Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bad Behavior and Good Behavior

That is the best way to sum up yesterday with Anuradha and Pia. I met the girls at noon and we started off on our “the things the Soviets built” tour (bad behaviour.) The first stop was the Memorial to the Soviet soldiers killed during the Battle of Berlin. Anuradha loves all things Russia (except for their human rights record) so I thought she would get a kick out of the park. As I have mentioned before, it creeps me out. A memorial to the troops who died is certainly appropriate, but the park reeks of communist grandeur. A statue of a grieving “Mother Russia” greets you as you enter the park. Next, you walk up a series of stone steps and are greeted by 2 gigantic marble sphinx-looking sculptures that are flanked by 2 kneeling soldiers with giant guns. From this vantage point, you can look out over the rest of the park, which includes a 13m tall bronze statue of a Russian soldier carrying a German child while smashing a swastika, 14 or 16 white marble blocks featuring quotes from Stalin and carvings depicting Russia’s involvement in the war, and a giant meticulously laid out and well-maintained garden.

The aspiring diplomat in me has been trying to think about American symbols of sacrifice and patriotism that might “creep out” the Russians. Some have suggested that the Iwo Jima memorial or the cemetery at Normandy might be similar. Upon further reflection though, I have to disagree. What I dislike about the Soviet memorial is the focus on Stalin and violence. Almost every stone carving features a soldier or peasant brandishing a machine gun. In one carving, a child is playing with a hand grenade. The memorial is also notable because it is located in the defeated and then occupied country, not in the soldier’s homeland. Agree or disagree, let’s discuss. I have visited the memorial three times now, and am still thinking about it.

Anuradha, taking a unique view of the park, commented as we walked to the pedestal of the statue: “this guy is hot—a giant Russian, carrying a child, stamping out Nazism, and has a big sword. And that does have a double meaning.” Thank you for that perspective, Ms. Banerjee!

The other stop on our tour was the East Side Gallery, the longest stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still standing. Graffiti and time have damaged some of the murals painted on the wall in 1990, but others are still fun to look at. Having never walked the entire 1300m stretch myself, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the paintings closer to the Ostbahnhof are in much better condition than the those near Warschauerstrasse.

Good behavior was what we needed last night when we went to the Berlin Philharmonic and got tickets to sit on stage, directly behind the percussion section. For 8 euros, after the city toilette, I think this is one of the best deals and most unique experiences in the city! To see the audience, conductor’s face and the action in the back of the orchestra was not your average symphony experience. The drums and horns were a bit louder than when you sit behind the conductor, but the performance was still great. Last night featured pieces by Martinu, Mozart and Dvorak. If I played an instrument, I would want it to be the triangle or tympani drums. So to see the triangle, kettle drums and cymbals in action was awesome. Last night also featured a gong, which was also totally cool. On the topic of percussion instruments, one of the three of us (who shall remain nameless) was flirting with the kettle drum player during intermission! Cheeky little madam! “You must be so strong to bang on those drums so well.” This may have crossed back over into the “bad behaviour” theme of the day. Then again, he didn’t seem to mind;-) As the ring tone on my cell phone always reminds me, “Girls just want to have fun”…even at the symphony!


At 6:03 PM, Anonymous The Exit said...

Aha. Erin is focusing on the project: Big Love in Berlin.

Very good.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger Erin said...

what makes you think the flirting was coming from me!?:-o ;-) :-)

At 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could never guess who flirted with the percussionist at the Berlin Philharmonic? Could it be the same person who flirted with our Brazilian-German waiter over Kinderbier? Hmmmmm. -Jennie

At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or was it the one who kissed Simone, the Belgian waiter??

At 3:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" doesn't start coming out of your phone AT the symphony, I think all is well. Glad you all had a good time together!
- Erica

At 10:01 AM, Blogger dwainingals85030146 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Erin said...

My cell was most certainly off! They do a funny but cool thing at the Philharmonic to remind everyone to shut their phones off... they project big "turn off your phone" messages onto the walls before the performance begins and after intermission.

At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for hosting Anuradha and Piya. They had a most wonderful visit; I enjoyed seeing their pictures. As for having fun, that is what life is all about . . . as long as your saftey is not at risk. What happens in Berlin, stays in Berlin!

Lopa (mother of Anuradha and Piya)

At 3:54 AM, Blogger Erin said...

"What happens in Berlin stays in Berlin"...what a cool mom!

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You wonder where I get my crazy streak from? You really need look no further than my mother. My father on the other hand lives life by the book -- they make an interesting (and adorable) pair.



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