Posted on Jan 1, 2013 in Berlin | 0 comments

I am not sure that Jeff is as enamoured of Berlin as I am. He found the streets very wide and the buildings quite pompous and implied it was an impersonal scale. At least that’s what I think he meant. But Berlin is definitely not a beautiful city. I think I mentioned that before. It has some attractive parts and buildings. But what makes Berlin is its history, people, energy, and most of all its creative spirit of improvisation and reinvention.

On New Year’s Eve, we had another leisurely day of walking through the neighbourhood and then visiting the DDR Museum for some educational tidbits on daily life in East Germany that you will see below, and then finished off the New Year with a big party.

Fireworks started going off early on New Year’s Eve and ramped up all afternoon, until reaching their crescendo at midnight, then continuing with ever-diminishing frequency well into the afternoon of New Year’s Day. I tell you, Germans have great energy for fireworks, this is what I remember from childhood too.

Both major and side streets of Berlin were littered with broken glass and remnants of fireworks crackers. Over the next couple of days, this was all cleaned up by the Berlin garbage department; they are very busy at this time of year.

Zionskirche, Prenzlauer-Berg Berlin

Zionskirche, Prenzlauer-Berg Berlin. Until Jeff and I walked by there and read the plaque near the door, I had no idea that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had preached here. This was his church. One of our nephews is named after him.

Boutique window in Prenzlauer-Berg Berlin

Boutique window in Prenzlauer-Berg, Berlin. I normally like shoes, but not these ones.

Having an egg in Prenzlauer-Berg Berlin

Having an egg in an East German egg cup.

DDR Museum, Berlin

In the DDR Museum, Berlin. Controlled by the communist government which suppressed any initiative and creativity, East German product design was soon falling hopelessly behind, much like its products.

Book cover, DDR Museum, Berlin

This book cover in the DDR Museum reminded me that I read this book in German class back in grade 9 or 10. It was written by an East German author who followed a book by Goethe, while subtly criticizing the East German system. The book became popular in West Germany for this reason, and was selected by my teacher for our class to read and discuss.

Diorama of an East German beach, DDR Museum, Berlin

A dusty miniature diorama of a typical (?) East German nude beach, DDR Museum, Berlin. As my sister pointed out when I emailed her some of these photos: “East Germans must have had great genes to have bodies like Ken and Barbie dolls.”

Diorama of an East German beach, DDR Museum, Berlin

Apparently East Germans were even more enthusiastic nudists than the West Germans. The DDR Museum has a whole diorama of an East German nude beach. The nude beaches were the standard, the clothed beaches the exception. As we learned, after German reunification, the signs were switched, so now most beaches are clothed, and only a few are nudist.

Diorama of an East German beach, DDR Museum, Berlin

iPhones are great when it comes to macro shots — they take very good close-ups, and the tiny lens can peep through small cracks in fences or keyholes. Not that I would do that.

Diorama of an East German beach, DDR Museum, Berlin

Is it possible to get in trouble for depicting tiny, dusty, blurry nudist dioramas?

Spiegel magazine cover from the weekend of November 10, 1989

Der Spiegel magazine cover from the weekend of November 10, 1989. “The people win”. That was an incredibly emotional time for all Germans, including myself, but even more so for an older generation who witnessed the wall going up, and never dreamed that they would see it come down in their lifetime. How easily it all suddenly collapsed. The people just weren’t taking it anymore.

DDR Museum, Berlin

The Trabi, of course, is the infamous East German-made car brand Trabant.

New Year's Party in the Kalkscheune, Berlin

For New Year’s Eve, I wanted to go out to a big party for once. We usually celebrate at home with friends, sometimes we just have a small gathering, some years we have a larger party. So I booked us tickets for this big party with five dance floors in a cool building with an inner courtyard. We both enjoyed it very much and were there from 11 pm to 3 am, trying out the different dance floors and the Karaoke bar, which featured mostly German songs that Jeff didn’t know, but I had fun grooving to the Udo Jürgens hit from the late 70s “Aber bitte mit Sahne”.