Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Germany


Being that our professor hails from Bavaria in Germany, it worked out that I have been able to visit the country twice: once on a class trip to Berlin for 8 days, and once on an independent weekend trip to Munich. Although both excursions took place in the same country, my experiences in each city were completely different.

I found Munich to be more of the storybook German city, complete with Bavarian Architecture, pitched roofs, and a brewery on every other corner. Although the city has more than a million people, with a it's winding, ungrided streets, and the complete absence of skyscrapers, it felt more like an old town than a burgeoning metropolis. That's not to say that life in Munich felt slow, on the contrary it was quite lively and the streets packed with people, it simply felt to me as if much of the prewar culture had remained. The city itself was devastated during the Second World War, however following the occupation of Germany the citizens decided to reconstruct the town basically as it had been before the war, which is quite different than what happened in Berlin with the division of the city by the Allied Powers. Overall it had a feel to it which I could say was uniquely Munich; it had a distinct identity and was a cohesive place.

Even though the wall fell over twenty years ago, the disjunction that it was built to create still can be seen in the city. There is no longer a feeling of East v. West, but the city is quite a
metropolitan city. Much of the city was covered in graffiti. And by much I mean all. Because of the length of our stay in the city, and
the nature of our visit, we were able to visit many neighborhoods within the city that a tourist might not normally see. We looked at several pre-war housing complexes done by the most famous Modernist architects along with socialist housing blocks that remain from the GDR times. All of this is mixed with the Americanized Western influence that came in the 60's - 80's and the turn of the century architecture of Potsdamer Platz and Unified Germany. The most impressive things that I saw were the remnants of the war; many buildings from the 18th and 19th century were still pocked with bullet holes. Many of the older buildings were reconstructions of the originals, but some showed purposeful reminders of the consequences of the war. Between the Wall and the War, Berlin is perhaps the most historically seeped city I've ever been to.

Although the Germans love their Mercedes and VW's, another significant impression from my trip to berlin came from riding on both the above ground and subterrainian trains. It fascinated me how much the feeling I had shifted as the city did out the view of my window. I was able to ride the city from east to west and I saw how the history and architecture shifted depending on location.



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