After sundown the city soon wears a cloak of silence: aside from the main avenues, traffic thins out, children rush home, buses and trams, stop by stop, deliver their cargos of precious and tired humanity to their homes. This leaves the freedom of the quiet streets to the flâneurs, to the tramps, and to the night lovers. Except on Friday, when the young revel late, and noisily (bless their voices and their smiles) this temporary truce lasts until the early morning, just before five o’clock, when a new work day starts.
In these few hours of peace, the ghosts roam unheeded the deserted parks, along the canals, and if you are lucky, you may even see some poet, lost in her world, in the semi darkness of a bridge, or lying on a bench, near a lake. It is as if the city was catching up with her inner thoughts, before her children awake from their dreams…
Picture: berlin 2017 © martin u waltz. streetberlin.net, at http://streetphotography.streetberlin.net/image/158029491898
In 1937 the city of Berlin celebrated its 700th anniversary. 1237, was the year when the first artefacts and documents attested of the existence of an organised municipality, in what was then the town of Cölln, as Berlin was still then a mere nearby hamlet. In 1937, the NSDAP, the party of Adolf Hitler, had been in power for four years, following its electoral success in the general elections of 1933. Fleeing the noises and fracas of another election, we visited the most interesting, and beautifully laid-out exhibition “Berlin 1937, Im Schatten von Morgen“, at the Märkisches Museum, Berlin.
Fifty exhibits, photographies, audio recordings, day to day objects, display the day, as it happened, at a time when all organised resistance to the régime had long been brutally suppressed, and the city’s cultural and public life were totally subordinated to the dominating ideology. One can see the Wehrmacht marching, Coca Cola Gmbh doing well, and a typewriter, magnificently manufactured, and doted of a special key for “Schütz-Staffeln” (SS). There are also recordings of letters and diaries of people, then jailed, soon to be directed to an even worse fate, and their murder.
It all felt strangely close to us, not at all old history. Yet, since, the city saw so many tragedies and as much destruction as the human species can take. We walked those streets, and heard the marching songs. In 1987 Berlin celebrated its 750th anniversary.
Pictures: courtesy Märkisches Museum, Berlin
Today’s Prompt, May 2, 2017
As we approach the well known street, the crowd gets denser, perhaps quieter too, as if listening to itself. There are many people here, young and old, in pairs or small groups. The air is crisp and the sky peppered with cotton-like clouds. Will it rain? People chat, laugh, stop at little stalls that sell food and drinks. Some carry flags, or small hand-written panels that proclaim peace, or the end of time.
We walk hand in hand in this familiar city, our home. We stop at a band, listen for a few minutes, walk on. There are speeches, some photographers stand on ladders, for a better view of the human sea. More people are coming. Residents sit at their windows, admiring the show.
At the limits, barring motors to access the streets, stand the city police, calm, reflective, attentive. Girls smile. Little ones in push-chairs look at the sky. You look at me and say: “You see, this is a great holiday, and all is in control!”
Picture: Sunday morning, May 1, 2017, Brandenburger Tor (Honoré Dupuis)
The prompt, Wednesday April 26
She belongs to this city, even if she would deny it. Her accent, I know, is – ever so lightly – from somewhere else, further East, for such is History. Once upon a time, those lands belonged here. Her roots are here.
And I, wandering those streets, drinking quietly on the benches of the parks, try to guess where she is, now, that war again sounds on the horizon. She haunts my dreams, her steps always fading, beyond some wall, or perhaps, behind a cloud.
The ruins have gone – so many women cleared the streets, as the soldiers jeered. At night I roam the squares, near the churches…
She’s nowhere to be found…
Photo: berlin 2017 © martin u waltz. streetberlin.net
Today’s one-word prompt
He watches the City born again, the ghosts of the past walking, silently, amidst the joyous crowds. The ancient monuments look old and cleansed, no longer ruins martyred by war. Yet he does not follow the script, blindly, but, rather, reflects on the meanings, the hidden messages, the untold truths. Here were divisions, for sure, and the hideous spectrum of tyranny. But here was courage also. And patient work, and the indomitable spirit of a great nation.
Photo: Brandenburger Tor, von Bundestag cupola, 2017 (Honoré Dupuis)
As the ice melts, as the clouds fly slowly over the lakes, the city holds its breath, wondering if this is the end of Winter. It may not be, but in the woods, we saw a flight of cranes going East. Do they know? The air is still cold, a light rain falls, the sounds of passing traffic feel subdued, as if this were a time of less certainty.
Yesterday, today, soon we will know, perhaps the rain will continue to fall, and we will have to wait for the light, a little longer…
Photo: © 2017 Honoré Dupuis
From the cheeky crew…
A ray of sunshine, a reflection on the fresh snow: it is so tempting to think of the new year, and of Spring! Yet we are in winter, souls are hiding from the cold winds behind long coats and wooden scarves, the days are short. Only the ducks appear to be quite at ease in the icy water of the canal. We know it will come, after many other days of staying indoors, just popping out when the sun comes out…
Photo: Plötzensee, Berlin Wedding, © 2017 Honoré Dupuis
So much to see, so little time…
History walks along the quiet streets, ghosts hide in the corridors of museums: our steps resonate in the night, so much to explore… The story ripens, enriched by the findings, tombs of soldiers, standing knights in corners of baroque churches, damsels hidden in wooden scarves and dark mantels. Renaissance painters, medieval crosses, Japanese swords, enough material for many books.
Will there be time to pillage so much wealth?
Photo: Alte Museum, Berlin – © 2016 Honoré Dupuis
Sharing is Caring
We are but small pebbles in the midst of a big storm, rolling, rolling, until we fall into the great void. On the way we hold on to our memories, our feelings, our fears, our hopes. Sometime, for a few seconds, we encounter peace. It does not last, pebbles are not made to rest.
Photo: Böcklin, Toteninsel
The woods are silent, high above the hills a hawk observes the few walkers: we are aware of what we are treading on: a still intact Nazi building that resisted attempts at destroying it, on top layers after layers of rubbles from ruined homes and monuments destroyed by the war. We admire the views, the lakes on the horizon, the stadium’s tower above the trees, the white city and its domes.
We approach the site through the naked trees, past the climbing rocks, along the double fence. Everything has been vandalised, rubbish strewed over the once well ordered roads. What remains is enough to show the extent of the buildings here, and there is more underground.
What did they listen to? What did they learn? Was there a sane reason for them to be there, for nearly forty years… Was there a sane reason for the division, the pain, the fears?
What do the ghosts think? Or have they given up since the devil persists in haunting those hills?…
From a visit to Teufelsberg, former NSA listening station in West Berlin.