There's a curious mix of beauty and sadness in Berlin that is the result of a city so steeped in history. Ben Franklin once said that beauty and folly are old companions, and I have to agree with the old chap. (Whom I love and was for Halloween. As a 9-year-old girl. Seriously.)
The new office for the company I'm working for is on a street called Oranienburger Strasse. It's a long street, with a long history to match. A few doors down is the stunning New Synagogue- one of the only to survive Kristallnacht- a night of government-supported destruction of, well, anything Jewish. A German police officer stepped in, waving his pistol as the anti-Semite gatherers lit a pile of scrolls and furniture alight, declaring that he would uphold the law and protect a "national monument". The synagogue survived the pogroms, but sadly not the war.
There's a sober history in this city that is undeniable, one of great sadness and loss, and as I walk the city I can't help but notice reminders- both intentional and not: a bullethole-riddled wall near a church from the Battle of Berlin. A bomb-damaged church left in ruins as a reminder. Bronze cobblestones in front of the former homes of Holocaust victims. It's hard not to stumble across history in this city. In fact, these commemorative bronze stones are actually called Stolpersteine, or "stumbling stones"- an intentional play on words by the artist . As I walk home, I pass over the stones of an entire family sent to an Estonian work camp, a young boy sent to England in the Kindertransport scheme and a couple- murdered after being sent to Auschwitz. At first, I felt that I shouldn't tread on them- that it was somehow disrespectful. Then I realised the more they're trampled, the brighter they become. Each step buffs the bronze. Each step makes them more prominent- a poignant allegory for refusing to fade into obscurity.
Berlin, you're ugly and lovely.