2019-11-09 (The Wall)

Today, I learned about:

Berlin 1970

As you probably already have heard, today exactly 30 years has gone since the government of East Germany was pressed to permit its citizens in East Berlin to visit West Berlin, which eventually led to the extinction of the whole East Germany and its reunification in 1991 with West Germany.

The first time I visited Berlin was in May 1970, when the Wall, which divided the city into two parts, was going on its 9th year. My German language class went on a field trip for almost a week. First, we took the train to the South of Sweden, where the train boarded a ferry to Sassnitz in East Germany. After four hours on the boat, it arrived on German shores and from there it was no longer an electric locomotive pushing the train, but an old steam engine with its heavy black smoke, paving its way through the grey landscape, all the way to West Berlin. See also reference #1 below.

Unfortunately, I do not have any photos left from the trip to show, but I remember well the contrast between the two parts of Berlin. We stayed at a hotel in modern West Berlin, close to the business street Kurfürstendamm and had quite a few interesting and funny days there. On 1970-05-08 was the 25th anniversary of the end of World War II, which of course created some heavy demonstrations, and on the following day we went to Berlin’s Olympic Stadium to see the West German football team beat Ireland with 2-1.

But the strongest memory of the whole week was no doubt from the visit we paid on 1970-05-07 to East Berlin. We took the S-Bahn and after quite some waiting in the checkpoint, we were “free” to walk around in East Berlin. I remember the visit to the Pergamon museum with its majestic Pergamon altar and other impressive artefacts. But the most vivid memory comes from the film of the trip that my friend Jan Johansson and I had been commissioned to create. He was the Super-8 camera man, whereas I made the sound recordings on the brand new cassette tape recorder and interviewed people on the street about how life was in East Berlin for everyday people, a dangerous task. Only later would our teachers learn about that and reprimand us.

See also my post of 2016-05-08 .

Berlin 2007

My second visit to Berlin only occurred in October 2006, when I was there for a brief business meeting, but I also returned in June 2007, when I had a whole day to go on a guided walk through the streets of Berlin. It was extremely interesting and our guide, who was a native Berliner, had extensive answers to all of our questions. No wonder that the originally planned 4 hour walk only ended after 6 hours!

Below are some photos I took on that city walk on 2007-06-09.

The guided city walk of started at Hackescher Markt in the central part of Berlin and ended at the former Checkpoint Charlie. The explanation to the photos is in the text below. On top is photo 5. The next row, from left to right, photos 2 and 4. Middle row, from left to right, photos 6 and 7. Lower row, from left to right, photos 1, 3, and 8.

Photos taken in chronological order during the city walk:

Photo #1: Fernsehturm (TV tower) at Alexanderplatz. Since most people in East Berlin could watch TV broadcasts from the West, although it was forbidden, the East German government decided to build an enigmatic TV tower that would be seen all over both parts of Berlin. There is a rumour that the Swedish engineering firm that made the design on purpose made it so that when the sun shines on it from a certain angle, a golden cross appears on the globe. The Berliners call it the Pope’s revenge, since East Germany was so hard on religion.

Photo #2: In central Berlin there is an island named Museum Island, where many interesting museums are located. I already mentioned the Pergamon museum in 1970, but of course there are many more. This a photo taken from the steps of Altes Museum (Old museum), home to antiquities. To the left is the catholic Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) and beside it, under construction, is the cultural building Volkspalast, which substituted the former GDR parliament building. The construction of Volkspalast was heavily debated both among politicians and people in general.

Photo #3: In one of the pillars of the old buildings on Museum Island can still be seen bullet holes from the fightings at the end of World War II.

Photo #4: Zeughaus (Ammunition building) is the oldest structure of the former parade avenue Unter den Linden, with parts from the beginning of the 18th century. Today it houses the German historical museum.

Photo #5: Brandenburger Tor (Brandenburg gate), located at the opposite end of Unter den Linden, is a war victory monument from the end of the 18th century. This is probably the best known landmark of Berlin still today.

Photos #6 and #7: Two photos showing what is left today of the former Wall that divided the two major parts of Berlin between 1961 and 1989. Photo # 6 is from Bernauer Strasse, taken from the former West Berlin, showing a 60 m long part of the Wall that is kept as a remembrance still today. Behind it, on the former East Berlin is now located Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial). Photo # 7 shows one of the memorial plaques spread out all over Berlin on the exact locations of the former Wall.

