Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Last Pictures from Berlin

I'll finish off my wintery time in Berlin with two famous landmarks of the city:


I have a real soft spot for Chalottenburg Palace - its a really beautiful building and I once spent a summers evening listening to the most incredible classical music concert in the upper hall. The only minor disappointment about this time (my third visit to the palace) was the usually stunning rear gardens were a bland sea of white owing to the snow fall.


Everyone loves Brandenburg Gate, it starts a great trail of architecture that I didn't have time to see this time that stretches across a mile or so of parks, something better saved for the summer when the winds not so bitter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Holocaust Memorial

A beautifully modern monument to the victims of the Holocaust lies in the centre of Berlin to the south of the tourist trap of Brandenburg Gate, its tomb-like concrete chunks consuming a whole city-block.

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Each of exactly the same dimensions, but of varying heights, the 2,711 slabs invite the viewer into a maze that culminates in an underground museum dedicated to the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Russian Pancake Festival

As a break from the Berlin stuff I am posting some pictures from the Russian Culture Festival in London. The main event was held in Potter Fields next to London Bridge with some theatre for children a little further west on the river, the main stage was host to a variety of Russian musical acts from Pop to Folk and there were a few vans serving pancakes and churros.

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I'm a bit sketchy on the names but apparently these two are pretty popular in Russia, the guy is big in Moscow and it was his first trip to London - I must admit he was a good singer but incredibly cheesy... There was entertainment for the children which went on all day, here is a bizarre play about an old lady teaching where milk and eggs come from:

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It was very well attended with an almost entirely Russian crowd, cheering and singing along to the songs - I only stayed a short while as it was pretty cold on the riverside but it was great to see a slice of another culture for the afternoon.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Treptower Park

Built to commemorate the Russian casualties in World War 2, Treptower Park sits in the east of Berlin below the trendy nightclubs and bars of the Warschauer Strauss and Frankfurter Alle.

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It is some how even more striking to see this place in winter with the imposing statues coated in snow and the flowers left in remembrance frozen to the paving stones. The craftsmanship is sublime in this monument to the dead but its worth remembering what it represents and who left it there.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Berlin Underground

During the Cold War the West German Federal Government built an intricate network of tunnels and bunkers in the heart of Berlin in case of war with the Soviet controlled German Democratic Republic. These tunnels weave in and out of the U-Bahn and S-Bahn stations, hidden behind bland-looking steel doors and hatches, before culminating in a variety of new and re-purposed World War 2 bunkers. The contents of these bunkers have been left largely untouched with some of the rooms being converted into a museum.

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The entrance to the bunker was an imposing steel door, once inside the refugees would have to be checked for radiation and if found to be contaminated, decked out in these beautiful 1970's style tracksuits:

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The interiors were pretty grim with only basic medical and sleeping facilities, mirrors made of sheet steel and plumbing delicate enough to be broken by the weight of a person all designed to prevent suicidal inmates taking their own lives. To this day the bunk beds, body bags and medical equipment still sit ready for a possible attack.

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