Apparently, the trend is to only blog once per week. Better than nothing!
So, for the first half of last week we followed Gunther Demnig around while he installed Stolpersteine all over Berlin. This proved to be a little difficult since he had a car and we were on foot! At some of the installations there was a big crowd, and at some it was just us. At the very first one we went to a school class that had done research for the project was there along with an elementary school choir that performed several songs. At the other one worth noting, the family of the people being memorialized were there and had a ceremony. They thought we were very nice for taking group photos of them, and gave Matt a commemorative yarmulke that had been specially made for the occasion:
On Thursday we met up with Matt’s class from UT and went to visit a Flakturm, a former Nazi air defense tower and bunker. Unfortunately it was too dark inside to get many good photos, and it was also freezing, being halfway underground and all. Our guide, who was very funny, pointed out that they had included windows in the tower and asked us if we knew why that could be since they obviously made it more vulnerable. Apparently the Nazis were so confident they would win the war that they built the towers with the intention of turning them into restaurants and movie theaters afterward! Obviously, the presence of windows is all it takes to up the ambience factor of a reinforced concrete bunker.
On Friday we went to do some observations in Spandau, about thirty minutes away on the far west side of Berlin. On the way back we stopped at the Olympiastadion, built for the 1936 Olympics complete with a special Führer’s box. While we were there it started raining, so we had to come up with some kind of indoor activity: the perfect time to go see Body Worlds! I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to see ever since I heard about an exhibit in St. Louis. This is not the kind of thing you would enjoy if you’re creeped out by looking at, well, bodies…especially without skin on them. The exhibits use real human bodies and organs preserved by a special process called plastination, whereby, in a nutshell, fluids are removed and replaced with resin. The particular exhibit that we saw focused on the heart and its relation to different parts of the body. If you’re interested you can read all about it at their website. Personally, I was completely fascinated and would highly recommend Body Worlds to anyone at all interested in anatomy. I don’t think I can say the same for Matt. But if an exhibit is coming somewhere near to you, you should go – and take me too!
We met up with Matt’s class again on Saturday to tour the Museum of Musical Instruments. I think the most interesting part was our tour guide, who seemed to be able to play every instrument in the museum! I took videos of him playing some of the more interesting ones, like the organ built to replace an orchestra for silent movies, and they will make an appearance on flickr soon. He also said that the museum housed Bach’s personal harpsichord, but we didn’t get to see it.
We decided to take the day off on Sunday because thunderstorms were forecasted all day…unfortunately, we didn’t see a single drop of rain while sitting around being lazy.
Earlier this week we went with the class to see Hohenshönhausen prison, used as a holding place for perceived “threats” against the government first by the Soviets and then by the Stasi up until 1990. It was very interesting, and I took lots of pictures. Most of the prison was left in the exact condition it was in when it closed. Seeing the interrogation rooms like this was particularly interesting: two tables, three chairs, and curtains obscuring the window. The prison was designed so that no inmate ever saw another; they even had a traffic light system to alert the guards if another prisoner was near by. Also – nobody ever escaped.
So, that just about wraps up what we’ve done in the past week! We have four days left here, and on Monday we’re taking a short plane trip over to Paris (it was cheaper than the train and about six hours shorter…how does that work out?). It probably wouldn’t take me so long to write these posts if I didn’t have a whole week to talk about…maybe I’ll try that next time.