21 October 2016

Infrastructure and Self Image - 20 October 2016

After the fall of the wall, and the reunification of Germany, we began to see the transformation of Berlin from a divided city into a world capital again. The first glimpses of that were at Potsdamer Platz, once the busiest intersection in the world. Decimated by the bombing of Berlin during the Second World War it was a site ripe for redevelopment. As friends we knew came back from Berlin all they could talk about was the construction boom - how the city was being reshaped and reformed. There was an air of excitement and renewal.  

When I started coming to Berlin, Potsdamer Platz was complete, dominated by the Sony Center and full of crowds and families.  But as I took the U2 toward Unter den Linden one could see signs that this was just the first stage of many, and that construction was going to be a state of being for some time.  As I would look out of the train windows I could see the huge underground construction moving from the south up toward where the Hauptbahnhof would be built. And over subsequent visits we got to see that remarkable building rise - levels of commerce, transport, services, and humanity.

During that same time we saw the rise of government buildings, the refurbishing of the Reichstag, and the construction of memorials that would seek to interpret German history to the visitor. There was the stunning Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

and a small memorial on the edge of the Tiergarten memorializing the gay men and women who were victims of the holocaust as well.

This was in addition to new embassies, hotels, stores, and other buildings. One would think that they were done, but they are not.  The Deutsche Oper still is undergoing renovation, and the extension and rejuvenation of the Unter den Linden U linie has taken over the street, up to Alexanderplatz, where it passes by the reconstruction of the Schloß.

Above you can see all of the cranes surrounded in the Deutsche Oper, and behind that there is the odd dome of Saint Hedwig's Cathedral, which is planning its own expansion and renewal as well. As you continue up the street you can see in the distance the dome of the Schloß construction, which seems to have gone up overnight.

I go through all of this marveling at this city's resolve and this nation's foresight in tending to its infrastructure. There are fanciful items, such as the Schloß, but there are also fundamental investments in the way that the people of this city, and its visitors can encounter the culture of Germany. I wish that we would learn that lesson in America - beginning to take care of our own, and treating ourselves well.

So here is Arthur standing near the Neue Wache, as we prepare to enter the Historical Museum just in the near distance.  The last time we were here, we had to leave off at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the exhibition is so rich with artifacts and interpretation. In this vibrant city, renewing itself, it takes time to look back - and, I think, to rightfully ponder.

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