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Alan Machin: Tourism As Education
Home page: blogs, introductions, links to main pages
Berlin: Editing a Townscape
... and reading a city that has had many rebuilders
Making Sense of The Travel Learning Experience- 1
1 Information Streams
Making Sense of the Travel Learning Experience - 2
Some basic theories
Back to Basics: Presentation given at the Cuba EduTourism Conference
The CETA Conference in Havana, Cuba, 8/9 November 2010
About the author
Comments - CV - photos
At the heart of the tourist experience
Learning through Landscapes
Exploring Oxfordshire (and a bit of Gloucestershire!)
The Environment As Data: Building New Theories For Tourism
How tourists relate to places
Sail Gives Way to Steam
A return visit discovers just how much has been achieved in this iconic restoration
Richard III and the Battle of Bosworth Reenactment
Visits to Leicester and the battlefield event, 2013
Along The Way
Recollections and Reflections of 60+ Years' Learning about the World and its Ways
On the Edge of the New World
Shaping New England
Exploring Holderness in East Yorkshire; October 2012
Past Historic
Graf Zepplin, Spain 1968, OS History, Much Wenlock Olympics, Chatham Dockyard, Hawes Tourism, Colonial Williamsburg,
A Summer of Travelling / Matthew Starr
Three months' backpacking in Africa, Asia and Australia
East Anglia
The Broads, Pensthorpe natural history, Radar Museum, Caister Lifeboat Service and more!
A Richer Earth
Discoveries in the landscape and attractions of Shropshire
Blog Index Page
Blog pages from 2009 listed
From Strip Map to Sat Nav
'Finding the way' aids to exploration
Showcasing the World
How the Tourist Microcosm took centre stage
Doing A Dissertation
Notes to help students preparing their proposals
The Japanese Tsunami Destruction at First Hand
Sarah and Tom Wadsworth saw for themselves
Showcases: Examples
The range and variety of tourism's focal points examined
Jigsaw: Frameworks of Knowledge
The tourist jigsaw puzzle of - knowledge
Books and other works useful in studying tourism as education
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 2
The development of tourism as education, 1845 -
Tourism's Educational Origins: Part 1
Tourism's educational origins and management
Impressions of Tourism in Cuba
Thoughts on having seen some of the country myself
Captain James Cook: North Yorkshire Days
Tracing the early life of Britain's greatest maritime explorer
Hunting the Hound of the Baskervilles
Tracking down places that inspired the famous detective story and moulded Dartmoor's image
Exploring the Idea of Dark Tourism
What is it? Is it a useful idea?
Talking to Tourists
Visitor interpretation - guide books, visitor centres and other media
Shades of Light and Dark in the Garden of England
An exploration in East Sussex and Kent, June/July 2010
Hunting the Gladiator and the Gecko
A thirteen-year search for a wartime adventure
Steam Up For A Famous Film's Birthday Party
The Railway Children weekend on the Worth Valley line raises questions about heritage presentations
Anne-Marie Rhodes: Making a Difference in South East Asia
Leeds Met graduate of '07 describes her activities
Discoveries in Northumberland, April 2010
Alnwick Gardens; Winter's Gibbet; Holy Island, Cragside, Wallington Hall
Discoveries in the Midlands, March 2010
Bletchley Park National Codes and Cipher Centre; and the Rollright Stones
Alan Machin's Blog - April 2010
The development of tourism as education continued
Jigsaw Puzzle!
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
Leaders Into The Field
People who inspired everyone to explore
Alan Machin's blogs - February and March 2010
Postings on the history tourism as education - redirection
Alan Machin's Blog - January 2010
Tourist photography and souvenirs
Earlier front-page blog postings - January 2010 onwards
Archived after being on the Home Page
News from higher education and - beyond
The Development of Educational Tourism
Key dates in the development of educational tourism
Alan Machin's Blog - December 2009
Christmas Quiz and other postings
Analysing Heritage Tourism
Ideas and perspectives on a hugely important sector
Alan Machin's Blog - November 2009
Visitors' Views of Stonehenge, West Sussex - and other Postings
Are Universities Losing Their Way?
Reflections having retired
Teaching Tourism At Leeds Met
Remembering the Best
Alan Machin's Blog - October 2009
Thoughts about university life and discovery by travel
Alan Machin's Blog - September 2009
Further postings about a trip last month to the USA, and about higher education
Alan Machin's Blog - August 2009
Postings about a trip this month to the USA
Alan Machin's Blog - July 2009
The Story So Far reaches the summer
Alan Machin's Blog - June 2009
The Story So Far looks back on seventeen years at Leeds Met
Alan Machin's Blog - May 2009
Another month of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - April 2009
Yet more of the Story So Far
Alan Machin's blog - March 2009
More of The Story So Far
Alan Machin's Blog - February 2009
The Story So Far - pioneers, people and places
Alan Machin's Blog: January 2009
The Story So Far .... first postings of '09
Alan Machin's Blog: December 2008
