i’ve always wanted to see the siegessäule aka golden lizzie (to berliners) aka berlin victory column to the rest of the world. ever since watching wim wender’s wings of desire, in which the column acted as a gathering place for angels. and as a huge U2 fan (their earlier music), i was absolutely in love with the stay! (faraway, so close) music video – also directed by wim wenders.
you can find the 203 feet high siegessäule standing in the middle of tiergarten. the column was erected to commemorate the prussian victory against denmark in the war of 1864. siegessäule was later crowned by a 35 ton gilded statue of the goddess victoria in 1971. victoria sports a helmet and is holding a laurel wreath in one hand and a staff bearing an iron cross in the other.
to get to the very top of siegessäule, you have to first access it through underground tunnels and then climb all 285 steps of the tower’s spiral staircase. i wouldn’t say that i’m out of shape, but i would say that my cardio is not where it should be. however, all the walking during the past couple of weeks probably helped. like climbing the eiffel tower, you will feel fatigue. you will need to catch your breath. and hopefully you’ll have a bottle of water to help you out. fellow travelers will encourage you with words about how close you’re getting.
and if you stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with some amazing, unobstructed views of berlin. plus your senses will be all fired up – what with the platform being narrow and crowded, the wind whipping through your hair and the fact that you’re really high up there. it’s scary as it is exhilarating. at points, i found myself walking the circular platform with my back pretty much pressed to the wall!
after such excitement, i opted for a bit of reverence and headed to the kaiser-wilhelm gedachtnis-kirche, a ruined neo-romanesque church in busy ku’damn. the church was consecrated in 1895, but severely damaged during the bombing raids in world war II. the ruins of the church tower, which is nicknamed “the hollow tooth”, serves as both memorial and stark reminder of the horrors of war today.
a new hexagonal bell tower was built next to the church ruins in 1963. inside, you’ll find a golden figure of christ suspended above the main altar. what makes this church stunning and unique is that windows made up 21,292 stained glass inlays with the predominate colour being blue, creating a calm, soothing effect.
fun fact: due to the shape of the new church buildings, berliners affectionately nicknamed it “the lipstick and powder box.”
after a spot of lunch, i headed to the museum für fotografie – home to the life and work of helmut newton. inside this non-descript building, the museum presents a vast collection of photographs from one of 20th century’s leading fashion and nude portrait photographers. he was the go-to photographer for fashion magazines and designers, capturing the famous, rich and beautiful since 1947.
photography was not permitted (boo!), so i’ve googled some images because this museum is really worth seeing:
photo credit: berlijnblog
photo credit: timos l.
also on exhibit were photographs from june newton, under the pseudonym alice springs. the retrospective showcased more than 100 portraits, plus street photography and the california punk and hip hop scene in 1980s LA.
there was also a smaller exhibit helmut newton’s work called “yellow press”, featuring paparazzi pictures, police photography and crime stories – some of which were never before published.
having stayed so long at the museum für fotografie didn’t leave me with much time for the bauhaus-archiv berlin. 30 minutes in fact, by the time i got there. unfortunately, unlike other museums, they weren’t in the practice to offer reduced admission prices, close to closing time. and i didn’t feel like forking out 7 euros to dash around the museum, even if they do have the largest collection of bauhaus furniture, ceramics, paintings and photography in the world. the exterior was pretty cool though.
i headed to the east side gallery to cap off the day. the outdoor gallery is the biggest remaining stretch of the berlin wall, with contributions from 118 artists from around the world. famous murals include a trabant busting through the masonry, thierry noir’s head with big lips, and leonid brezhnev and erich honecker kissing.
leave it to me to cram so much in a single day that i was all but exhausted by the time i arrived. having the hot, humid summer day beating down on me all day, and the fact that the east side gallery goes on for 1.3 km, i couldn’t walk its entire length. plus it was behind fencing! the permanent feature being used as a deterrent against vandals is ironic, given the historical context of what the fall of the berlin wall represented – a symbol of freedom.
i know that i would come back to berlin because sean hasn’t been yet, so i made peace with the fact that i wasn’t going to even try to walk the 1.3 km and back. there’s always another trip.