Cantors Mission to Germany Day 1
Our plane arrived from Newark an hour early, 7:30am local time Wednesday. We fly through customs and are at our hotel within the hour. Checking our bags at the hotel gives us a little time to search the local area. Our hotel is situated a block away from the Kulturforum, a museum of 13th-17th century artwork. For those Albrecht Duhrer or Rembrandt fans out there, this is a must see. A 3 day museum pass gives access to many of the main attractions throughout Berlin. Using this newly found treasure, I make my way across the square (where one could find the Berlin Philharmonic) to find a collection of 750 exhibits at the Museum of Musical Instruments (even have pictures of Frederick the Great’s harpsichord!). I’ve fought through the jetlag (watched 3 somewhat decent movies on the plane, including the movie “Footnote”) to make my way on a M200 bus through the heart of Berlin. I make my way to Museum Insel, home to many of the top museums in the country as well as the Lustgarten and Berliner Dom (the largest dome in Europe, just a few centimeters larger than the Basilica at the Vatican). As a side note, I do not find myself in away uncomfortable wearing my kippah here in Germany. When I visited Eastern Europe (primarily in high school), the thought never donned on me to wear a kippah (I was probably too obsessed with my hats anyways). While my kippah is always on wherever I am in Jacksonville, my travels often have me putting on a hat instead. Here, I feel that the kippah is not only a reminder to me of my relationship with God, but in some ways, a reminder to those around me that “yeah, I’m here.” Food for thought
After touring the Pergamon Museum (amongst others), I make the hour plus walk back to the hotel. I travel down Unter de Linden, originally a royal birdle-path linking the Stadtschloss (the king’s residence) and Tiergarten. This leads me to Brandenburg gate. For context, Germany did not become a country until the late 19th century, and Berlin as a city now encompasses smaller municipalities, amongst them Mark Brandenburg. The Brandenburg Tor (gate), built in 1789-91, has been the backdrop of many events in the city’s history. Today, The Tiergarten side was covered with Euro 2012 glitter, a backdrop to a public viewing party (as of this blog post Germany was defeated by Italy in he semifinal). Immediately to the south one finds the Holocaust memorial (more on that on friday). Like many places of the Shoah, Germany struggles to recognize what took place in the past while becoming a new, more tolerant Germany of today. My bus stop at the Philharmonic had a little blurb about 20,000 homosexuals who were sent off to their death from that very place. Germany does not hide these things- if anything it sometimes seems like too much. In viewing pamphlets from our hotel, the top 2 tours of Berlin are the “Third Reich” and “Concentration Camp” tour. To think that Brandenburg Gate may have been a place of celebration tonight right on top of the Holocaust memorial. What a strange site that would have been!
Overall it was jam packed first day in Berlin. Our mission begins officially on Thursday evening at the Synagogue Rykestrausse, restored to its original form when it was built 100 yrs ago.