The Story So Far .... latest postings
Alan Machin's Blog - November '08
The Story So Far.... continued
Alan Machin's Blog: October 2008
The Story So Far....
No Place Like Rome
The eternal city with the eternal tourists
Charleston, South Carolina
A photo essay about a fine historic city
Idealog - December 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
Idealog - November 2007
Ideas, notes and comments
The Educational Origins of Tourism
Discussion paper
Idealog - October 2007
Coton Military Cemetery; Education and Tourism; Chatham Maritime; Dickens World; Quiz Answers; Tourist Guides; Mediation In Tourism
Idealog - September 2007
Plane Paradox;Tour Guiding; Where in the World?; Do Tourism Students Know Where They Are?; Leeds Met's Wow!; Sea Harrier; Scarborough and Tourism As Education; Doing A Dissertation; Types of Tourist; A Media Lens; Cost of Travelling Alone; Risk of Bias?
Idealog - August 2007
A People Industry; Heritage Interpretation; Lud's Church; Tourists Go Home!; Stone Gappe YHA; Insight Guides; Eyewitness Guides; Bramhope Tunnel; Elizabethan Progress; Information Quality Matrix
Idealog - July 2007
Hidden Heroes, Health Tourism, Holme Fen Posts; Harrogate (again); Whitby Abbey; Dramatic Interpretation; Harrogate Interpretation, Attractions and Royal Hall
Idealog - June 2007
Christian Pilgrimage; Cincinnati Museums Centre; The Coming of the Guide Book; Talking to Tourists - Media, Stages of the Visit, The Service Journey; Tourism's Missing Link; The Final Call; SATuration level; Halifax's Edwardian Window on the World
Idealog - May 2007
Martin and Osa Johnson, Wensleydale Creamery, Malham Tarn, Thomas Cook, Northern Ireland's Tourism Rebuild, Jamestown Festival Park, Cite des Sciences
Idealog - April 2007
The Promenade Plantee, The Jardin des Plantes, Environmental Data, Victorian Beauty Spot Rediscovered, Jamestown, The Anglers' Country Park, Children's Museums, Fairburn Ings
Idealog - March 2007
A Sense of the Past- The 'Amsterdam', The Outdoor Classroom, Film-Induced Tourism, Making Tracks for the Coast and Country, Pictures, Context and Meaning, Classics-on-Sea, Hi Hi Everyone!, Dark Side of the Dream, Holodyne - The Action Cycle
Idealog - February 2007
Don't Go There!, Space Tourism, The Crystal Cathedral, New Books on Tourism, Dark Tourism - Undercliffe Cemetery, Showcase - The Louvre, A Class Act, First Impressions Count, Postal Pleasures, Canaletto in Venice, Serpent Mound, Capsule Culture etc
Idealog - January 2007
Capsule Culture,Seaside Style, Poble Espanyol, Mallorca, Edgar Dale, Children's Holiday Homes, Representations of Reality, Outdoor Education in Germany, Baedeker Guides, Geography Textbooks, Environmental Data Theory etc
Idealog - December 2006
Writers on Landscape, Story Books, The Deep, Flour Power and the Archers,Showcases: Grand Tour, Halifax Piece Hall, Books of Concern about Tourism, Tourist Traces, Tourist Typologies, The Growth of Educational Tourism, The Field Studies Council, etc
Idealog - November 2006
A blog of ideas, comments and notes
Travel To Understand: Belfast
Telling the stories of troubled times
World Quiz 2010
Geography with a tourism angle
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
An outstanding educational facility in California
Chicago: Tourism Re-Imaging
A closer view of an iconic city
Colonial Williamsburg
A Virginia history showcase
A Social Club Outing By Train, 1935
How to do Scotland in 30 hours flat
Going Dutch
Presenting the past in the Netherlands
Keukenhof: Business is Blooming
Using tourism to promote an industry
A View of Italy for the City
Trentham Gardens Revived
A Case Study in Heritage Management
A curious tale of misleading publicity
Old Rice Farm
The story of the house in the 'holler'
Perfection in Paradise: The Eden Project
New page being added: The Eden Project's design for success
Escaping From Slavery: Facing Our Past
The US National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Prague Tourist Shows
Outstanding showcase attractions in the city
Retracing the Steps: Tourism as Education
ATLAS Conference paper given in Finland, 2000
Tourism and Historic Towns: The Cultural Key
A background paper for a Council of Europe Conference
The Social Helix
Visitor Interpretation as a Tool for Social Development, 1989
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 1
Reports and Pictures
Malta Residential, 14-21 Feb 2006 - Page 2
Photos and reports of Friday 17 Feb onwards
Malta Residential, 14-21 February 2006 - Page 3
Reports and pictures from Sunday, 19 February onwards
Tourism Alumni Reunion, 8 March 2003
Leeds tourism students reunion 2003
World Geography Quiz 1
A test of your knowledge
The Adventure of the Timely Tourist
The answers
Tall Ships Race 2010 Converged on Hartlepool
A major event-based boost for tourism in the town
Plymouth: From the Tamar to the Sea
Starting point for explorations round the globe
Plimoth Plantation
A reconstruction of the Mayflower settlers' village of the 1620s on the north east coast of North America
World Geography Quiz 2010 - Answers
Geography with a tourism angle
World Geography Quiz - Answers
Christmas Quiz 2009 - Answers
A day in the city including the Botanic Garden
Tourist Showcases
Examples from around the world

