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.

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 !


1: Trelleborg–Sassnitz

2: Berlin

3: Murens fall 30 år. Direktsänt från Berlin!

4: 1936 Summer Olympics

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2018-01-09 (2 years !!!)

Today, I learned that:

What started out as a dream (literally) is now reality since 2 years ago. Of course I am talking about this blog. Thanks to all my followers for your encouraging remarks and faithfulness! And instead of publishing a new header photo today, for some time ahead, each time you open my blog again there will be a random photo from the first two years to catch your eye!

My main topic today is AI, robots, and how they interact with us humans to make the world a better place to live:

One month ago, the Swedish writer Johan Nyberg published his column in Radio Sweden’s weekly news program, Godmorgon, världen (“Good morning, world”). It was an interesting story on how today’s computers can perform many of the routine tasks in any many disciplines much more efficiently than human beings, but the best solution of all is when the two work together in a team. He gives various examples on such successes, not only chess, but also everyday situations in big service companies such as Amazon, which besides the investment in 45 000 robots during the last three years also has employed 250 000 people. So his closing remarks are that we should not have any fear that the computers will grab our jobs, but that workers with computers will take the jobs from workers without computers. See also reference #1 below for a complete transcript (in Swedish).

Then, a couple of days later, I heard another interesting story of how AI computers and people interact with good result. X-ray images that need to be analysed by a physician can now be pretreated by a computer which scans the images to present the doctor with results of areas where s/he can look further to make a more accurate and faster diagnose as compared to the old method when few areas were chosen out of random or a hunch. Reference #2 discusses this topic (also in Swedish).

And yesterday, there were two interesting topics on the same issue: In the morning, I heard that in the Southern city of Trelleborg, the city administration’s social assistants are delighted, because a “robot” (in fact an app on their web) is now taking care of the investigative, preparatory work, such as checking with the tax authorities etc., when a person is applying for social allowance. They now enter only in the decisive phase, which leaves them available for more personal contacts, and the result is that they have been able to find new jobs for those people in record numbers and huge savings in not needing to pay out social allowances.

At the same, in a later edition of the same news program, it was reported that their counterparts as social assistants in the city of Kungsbacka, immediately south of Göteborg (Gothenburg in English) are  disappointed, they would like to continue turning papers instead of doing proactive work, so 12 out of the 16 assistants have handed in their resignation notes, as a protest against a similar system which will begin to operate in the month of May. More about these two cases can be found in reference #3 below (also in Swedish).

With so many interesting news stories from Sweden, why not learn Swedish and accompany the news yourself? If you are interested, drop me a message to Swedish lessons and I am sure we can work out something interesting!

Finally, did you hear that a robot recently reported having been molested by a human being? Its name is R2Me2 of course!

That’s what I learned in school !


1: Krönika av Johan Norberg

2: Aj aj blir AI AI – Möt din blivande läkare datorn

3: Socialsekreterare säger upp sig när robot ska ta över deras arbetsuppgifter

*: What did you learn in school today ?

2016-05-08 (Sunday)

Today, I learned that:

Exactly 71 years ago, the World War II ended in Europe. And on the 25-year celebrations on 1970-05-08, I was in Berlin for the first time, together with colleagues and teachers in the final month of elementary school.

It was a fascinating journey, with ferry from Trelleborg to Sassnitz, and from there train through East Germany to West Berlin. One day, we took the S-Bahn into East Berlin and transposed the Berlin Wall. Once there, a colleague and I interviewed people on the streets about life in the East! And on the very day of the war end anniversary, there were of course heavy demonstrations about the current state of division of the German peoples. The following day, we also visited the Olympiastadion, where the West German football squad played against Ireland, resulting in a 2-1 win. Although the German team, coached by Helmut Schön, had top players such as Berti Vogts, Jürgen Grabowski, Wolfgang Overath, Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler, the game was a tough fight. Full details can be found in reference # 1 below.

Then it would take 37 years until I returned to Berlin. The Wall was gone, although quite some things reminded me of what had been. I went on a very interesting sightseeing tour, with guide on foot. The whole event was scheduled to take 4 hours, but we had so many interesting questions that it was prolonged for 2 more hours! Today’s header image shows Berlin’s #1 symbol, Brandenburger Tor, and below are some other photos I took that day. The memorial of the holocaust is located close to there, and just beside the place where Hitler had his ultimate bunker. Seeing those stones, to signify all the people exterminated in the concentration camps, made a deep and very distressing impression on me. See also the other references below for more details about the most interesting city, and I dare to say, Europe´s de facto capital, Berlin.


4 photos I took on 2007-06-09. In the left column, from top to bottom: – The holocaust memorial; – A plate showing where the Berlin Wall used to divide the West and the East during more than 28 years; – Part of the original Berlin Wall. In the right column: Checkpoint Charlie, the famous crossing between West and East Berlin.

Finally, although I am not very fond of the American way of life, I must admit there are many interesting, creative people there. The web site CreativeLive is paying a tribute to some of them, through a series of video interviews, during the month of May, called 30 days of Genius. See reference # 6 below with a link to a subscription to the series, free of charge.

… That’s what I learned in school !


1: West German football team defeated Republic of Ireland 2:1, 9 May 1970

2: Brandenburger Tor

3: Holocaust memorial

4: Berlin Wall

5: Checkpoint Charlie

6: 30 days of Genius

+: What did you learn in school today ?