Have spent the last two days touring these historic towns. I am in awe of being such places of importance. As an American of my generation, WWII seems so distant, so remote, so impossible. Yet to discover the effects of this war, and witness what exists now is mind blowing. Very emotional.
Wiesbaden itself is such a great town. The streets are quiet, silent enough to hear the numerous birds calling to each other in the narrow, windy cobblestone streets that lead around town. The buildings that line these streets remain almost unchanged. During the war, Americans admired Wiesbaden so much, that they set up their headquarters here. The town escaped the war without much damage. Wiesbaden has three historic inspiring cathedrals as well as a very busy downtown center near the government buildings, restaurants, theaters and shops. There is a gorgeous, thick forest that lies right outside of town. Fox, deer, racoons. We saw a few falcons the other day hovering near the freeway. Beautiful.
Frankfurt is equally interesting. This town was not protected during WWII, so many of the buildings were either destroyed or have been rebuilt since. The Mainz river flows through the city. We walked through a flea market along the water. Anything you can imagine. Middle-eastern jewlery and trinkets, furs (ugh,) clothes, shoes, etc. A very ethnic feel. Down to the food market. Lots of booths selling fruit, vegetables, hot food, cheese. We started off with a drink made of buttermillk and peaches. Tart at first, but yummy after a few sips. For lunch, we had potatoes (mine was like a potato pancake) with a special green sauce made of sour cream and 7 herbs (only made in Frankfurt!) Really tasty, espcially with the cider made from apples. As we wandered the market, I bought some hand cream made or beeswax, and there I met the "Mr. Bad Beekeeper." He was a jolly man who spoke great English. He pretended to trick me about giving me back the correct change so he said, "I'm a Bad Beekeeper! And I like to be bad!" He was so funny, and I can already see an idea for a great picture book. Encuentro de Cuentos. Dinner that night at a Thai restaurant called Erawen with Andrea, her friend Patsy, and their friend Till. Such great people. It is an honor to be in their company.
I took a four-hour train ride to Berlin yesterday. Manuervered my way through the train station, following the nice German people who were going my direction. The train ride was great. Northeast up through towns and the countryside. Lots of green pasture land, and beautiful towns with German-style architechture. One town had an amazing castle sitting atop a hill in the center. In Berlin, Andrea's friends Joe and Christiana met me to take me on a tour of a now united Berlin. We started off with the Reichstag Building, the German parliament building. The parliament was dissolved by Hitler, and in 1945, the end of the Battle of Berlin raged all around, leaving this building in ruins and rubble. It has since been rebuilt, and cupola that was once in the center, has since been redesigned by a new architect in glass, with a spiral staircase inside.
In the 17th century, trees were planted along the axis of one of the main streets, Unter Den Linden (under the trees.) This area holds many of the embassies, a German historical museum, New Guardhouse that acts as a National Monument for the victims of war and tyranny. One of the most historic intersections, Unter Den Linden-Friedrichstrasse, has famous hotels and cafes. Some of the businesses still remain unchanged. The Berlin Dome is a dramatic cathedral in the center of town. It' green oxidized iron domes are such a stark contrast to the darkened sandstone. The cathedral was severely damaged in the war, but has also been rebuilt. The bottom floor hold the crypt of the original Hohenyollern family The area around the cathedral was almost completely ruined during the war, but you would never know, with the lively energy and hustle and bustle of this area. After being completely destroyed, the palace in the center of Berlin no loner exists. East German leaders rebuilt The Palace of the Republic in 1974, but now that has been torn down as well, and a new palace--maybe similar to the original before the war. There is still much controversy about how to preserve the horrible parts of Berlin's past, yet remain true to the integrity of its history.
We visited an amazing area called Hackensche Höfe that is a colorful varietz of buldings within a narrow space. During the turn of the century, along of with industrialization, thousands of people were immigrating to Berlin to work. So the govenment constructed these tall upright apartment buildings with eight rear courtyards. Sometimes as many as 2-3 families would live in one small, apartment. Now the area is ful of restaurants, bars, clubs and theater--all preserving the original design and architechture.