Berlin: Editing a Townscape

Berlin Dom

Catch it While You Can: As It All Slips Past

This page is based on a ten-day trip to Berlin in September, 2015. We went the whole way by train, from Halifax to Berlin, for the hell of it.  That was an adventure in itself - four train rides over two days.

The weather was dry and often – not always – sunny. We hadn’t realised when booking the stay that the Berlin Marathon was taking place while we were there. It cut  down the time we planned to spend in the city centre, though that meant we discovered the Museum of Natural History just round the corner from the hotel.

Tourist photography is in a category of its own. Time is limited. There is no control over the weather – in many places, you can only choose the season and hope for the best. Popular places have crowds getting in the way of that perfect shot that you want to take. Travel companions have their priorities that might be different from your own. Using a tripod can often cause a nuisance for other people, and is usually a definite no-no inside buildings. I have never tested out whether a monopod would be acceptable instead. After all, there are excellent walking sticks on the market that are fitted with mounting screws for cameras. Would they be banned?

Photos usually have to be taken as soon as you get the chance. Waiting for better opportunities is normally not on when there are things to see, places to go. And I am not a professional photographer, nor have I ever taken any formal course in the art and science of picture-making.

So I propose a new term for the kind of happy snaps that we get, making the best of the day and whatever later post-production we can apply on our computers. The phrase for a chance souvenir is objet trouvé. My equivalent for tourist photographs is scène trouvé. Here are some of those taken in Berlin. Apologies for those that fall short of National Geographic standards. You have to cathc it while you can.


Destination board on Cologne Station

The Past is Past: Long Live the Past!

Reading a landscape
 is a common phrase. The ‘language of architecture’ is the means of reading about the past and present of places, and perhaps their futures, too. Reading a townscape is the same, applied to urban areas. It isn’t only the building statements made by architects that count. Highway engineers, landscape gardeners, vehicle designers and many other contributors tell us something by their work. We can even include the ephemeral individuals and groups who occupy spaces for some fleeting moments. Their appearance and actions add to the sense of place alongside the fixed elements of what we see and hear.

Berlin today is of the greatest interest for its changing city landscape. At the end of World War II it was largely wrecked. Then it became divided between the capitalist west and the communist east. The need in both east and west was to get the city back into action as a national treasure, even if that was to be done using contrasting ideologies. It was a game of two geographical halves. The East German government administered much of the historic city centre. It demolished some key buildings, replacing them with modern structures for uses in line with its political ideology of peoples’ palaces under a powerful state system. Others were restored, though there were also cases of neglect. When the communist East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, collapsed and was combined with the Federal Republic of Germany, a vast programme of rebuilding and repairing began. Two notable buildings erected during the communist period were demolished. One is being replaced with a version of the palace the East Germans knocked down. Another is planned for replacement in similar fashion by a rebuilding of what stood there before.

Modern Berlin is attempting to return to older values, from before both the Hitler and the communist periods. At the same time, it preserves plenty of landmarks and details that tell of those rejected systems. It is a showcase, a townscape created by many hands to tell stories of a past sometimes peaceful and sometimes turbulent. For hundreds of years it has attracted travellers and tourists. Now, once again a world leader, it’s history is there to be read and debated in all its chapters.

