Monday, April 5, 2010

Buona Pasqua a Tutti!

What a good Easter it has been! It’s the first one in a long time I haven’t spent with my family, but I had good friends and good culture to celebrate with instead. That’s another blog for another day though because I have so much other stuff to talk about.

I want to give you a recap of our amazing “Grand Tour” spring break. We visited four cities in twelve days: Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. I’ll just talk about Bear-lin and Praha in this blog, though, because I have a nice 7 hour bus ride from Sorrento back to Florence ahead of me and I’ll need something to keep me busy… rough life, I know.

We did so many things in all these cities that it would be impossible to recount everything. I’ll just tell you about a couple cool things we saw/ did in each place.

Prague was absolutely gorgeous. It has a very quaint atmosphere with a melting pot of architecture ranging from Gothic to Cubist. The people were extremely friendly and hospitable. We were definitely spoiled by out hostel in this city. We had our own apartments with the people we were traveling with, including a kitchen, a TV, and the best shower I have EVER experienced in Europe. Fun fact: Fifteen Czech Koruna is equal to about one Euro. It’s really, really weird to hold a one thousand dollar bill in your hand… sort of like Monopoly Money. I’ll take Park Place, please.

This is the view from near the top of Prague’s Petrin Hill, which rises 130 m above the left bank of the Vltava River. This area is covered in parks and is mostly used for recreation. You can see Prague Castle and the Gothic St. Vitus Cathedral at its heart. Prague Castle is one of the biggest in the world and the home of the Bohemian Crown Jewels. The Kings of Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperors, and the presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had offices here for hundreds of years. To the left is an interior view of the St.Vitus Cathedral.

Below are two pictures of the Lennon Wall. It has been covered over the years by John Lennon and Beatles inspired graffiti and lyrics. The wall itself was once blank, but became a place where angry students, under the communist leadership of Gustav Husak (1969-87), would write their grievances. The movement associated with these youths was known as “Lennonism”. Communist authorities were deeply bothered by the movement and described those associated with it as alcoholics, deranged sociopaths, and agents of Western capitalism. Today the wall continues to be decorated, the original layers long lost, and represents the youthful ideals of “peace and love”.

I don’t even know where to start with Berlin. It is one of my favorite cities that I have visited. I love history and to me this place is a giant 20th century (and beyond, really) history book. Go here and read about it: I can’t explain one thing without explaining the rest, so it’s easiest to read it on your own.

The Brandenburg Gate (below) was commissioned by Friedrich Wilhelm II to represent peace. It was completed in 1791. Ironically, the gate was incorporated into the Berlin wall during the communist years. Today the classicizing structure stands as a happy reminder of the unification of East and West Berlin in 1990.

The next picture down is of one of the remaining parts of the Berlin wall, which separated East and West Berlin. After WWII, the victorious parties split the territory into four sectors. Those of the Western Allies (the US, France, and Britain) formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin. The later founding of two separate German states fueled Cold War tensions and culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall, which completely separated east from west. Westerners were able to pass back and forth under strict regulation, while it was almost impossible for easterners to pass to the western side.

Berlin is filled with fabulous museums. The Pergamon Museum houses two fascinating installations from the ancient past: the marble Pergamon Altar and the glazed brick Ishtar Gate. The Pergamon Altar dates from the first half of the second century BC and depicts the battle between the giants and the Olympian Gods. The reconstruction is comprised of thousands of fragments excavated from the acropolis in Pergamon.

The reconstruction of the famous Ishtar Gate resides in the same museum only a few rooms away from the Pergamon Altar. It served as one of many inner gates to the ancient city of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar II ordered its construction around 575 BC and dedicated it to the goddess Ishtar. The part of the gate housed in the Pergamon Museum is only a small sample of a much larger work. There are many golden bulls, lions, and dragons scattered in museums all over the world, including a lion in the MFA in Boston.

Amsterdam and Paris next time!


1 comment:

  1. Hi Lin,

    Great report. Your writing is excellent. Keep it coming.