Photo #8: Checkpoint C(harlie), the best known crossing points between West and East Berlin, active between 1947 and 1991. On the right side of the photo is a sign saying, in English, Russian, French, and German “You are leaving the American sector”.

More about Berlin can be found in reference #2 below.

Berlin 2019

Today, I listened to an interesting live transmission by Radio Sweden from Berlin. The reporters were standing on Bernauer Strasse, exactly on the place where I took photo #6 12 years ago. If you understand Swedish, listen to the program, see reference # 3 below.

Finally, Berlin also makes part of my series of cities around the world that has been the host of an Olympic Game. It happened in 1936, when the Summer Olympic Games were held here, with the Olympic stadium I mentioned above in my visit in 1970 being the main venue. See reference #4 below.

That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Trelleborg–Sassnitz

2: Berlin

3: Murens fall 30 år. Direktsänt från Berlin!

4: 1936 Summer Olympics

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2107-08-01 (Mother Nature’s son)

Today, I learned that:

Regardless of what we say and think, we still respond to Her (Mother Nature). Sometimes She shares with us the most amazing scenarios, such as the one in the amazing photo below. It shows a countryside highway with bamboo trees on both sides. And if you can read Portuguese, then you understand that this place is a sanctuary for wild animals. The road sign depicts an ocelot, and furthermore there is an alert that this is a road with a high degree of crashes between cars and animals. The location is close to the city of Assis, state of São Paulo, Brazil, where there is an ecological station.

Bambu

Highway SP-333 close to the city of Assis, SP, Brazil. This area contains an ecological station with wild animals of various species, the reason why the roadsign alerts for a high degree of collisions between them and cars. The depicted animal is called jaguatirica in Portuguese, ocelot in English, and Leopardis pardalis in Latin. On both sides of the road are planted bamboo, which gives a magical touch to this sacred place. Photo taken on 2017-07-23.

It seems like a perfect coincidence that it is located in Assis, because as you probably remember, in a similarly sounding town in Italy, during the 12th century, there was born a person who later would be known as Saint Francis of Assisi. Among other things, he is known for his friendliness to the birds and in 1979 Pope John Paul II declared him the Patron Saint of Ecology. (The current Pope Francis I also honoured him by adopting his name as his own papal name.) See references #1 and #2 below.

But Mother Nature does not only present us with beauty, She is also very practical. Last Friday, I was reminded twice of that, when Radio Sweden interviewed professionals involved with creating and using practical solutions from Her in favour of humanity.

In the morning, I was told about a new kind of glue, which will permit heart surgeons to glue parts together within a beating heart. The origin of that invention is in the slime produced by a slug, which inspired scientists at Harvard. Hear and read about it in reference #3 below (Swedish), as well as read about in reference #4 (English).

Arion_vulgaris

Arion vulgaris, photo by Xauxa Håkan Svensson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11200581

Then in the evening, another sensational feat. As long as we can remember, the spider has impressed us with its production of ultra-thin, yet extremely strong threads. And now Swedish scientists have discovered a way of recreating such production without using toxic chemistry. Reference #5 contains an audio interview in Swedish with Anna Rising, one of the scientists, and reference #6 is a written interview in English, where she and her fellow colleague Jan Johansson explain more.

Then, over the weekend, I remembered a similar story from exactly 10 years ago. By using practical solutions from a gecko and a mussel, scientists at Northwestern University were able to create a glue that would stick well also under water, see reference #7 below. And in the beginning of 2017, see reference #8, was reported how the very same gecko had inspired researchers at Kiel University to invent a method of immediate grip and release.

But wait, there is more! As a bonus, look also at this article from 2010, reference #9 below, which reports about a combination of mussel glue and nanoparticles to create a proactive cover against corrosion.

To end today’s post, what could be better than listening to the fantastic song writher John Denver, so tragically gone in 1997, to describe his love to Mother Nature! See and here his poem in reference X below.

… That’s what I learned in school !

Refs.:

1: Assis

2: Saint Francis of Assisi

3: Snigelinspirerat lim kan användas vid operationer

4: Slug Slime Inspires Scientists To Invent Sticky Surgical Glue

5: Forskare om att framställa artificiell spindelväv, med början vid 06:20

6: Spinning super strong synthetic spider silk

7: Design by Gecko, Plus Glue by Mussel, Yields a Powerful Adhesive

8: Scientists Can Turn This Gecko-Inspired Gripping Device On or Off With the Flick of a Light

9: Musslornas klister används som rostskydd

X: John Denver – Mother Nature’s son

*: What did you learn in school today ?