Alexander and Wilhelm Humboldt

Seeing for Yourself: The University of Life

The Humboldt University of Berlin started life in 1810 as the University of Berlin. Then it became the Frederick William University in 1828, but later also acquired an unofficial name, ‘the University under the Linden trees’ after its location. In 1949 it became Humboldt University, named after its founder, Wilhelm, and his brother, Alexander. So it has been connected in name,first to its city, next to the King of Prussia, then, unofficially and poetically, to its attractive location and finally to two outstanding personalities. Their statues grace the forecourt of the main building. In the photos above, Wilhelm is on the left, Alexander the right.

Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) was a remarkable man. His influence on education is his great legacy, but he was also a linguist, diplomat and philosopher. Wilhelm’s views on the influence of the state were that it should allow liberty to individuals, limited only by actions to prevent any one person causing harm to others. He wrote to the King that individuals must be schooled to be “good, upstanding and – according to their condition – well-informed human beings and citizens”. That came first. Vocational training for particular jobs should come later. It was a duty that they should help to shape the world around them. Discovering and analysing knowledge were central to his educational methods. Curiosity was to be the driving force, as opposed to ideology or market demand.  There had to be freedom for young people to shape their own courses of study. History, geography and geology were to be part of a school’s curriculum, subjects which implied encouraged the exploration of the world around the student.

Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) matched his brother’s pre-eminence in related ways. He was a naturalist, explorer and geographer. He spent time travelling in Europe and a pioneering five years exploring in South America. As a result of his explorations and desk research he wrote extensively about natural science and the universe. His legacy was to act as an exemplar on the importance of travelling to gain knowledge. The work of the Humboldt brothers underpinned what would be a strong German tradition of school exploration and adult tourism. The latter would have discovery as a primary motivation. This would be known as Erlebnis, experiencing something at first hand, rather than reading or hearing about it through others. 

The other photos above show (L-R) some of the knowledge areas that Alexander influenced.  The first natural history book in German was printed in Augsburg in 1478. It drew on its author’s reading of mythology and the collective ideas of the time. Alexander Humboldt’s scientific approach helped to eradicate such fantasies. The flowers were in the Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden – see the next section. A glasshouse at the Garden is shown. In the German Historical Museum in Berlin is seen a globe of the world, with details drawn from the work of explorers such as Humboldt.

Berlin - Natural History Museum

Evolving Knowledge

The Museum für Naturkunde grew from the mineral collections of the Berlin Mining Academy. Alexander Humboldt worked as a mines inspector. His personal collection of minerals became part of the Natural History Museum.  Fossil and general geological collections were added later in the 19th century. Zoology became an important part of the Museum’s work. Its collections are huge, with only 1 in 5,000 items said to be on display, the others lying in store and research rooms.

Most impressive for visitors is the reconstructed skeleton of Giraffatitan branci in the entrance hall. It is claimed to be the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world. Another notable remain is that of an Archaeopteryx lithographica, a feathered dinosaur, capable of flight. It is the most detailed example discovered. The collection also holds the first Archaeopteryx ever found (1860). That fossil came to light the year after Darwin published On the Origin of Species. As the dinosaur represented a transitional stage from reptiles to birds, its appearance helped gain acceptance of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The photographs show some of the Museum’s showpieces. Lower, centre, is seen part of the mineral display. The photo on the right with visitors* is of animals preserved in alcohol. People can walk around the hall-within-a-hall, looking through its glass walls at thousands of sealed bottles of different sizes that hold the specimens. Top, centre and bottom, right, are two views of displays about the preservation and mounting of other specimens in the Museum’s galleries. A special area of one gallery is set aside to explain to school groups how the natural world was studied in the 19th century. Old educational charts surround the space as if it were an early school room. In the centre is a large sandpit that can be used to hide objects to be discovered by young visitors.

* photo courtesy of Carina Wirth

Berlin - Botanical Garden

Travellers' Tales

The Berlin-Dahlem Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum
was created between 1897 and 1910, but its origin go back through a series of gardens to the sixteenth century. A garden had been established in 1573 next to the Berlin City Palace. It contained a collection of plants that was being extended by examples brought back by explorers and later the settlers of Germany’s colonies. Alexander Humboldt’s collections were added to it. The garden covers 43 hectares and contains over 22,000 species. There are very large hothouses, a series of small pavilions and an extensive museum.

Besides the collections that are grouped according to their special needs, such as those in the hothouses and the water and marsh plants around two ponds, the Garden sets out a geographical area – one of the largest features – and a medicinal section. The geographical area is divided up to represent parts of the world, effectively making a microcosm, in plant terms, the world in miniature. The medicinal section is shaped like the human body, with specialist plants positioned according to the parts of the body that they were used to treat. This is a heritage display drawn from worldwide sources, though with an emphasis on German lands and German explorers. It is set out in a particular way developed by many Berliner botanical specialists and practical gardeners. They edited the showcase. The visitor reads the result.

