I had the opportunity to wander to Berlin this weekend. I had a work meeting on Friday, meeting with some potential project partners from around Europe to try to get some funding for a project aimed at promoting the North Sea Region as a screen location and to develop the media/screen industries in our area. As it was the Berlin Film Festival this week, Berlinale, it was a good opportunity to meet everyone in the one place.
I have been to Berlin once before, just prior to Christmas 2006 so it was nice to go back at a different time of the year to see the City without it's Christmas garb on!
It is a city with so much history, much of it tragic, that is seems at some points to almost be a large open air museum - see the remains of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate and then realise that 18 years after the wall came down, the difference, at least in the City Centre, between former East and former West is negligible.
Whilst I was at the airport in Glasgow waiting for my flight, I bought a book called The Berlin Wall - it is a history of the wall and so far making for interesting reading. The wall came down on my 20th birthday (9th November 1989) and I feel some connection to that moment. It was one of the biggest political events of the 20th century and because it happened in Europe I felt it's impact.
But visiting the City I realised that I knew very little about the events and it was interesting to learn more as I wandered around. Standing in areas that 20 years ago were no-mans land, looking up at the gleaming towers in Potsdammer Platz, watching as people wander through the Brandenburg Gate without question or sauntering past Check Point Charlie, symbolically remaining in the middle of the City.
I loved wandering about Hackescher Hofe - a beautiful series of courtyards renovated to create a series of quirky shops and cafes, fronted by art deco buildings and home of the delightful Ampelmann shop
The Ampelmann is the former East German crossing man, you know the one you see on pedestrian lights, created in 1961 - after the fall of the wall, when the crossing lights were being upgraded they replaced the cute little Ampelmann with western lights - there was an outcry, the cute little Ampelmann in his little hat became a mascot for the East German nostalgia movement. He started to reappear in former eastern areas of the City and even in some western areas. Indeed, a female version can now be found on crossing lights in the city of Dresden.
1. Hackescher Markt and the East German telecom tower
3. Hackescher Markt station lit up at night
4. Blue stained glass at Kaiser Wilhelm Church
5. The Holocaust Memorial - imagine walking that tunnel to a certain death
6. Aeroflot - symbol of the old east
7. Brandenburg Gate
8. The Red Rathaus, former East Berlin