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Berlin #1.

After I gave my TEDx talk in Brussels, my wife and I went to Berlin for a week. I didn’t take any journal notes, so I’m just going to paste in my best photos in a fairly random order, with whatever comments come to mind.

Here’s a medieval painting of a wizard. I like this guy.

My mother grew up in Berlin, but I’d never been there before. It was an interesting city, really big, and with the palpable divide between the east and west halves. We stayed in a hotel in the Mitte area in the former east zone, right by an island in the river. On the island was this enormous museum complex, like four or five Met museums in one spot. It’s the Museum island.

We were there at the end of November, with the Christmas thing ramping up. Dig these ornaments on a mirror-topped table in a fancy hotel with columns. Hard to tell where you are. I went into this hotel twice to use their luxurious bathroom.

I get a little tired of photographing the places in the Bay Area where I always go, and it’s fun on a trip to have this big feast of new things to shoot. In this image, I’m into the old stone, the arches, and especially the wobbly reflection in the windows on the left.

One of the big landmarks in the former east zone is this giant TV tower. In principle you can ride an elevator to the top, but there’s a wait, and I generally prefer being down in the streets. I liked getting this triangular roof corner in the foreground.

A certain stretch of the famous street Under Den Linden has the Humboldt University and bunch of amazing old buildings. The one here on the right is a memorial to the WW II dead, both the soldiers and the victims of the Holocaust.

This thing that looks like a temple is actually the pointed tip of one of the Bode museum on the Museum Island.

Like I said, our hotel, the Radisson Blu, was right across the Spree river from the Museum island, and on the island was a 19th century Protestant cathedral, the Berliner Dom. Great flocks of crows gathered on it every night, wheeling and cawing. Sylvia liked this statue of an angel on the Dom roof, blowing that long horn.

As the sun went down behind the Berliner Dom we’d get wild silhouettes.

We went inside the Dom of course. Amazing stained glass window, with ferny fractal designs and maybe the Kaiser’s hat.

We went and saw a stretch of the Berlin Wall in this funky part of the east side called Friederichshain. Lots of younger people there, a very hip spot called the Michaelsberger hotel. A bunch of artists drew semi-permanent graffiti on the Berlin wall—each of them got about twenty meters worth to paint on—this was about twenty years ago, and the murals are still intact. Uncle Scrooge confronts a videogame warrior from a black hole.

Meanwhile back at the Humboldt University on Unter Den Linden we’ve got a marble scholar.

My cousin Christian von Bitter met us in Berlin—his father Conrad was the brother of my mother Marianne von Bitter. Christian drove us out and we saw the house where our parents lived with they were teenagers.

Christian steered me to our great-great-great-grandfather Georg Hegel’s grave as well. We found it around dusk—it got dark there about 4:30, as Berlin is a far north as Toronto. We were a little worried about getting locked into the graveyard. I was glad to find Hegel’s spot.

While we were at it, Christian led me to a portrait of my great-grandfather Carl Julius Rudolf von Bitter (1846-1914) as well. He was a judge for the Verwaltungsgericht, a court for administrative workers, and when he was older he lived on the top floor of a giant Verwaltungsgericht courthouse built in the early 1900s near the Berlin zoo. His son, also named Rudolf von Bitter, was my mother’s father.

Christian said a lot of the 19th century Bitters had worked in the Prussian government, which wasn’t really how I’d thought of my family background! I thought of them as philosphers and artists. The Bitters were ennobled and given the “von” in front of their name in 1880, in recognition of my great-great-grandfather Hans Rudolf von Bitter (1811-1880), who’d been appointed at the President of the Prussian State Bank.

The Bitter family tree also includes some Jewish people, which was a problem in the 1930s, although my grandfather managed to squeak through. This tree that I have online was made by my mother’s younger brother, yet another Rudolf von Bitter (1918-1941), and it’s drawn so that it converges on my uncle Rudolf at the top. He died on the Russian front in WW II.

Back to one’s roots…too much information! We walk on a forest floor of humus from our uncountable ancestors’ lives.

In the Bode museum on the Museum island we wandered through some Islamic art galleries, with very cool rugs. Note the perennial and ubiquitous Zhabotinsky scrolls.

All around the city were Christmas markets, some with giant Ferris wheels. Sylvia and I actually rode on this one. We sat in little gondola cars. We were in there with a cheerful six year old girl and her parents. She said she wasn’t scared, but we were, a little bit.

More pix in my “Berlin #2” entry.

4 Responses to “Berlin #1.”

  1. Steve H Says:

    I like the wizard – look, it’s me in college! Looks as if you had a great time.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    So you are really Hegel’s great-great-great-grandson???
    I was actually thinking about you guys the other day! I was wondering what Hegel’s grand children have grown to be.
    I adore Hegel! I’m not religious at all, but if your great-great-great grandfather was (or had claimed to be) a Prophet, I’d be very very religious!
    Anyway, congratulations on your family ties! It’s so very fancy.
    If you have a son of +30 years old who is unmarried, maybe introduce them to me?! 😉

  3. Rudy Says:

    Yes, I’m Hegel’s descendant. You can see the details in my uncle’s family tree
    Sorry though, my son is married!
    Alles gute.

  4. Gustavo Says:

    Hello I would like to know who painted the wizard. It would be very helpful. Thanks

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