Berlin - Technical Museum


The Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin
 (German Museum of Technology) is a relatively recent development although there were collections of rail transport early in the 20th century at the main railway station. Some confusion can be caused with the Deutsches Museum in Munich which has a much bigger industrial collection. But the Berlin show is very good, covering several aspects of technology from textiles to computers and railways to radio and television.

It was founded in 1982. The buildings it occupies were part of the Anhalter railway station, of which two roundhouses with over thirty tracks contain an impressive set of locomotives and other equipment. Former office buildings plus a new exhibition complex make up the rest of the Museum. Perched above one corner of the modern structure is a Douglas C-47 military transport that used to stand at the Templehof airport in the city. It recalls the post-war Berlin airlift when the Russians cut off West Berlin from its road and rail links to West Germany for almost a year. The C-47 was one of a fleet of 692 aircraft that flew in supplies of everything the city needed to survive.

German coal mines were among the first industrial sites to use wagon ways, the precursors of railways. The photo top-left, above, shows a wooden wagon with heavily grooved roller-wheels. These ran on crude wooden tracks, the wagons being pushed by miners to get coal out of the horizontal mine tunnels. This display contrasts with the red and black steam locomotive 01-1082 shown next to it. This was oil-fired, built in 1940 by BMAG. Next to that photo is one of a mechanical organ sited in the small café area of the Museum. At the right is a wooden postmill, a windmill with canvas-covered sails that could be turned into the wind when the breeze changed direction. It ground grain into flour.

The small photos show part of the radio and television gallery and two typesetting machines in the printing gallery. These exhibits and the ones described above are all relevant to the development of tourism. Some contributed to the transport technology that moved people to new destinations. Others served the need to publicise products, and to communicate information about places and people. Even the windmill is a part of the story of food and beverage. Windmills are among the many popular landmarks enjoyed by tourists interested in history.

Berlin - Nazi period

Flashpoint Histories

Few cities can have experienced so many flashpoint histories as Berlin. Two world wars and the East-West cold war devastated and divided it. The first half of the 20th century saw two of the world’s most powerful ideologies fight each other with military weapons. The second half saw them continue the onslaught through the media. Popular cinema, broadcasting and print battalions lined up to fight. Visitors to the city will almost certainly have been conditioned in their attitudes by popular opinions in their home towns, by movies and adventure books and by their schooling. They will have been exposed to nationalist attitudes on one side or the other. Older generations will have been affected by the kind of propaganda employed by both sides that said everything about the enemy was bad, from their food and drink to their way of life to their actions in causing wars.

Berlin’s story of those years can be illustrated by its townscape. At least, much of it can, but inevitably, there have been changes, removals, replacements and new building. It is as though everyone responsible for the city or its different districts has edited parts of the story to suit their own political viewpoint. The result is not a single narrative but a whole library of them. Every building and space, every façade, sign, garden and park tells something of the past, the present and even the possible future.

Not everyone will like every message. Politically motivated individuals and their like-minded friends will argue for and against this kind of architectural work. They will want some stories told and others removed. There will be cries about ‘moving on’. Fears will arise about rekindling interest in philosophies now rejected as destructive. No greater example of this kind of problem is that of the Nazi period from 1933 to 1945.

A very useful guide to the period in Berlin, in English, is by Matthias Donath (2006) Architecture in Berlin 1933-1945: A Guide Through Nazi Berlin, Berlin, Lukas Verlag.

The need to salvage every possible building after the wartime destruction meant many Nazi-era buildings had to be reused.  Dividing Berlin between a Capitalist west and a Communist east led to different levels of reuse. Much of the historic core was part of East Berlin. Both administrations removed Nazi symbols and images. A very few remain today, perhaps with a swastika removed, it being generally illegal to display such a thing. Nazi office buildings were reused. An exception was the Reich Chancellery as symbolic of the dictatorship. It was demolished, though stone was too valuable to waste, so much was used elsewhere, for example in what is now Mohrenstrasse subway station. Rebuilding Berlin after 1945 was one reason why Nazi landmarks remained. Reuniting Berlin after 1990 was another, as West German government offices in Bonn were closed, to be moved to premises in available buildings in the returned capital.

Care had to be taken to balance the need to “ensure that the dark side of this past will not be forgotten”, as Matthias Donath puts it (p15) and yet prevent focal points for neo-Nazis to celebrate their poisonous philosophies. Hitler committed suicide in 1945. His body was burnt by close supporters, but the remains were found by the invading Russians and ultimately ground into dust that was thrown into a river a long way away. The Führer Bunker where he had lived his last months was destroyed and buried under a car park and housing, with nothing at first to mark its location. More recently, the importance of the site has been recognised for its significance and a detailed interpretation panel erected (third photo on the bottom row, above).

