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

The Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) was completed in AD 1869 as the Berlin city hall. It was in the northern Italian High Renaissance style by the architect Hermann Friedrich Waesemann. You can see the Berlin TV Tower in the background.  
The Nikolaiviertel (Nicholas' Quarter) was built in AD 1200 and is the old city of Berlin. St. Nikolai-Kirche, (St. Nicholas' Church) was built between AD 1220 and AD 1230 as a Roman Catholic church. It later became a Lutheran church in AD 1539. The church was bombed by the Allies in World War II and the Vaults and northern pillars collapsed in 1949. The towers were rebuilt using the original plans in AD 1981 by the East German Democratic Republic.  Today it is mainly used as a museum and as a concert venue.

The Weltzeituhr (Worldtime Clock) at Alexanderplatz in Berlin is an interesting structure with the solar system displayed above and times around the world displayed on the side.

We walked through an open air springtime market which was just closing up for the evening.  There are definitely many things to do in Berlin and even a website dedicated to open air events and festivals (
We all ended the evening in the Perle Bar ( which had some very good cocktails and the bar tender played a great mix of music where I first heard Caro Emerald ( and Kitty, Daisy, & Lewis ( with a mix of Julie London.

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