First Day in Berlin Sunday 19 June

First day in Berlin Sunday 19 June

As you might expect, Berlin is an easy place to visit, with a great train network, and also with a heavy presence of history.  I quite easily caught three trains to get from the airport to my hostel this morning.

I mentioned in my comments written in Singapore yesterday my visit to Korea, where the division of the country between north and south remains in place today, as a source of considerable heartache for the Korean people.   Berlin of course has a similar history as a politically divided city between the capitalist west and the communist east, except that unlike Korea it surmounted the political challenges and reunified at the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Still you can see the bleak functional architecture from the Stalinist influence in East Berlin, very dull, conformist and ugly, contrasted to a more free creative spirit in the West. 

Another big contrast I have noticed in Berlin is that travelling at the solstice I have moved from the coldest and darkest part of the year in Australia to the hottest and lightest time in Germany.  At the winter June solstice in Australia it gets dark at 5pm and the mornings in the south of the country are frosty.  Here in Berlin it is hot, 35° today!  And being so far north, 52.5° north of the equator, it has this deep summer twilight, still quite light at 10.30 pm. 

The last time I was in Europe in 2014 was also at the summer solstice, when the European tradition is to celebrate the Fete de la Musique, which I am just in time for in Berlin – I might even get a chance to perform. Here it is on the day of the solstice, 21 June, while in France they celebrate it on Saint John’s Day, 24 June.

Today I had a wander around the city by foot and by train.  Walked along the famous Under Den Linden boulevard through the Brandenburg Gate which used to mark the symbolic separation barrier of the Wall. There is a big stage set up in front of the Gate for the Fete.  Seeing the linden trees made me think of my friend Arto Avakian who gave me some delicious linden flower tea.

On a sombre note, near the Brandenburg Gate, symbolic focal point of the German nation, I visited memorials to various groups murdered by the Nazis – Jews, gays and people with disabilities.  It is a heavy history for Berlin to work through.

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