The two photos at the left, above, show a group of people in Bebelplatz looking into a memorial designed by the Israeli sculptor, Micha Ullman. It commemorates the notorious burning of books authored by Heinrich Heine, Erich Kästner, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein and many others who were considered undesirable influences by the Nazis. Over 20,000 books were burned in a ceremony attended by Nazi officials. Joseph Goebbels made an inflammatory speech. Book burnings took place in other German cities on the same night, 10 May 1933. The Bebelplatz memorial consists of a glass window set into the ground, giving an illuminated view of dozens of empty bookshelves. A plaque quotes from Heinrich Heine’s 1821 play Almansor: “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people." It was a reference to events in Spain in 1499 when the Christian authorities burned books of Islamic theology. It must resonate in the modern world with the destruction of ancient monuments in the Middle East. Books and monuments that speak of ideas thought by some to deservce destruction.

Next to the photo of the Bebelplatz memorial there is a view of part of a Nazi anti-aircraft defence. It stands in a small park known as the Volkspark Humboldthain. There were three such structures in Berlin and others in major German cities. Each was a colossal edifice, with corner towers serving as bases for anti-aircraft guns. They were also used as air raid shelters, having metre-thick concrete walls. After the war they were largely destroyed, but this one resisted total removal. It partly collapsed. The remaining section was left, the rubble on the site being covered with soil which has allowed trees and shrubs to grow over it. The views across the city suburbs are striking. It is little known by tourists exploring the city centre, and has no on-site interpretation, but the place is evocative of that period of total warfare.

The photo display of Jewish people who were murdered in concentration camps is in a large galley of the German Historical Museum on Unter den Linden. The Nazi period is well represented. There are exhibits about the political background, the military actions and their consequences, including the true nature of the camps. The poster in the centre, above, was for an exhibition entitled 1945: Defeat, Liberation, New Beginning. It shows a gleeful Russian soldier carrying away the head of a statue of Hitler. The majority of visitors to the Museum would doubtless find the views expressed about Nazism – and indeed, the Communist German Democratic Republic after 1949 – to be fair and balanced. Neo-Nazis and modern Communist Party members would not. All museums have to decide what stories they tell, what comments they make. They are selective. Their messages are devised by curators and visitor interpretation specialists who are bound to have certain historical viewpoints of their own. What they say and how they say it is the result of museum policies using agreed aims and objectives. Whether the results are considered propaganda or some kind of objective fair judgement will be decided by the visiting public, including experts, critics and indeed, the politically motivated. But objectivity is rarely, really, achievable.

The portrait photos of Jewish victims of the concentration camps will be seen by the visitors to the Historical Museum. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, sited between the Brandenburg Gate and the site of the Führer Bunker, has the potential to be seen by far more, thanks to its open nature. Its size and content – 2,711 concrete slabs of varying height, arranged in a grid pattern over 4.7 acres – was intended by its designers, architect Peter Eisenman, and engineering partnership BuroHappold, to represent an organised system that had lost touch with human reason. Walking between the slabs (photo above) is said to induce an uneasy and confusing set of feelings in line with those intentions. 

The last photo (above, right edge) is an enlarged version of Käthe Kollwitz’s sculpture, Mother with her Dead Son. Kollwitz (1867-1945) was an eminent painter, printmaker and sculptor noted for her depictions of the tragedies of war and the human condition. The sculpture is placed in the Neue Wache on Unter den Linden.  This classical-style pavilion was built in 1816 as a guardhouse for the Royal Palace nearby. From 1931 it served as a memorial to the dead of World War I, housing a block of black granite topped by a carved oak wreath. Later, the Nazis used it with a different sculpture to celebrate military heroism. Another change came with the postwar East German government. This time it became a memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism, with an unknown soldier and a nameless concentration camp victim buried inside. An eternal flame was placed in a glass prismatic structure in the centre. Two soldiers stood on guard. 

Then, another change came, in 1993. Out went the memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism; in came the Kollwitz statue as a Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship. The subtle variation of title now embraced those who suffered at the hands of the East German authorities. The message changed as each ruling system took over.

The conflicts over Berlin came and went, but each one left its marks on the city for subsequent generations to see.

Berlin - 1964

These photos were taken by me in 1964 during a very brief visit to Berlin. My camera was a very basic 35mm model - I can't even remember the make. I think five of them were taken through the window of a coach during a tour. It was only nineteen years since the end of the war, The bottom right photo, of the Old Library on Bebelplatz, had been heavily bomb damaged and was being restored. It is now part of the Berlin Humboldt University.

