It started in the Parisian square which is in the middle of the city. The square got it's name back in the 1500s or so. The Swedes had poisoned the city's water with sewage and arsenic, and had killed off most of the population (who knew the hedonistic Swedes could be this bad:-) The rotting bodies on the streets had caused a plague that had pretty much wiped out all of Berlin's population. The Kaiser pleaded with France to send 5000 engineers, builders etc to repopulate the city. The French did this, and that's why they got this place named after their capital. They also got a cathedral built for them. Our next stop was Brandenburg Tor which is this huge victory gate in the Parisian square. On top of the gate is a statue of the female protector of Berlin sitting on a horse-ridden chariot. She looks menacingly at the French embassy which is near the Tor. This was all intentional as Germany has had loads of beef with France in the past centuries.
After this we went to the controversial Holocaust Memorial which is in the middle of the city too, and was built in the 1990s. It has a controversial name, "Holocaust Memorial for the murdered Jews of Europe." I thought the name was appropriate though because to use any sort of euphemism to describe the Holocaust or any other genocide would be to undermine the suffering of those who died. It is also controversial because it has no names. It is just a labyrinth of different sized square rocks. Some are only a foot high while others go up to 20 feet or so. It takes around three minutes to walk from one side to the other if one chooses a straight path. I kind of thought that the monument was interesting and open to many sorts of interpretations. The main interpretation is that the small pillars represent things considered harmless. Such things include anti-semitic jokes, racist thoughts etc. Such "harmless" things eventually lead us to the largest pillars which include ethnic cleansing, torture, rape etc. My own interpretation was that the ambiguity of the monument was necessary. 'With genocides so much is unknown. Perhaps the different heights of the pillars represent the different ages of the dead. Perhaps the ambiguity mirrors the ambiguity of genocide. What counts as genocide? This is the question the international community was pondering for a while as hundreds of thousands died in Rwanda. Darfur - is that genocide or not? Perhaps we never know until it is all over, and we can tabulate the results. This doesn't help those undergoing it though. As I walked through the monument I didn't expect to get as strongly affected as I did. The first minute I was still towering over the pillars. After this the pillars started getting higher, and I felt as if my path was getting narrower. The fact that I could not see around me or above me made me fear that I would get to the end and not be able to get out. My breathing started getting faster, my heart started pounding and my steps were faster. I was filled with fear, desperation and was feeling claustrophobic. One actually had the scary feeling of entrapment. I hurried and finally got to the end and quickly stepped into fresh air, sunlight and freedom. I was actually still shaking and taking deep breaths of air as if I had thought I would never get out. Three minutes.
After this we went to Hitler's old bunker which was now just an empty parking lot. The Government had intentionally left this place unmarked. They feared that if they made it an official site then it might be a meeting ground for neo-nazis or that Hitler would be getting the commemoration he definitely didn't deserve. The tour guide told us that in his day, Hitler used to be a sex symbol and women would faint just by touching his coat. I was really surprised because even if we momentarily ignored his personality, homeboy was not a good looking fella at all. Apparently he lived in a bomb shelter underground, and when he knew he was going to be captured- he poisoned his dog, his lover and then himself. As soon as his guards found him- they took a cigarette break. He apparently did not allow them to smoke while he lived. Their bodies were taken by the Soviets, burned and then thrown into the river so that he may never have a resting place. The fact that he would now be 120 rubbishes any rumors going around about him being spotted with 2pac and Biggie in Cuba sipping on some crystal.
After this our next stop was some old Nazi buildings which had then been taken over by the Soviets and still contained all the pro-communist propaganda. Posters of happy children and joyful peasants were all around to perpetuate the myth that communism would lead to progress. We then walked through many other parts of Berlin, and I just got more and more fascinated with the city. I had been here in 2001 and 2006, but I felt like this was the first time. Everything that could be said about Berlin, the exact opposite would be true too. There were this huge skyscrapers, but there were also this bombed out unrestored buildings. There were this huge HP and coke ads, but there were also this ancient castles, cathedrals and libraries. It felt like such a changing place. Our tour lasted 3 hours.