Saturday, August 16, 2008

Time Travel

Day 158
I really wanted to make sure that I accomplished things today. I actually managed to get to museum island before anything had even opened.

My first stop was the GDR Museum. Unlike the Stasi Museum in Leipzig, this was about how people lived.

In 1952 the border into and out of the GDR was closed. The only exit was through Berlin. By 1961 2.6 million people had fled from the country. In order to prevent this barbed wire was put up around West Berlin almost over night. Over time it was expanded into the wall that is recognizable in pictures and around the city today. This museum wasn`t about the wall though, it was about the people.

The museum started with childhood. At some preschools kids were taken on collective potty breaks on long benches. There were also classes on Marxism-Leninism just like math and composition. Only about 10% of students ever made it to university. If they did studies were strictly controlled.

A large section discussed the types of jobs that people had and what the average pay was. This was interesting, it would have been nice to know what living expenses were though to put it all in perspective. Most people seemed to have been in manufacturing. There were a huge number of factories producing all sorts of things in the GDR. Most of this was exported and it could often be hard to find GDR made goods as well as foreign goods.

The GDR had its own fashion designers. There was a big shortage on natural fabrics and most were synthetic. Eventually the GDR even created its own denim. Despite this, people often paid a months salary to get a pair of Levi`s.

There were a couple of rock bands that were pretty popular; UDO Lindenberg, Klaus Renft Combo, City and Puhdy`s. The last even toured the states. At dance halls and other events it was required that 60% of the music had to have been created in the GDR, the rest needed to be approved by the government. To get around this dj`s would play only parts of the GDR songs. The television was also controlled by the government. One of the kids shows that was created in the 50`s was called Unsersandmannder and is still shown today. The kids show of the 80`s was called Brummkreisel and featured a guy in a red hat and an easily offended dwarf.

Travel was often difficult and the government sponsored their own package trips. According to the museum there were often shortages on bathing suits and people often simply swam nude. The government really didn’t like this. Despite efforts people continued to swim nude as a form of protest. Despite an aversion to nudity the GDR was rather liberal when it came to sex. Girls were given the pill for free as early as 16 and abortions were free and legal. People were encouraged to get married and have children.

There was a small section on the Stasi, but I had already had enough of that so I didn’t stay long. The museum was really well done and very interactive along with informative.

After the GDR Museum I tried to check out the Pergamon, but the line was really long. I had been there before and decided to just skip it. Instead I headed to the German History Museum. This place was huge both in size and detail.

The word German came from the Romans. The Germanic tribes had contact with the Romans, but were never Romanized themselves. The Franks began to rise as a group in the 5th century, but it wasn’t until Charlemagne became king that their empire was cemented and expanded.

After this my notes get a bit spotty. I’m sure you’re a bit sick of history anyway, apparently I was too.

I did however pay attention to the section on the Reformation. One of the biggest complaints of the reformist was the selling of indulgences to absolve sin, or even to get into heaven. Ninety-five percent of people were peasants, this made heaven a place for only the wealthy. In 1517, shortly after an outbreak of the plague, Martin Luther nailed 95 thesis on the door of the Castle Church in against the sale of indulgences. This began the Protestant Reformation and in turn the 30 Years War.

Germany became a country in 1859. There were sections on both WWI and II, I didn’t spend much time here though, I was getting a little museumed out. I was interested to see that there were a few objects from the Hygiene Museum, though.

At this point I decided that it was time to get some major blogging done and I picked up dinner on my way to the internet cafĂ©. Later on I did try to meet some people a the hostel bar, but there wasn’t much going on there and I soon left for bed.

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