The others are: top row, left - Checkpoint Charlie, in use; centre: the Brandenburg Gate, with the Wall just visible beyond; right, Templehof Airport. bottom row left and centre, two views of roads in East Berlin.

Berlin - the Wall

Tourism and the Berlin Wall

It may seem trite, but it is nonetheless true, to say that the Berlin Wall was built, knocked down and is now remembered partly because of tourism. Objectors to this idea will probably claim the Wall was to do with stopping local movement between the two halves of Berlin, and that was not ‘tourism’. They forget that excursions are now recognised as tourist activities. Even journeys lasting a few hours to go from one place to another for shopping are touristic. They use transport and information infrastructures, benefitting and depriving local economic situations as they take place. And the desire of people on either side of the Wall to visit friends and relatives, go shopping or attend cultural events were all touristic by nature.

The major problem that led to the Wall being built was not tourism-related, even though it used and affected relevant infrastructures. It was the ‘brain drain’ that was slowly emptying East Germany of workers, especially professionals and skilled manual workers. Permanent movement from one place to another is not tourism. Yet, if free movement had been allowed, visits to check out potential new jobs and homes and later, returns from those homes to revisit old haunts would have been forms of tourism.

The Berlin Wall went up from August 1961. It finally began to be taken down in November 1989. What is left, and how is it remembered? And how does Berlin now present its history to visitors?

Along Bernauer Strasse in the Mitte District are a series of Wall-connected features collectively forming the Berlin Wall Memorial. In the photo group above, the top left is a news picture of Berliners at the Wall when it was in use. The picture is part of a permanent exhibition in the building in the next photo, with a viewing tower next to it. There is a research and documentation centre. Across Bernauer Strasse can be seen (photo bottom left) a section of the  Wall with open space behind including the ‘death strip’ where would-be escapees were liable to be shot. A guard tower stands at the rear left.

The next photo (bottom middle) has the end of the remaining wall with its former line marked out by steel posts. They continue away to the left of this point, beyond the Wall remnant, making 1.4km total. At the far end of that section is the interpretation area with panels giving information and photos for visitors. Near to it (not shown) are the foundations of a former house that was demolished to build the Wall. A long, grassy, strip gives walking space today. It runs between the course of the Wall and houses in East Berlin. Across it in a number of places are stone slabs tracing the routes of escape tunnels that were dug from the houses, towards and underneath the Wall. There is also a memorial chapel.

Checkpoint Charlie souvenirs

The photo (top, middle) is of Checkpoint Charlie today. This is a contrast with the Wall Memorial. It is treated as a fun tourist attraction. People in the uniforms of the post-war occupying powers hold national flags and pose for visitors’ photographs. Passports can be stamped with souvenirs imprints. Shops and stalls sell items of occupying power uniforms, postcards, gifts and fragments of the demolished Wall, as seen above. A few Trabant cars, the standard two-stroke engine motors of the East Germans, are on show. Within walking distance the newspaper Die Welt has a captive balloon that carries visitors up a few hundred metres to view the city. On the day the photos were taken it was too windy to be used.

Less than a kilometre to the west is the site of the former Gestapo HQ on Niederkirchnerstrasse. The photo next to that of the balloon shows another section of the Wall with extensive interpretation panels in front of it under a roof. Behind it can just be seen part of the building that was the wartime Air Ministry that stands almost complete, a large complex of interconnected offices.

Should the tragic story of the Berlin Wall only be told by serious displays, as on Bernauer Strasse, or can the Disney-like Checkpoint Charlie play a fun part as well? 

Berlin - returning the past

Editing the Townscape

Just before the First World War, at 12 noon each day, a military band would strike up in front of the Imperial Palace in Berlin.  Kaiser Wilhelm II would interrupt whatever he was doing, excusing himself if necessary to those around him by saying he must appear at the window.  “You see, it says in Baedeker that at this hour I always do”.  According to Daniel Boorstin (1962:111) he always did.  I checked an English-language edition of the relevant Baedeker of 1913 for the original story, using archive.org, but sadly, did not find it.  Pity. It’s a neat story about tourist guide books dictating events for the sake of tourism.

The palace was the Berliner Stadtschloss, the Imperial or City Palace, when Berlin was the capital of Prussia and Germany. It is seen in the illustration* above, top left. It was badly damaged by Allied bombing during World War II, though it could have been rebuilt, at high cost. In 1950, the German Democratic Republic decided not to rebuild, but to demolish the Palace. West Germany protested, but could not stop the action. The GDR dynamited the remains, having first carefully removed a three-storey section that included the balcony from which the Communist, Karl Leibknecht, declared the formation of a Free Socialist Republic in November 1918.

It was later built into the front of the Council of State office building (now a management school). It can just be seen in the photo above, top right, as a stonework against the 1964 building – part hidden by the lamp standard. In the way of being a tourist and finding out snippets of information only after a visit, I knew nothing of the balcony story at the time, so did not get close-up photos.

The East German government left the site of the former Imperial Palace until 1973 when it commenced work on a new Palace of the Republic: see the photo, bottom left**. This was opened three years later, housing the country’s parliament and a range of public amenities such as performance spaces, art galleries, restaurants and a bowling alley. It was in use for only fourteen years. Asbestos was found inside. It was closed while the problem material was removed. The work coincided with the reunification of Germany. This time against East German opposition, it was demolished.

A rebuild of the Imperial Palace was planned to take its place. The plan was for a new cultural centre, housing collections made by Alexander von Humboldt, a theatre, cinema, auditorium and restaurants.

The new building matches the footprint of the Imperial Palace, but with differences. Three sides will reproduce former facades. One of the interior open spaces, or courts, will be reconstructed. Other internal architecture will be new, as required by the new uses. The Palace is being built of poured concrete.

The small photo on the right shows a temporary ‘explanatory’ structure close to the building site. It indicates to residents and visitors what the ‘replica’ facades will be like. At the bottom right is a photo of the actual work. The concrete façade shows an opening for a window. Below, workers on the scaffolding are fitting windows and painting the walls in the older style. The new Humboldt Forum, as it is to be called, will open in 2019. Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, will be the artistic director.

The various phases of demolition and rebuilding have been controversial. Was it all necessary? Is semi-authenticity justifiable, even in the name of cultural pre-eminence, as is hoped will be achieved? Successive governments have wanted to eradicate prominent symbols of previous regimes, the first a militaristic Prussian state and the second a Communist state. And yet there are other reminders of the Prussian state in plenty, such as the old Armoury (now the Historical Museum), the rebuilt Gendarmerie headquarters of the Police Commissioner, and the Neue Wache Palace guardhouse, all of which are close by. The sections of the Berlin Wall already described are amongst the reminders of the Communist state. The Berlin TV tower was built by the East Germans. It is too expensive – and useful – to be removed.

What constitutes a heritage to be preserved is a matter of political, cultural and commercial policies. Such landmarks and artefacts are kept in order to tell of the past. They are selected just like an editor selects newspaper copy and photos to tell a story. Editing a city is done according to who is in charge and what they want to say to the visiting public.

 * Source: Wikipedia Commons, City Palace, Berlin. Postcard view of 1920, now in the public domain.

** Source: Wikipedia Commons, The Palace of the Republic in Berlin, East Germany. Photo  by Istvan

Boorstin, Daniel J (1962) The Image, Harmondsworth, Pelican

Berlin - returning the past 2

Stories in Stone and Steel

Some more of Berlin’s buildings. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche or Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church* was badly damaged in an air raid of 1943. The spire has been retained as a memorial and a new church building placed nearby (Photo at left). The important Altes Museum is one of five on Museum Island, which form an internationally important resource along with the others, old and new, in Berlin (top, middle left). Below is seen some of the extensive rebuilding works, with temporary water pipes, in front of the German History Museum housed in the former Armoury.

What appears to be a complete building in the photo to the right of the rebuilding works is largely a mock-up made of canvas on a scaffolding framework. It represents the 1830s Bauakademie designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, one of the city’s most important architects. It housed some of the key technical units which went on the become the Technical University. But it, too, was hit by wartime bombs, partially restored, but then demolished to make room for the new East German Foreign Ministry building. That structure was removed in 1995 as part of the area’s regeneration. Students helped to rebuild a corner of the old Bauakademie, with the rest of the Schinkel building represented to a 1:1 scale by the steel and canvas. The original was made of red brick, not stone, something Schinkel was inspired to do after touring Britain and seeing textile mills built this way. The small photo (top, middle right) shows the scaffolding, visible through an opening in the canvas. It is hoped to rebuild the Bauakademie to include a museum of architecture and a Mercedes Benz exhibition about the future of the motor car.

At the top right can be seen the dome of the Berlin Cathedral with the tall Fernsehturm Berlin, the TV transmitter tower built by the East Germans, behind. The Cathedral (Berliner Dom) received damage in the last war, and it has been repaired to a slightly modified design.

*Source: Wikipedia Creative Commons, The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Photo by GerardM

Below: to round off this posting, photos of Berlin transport from the modern postal bike (top left) through some old and new vehicles. The wooden bike and the scooter are in the Technical Museum.

Berlin - on the move
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