Each day we venture into our environment, and each day we are confronted by new sights, and new experiences that our environment offers us. How we react to them is up to us; is it a test of the nerves? Or could it be a pleasant surprise – such as the simplicity of sunshine warming the facades of buildings.
The Fabric of Life
The places where we live become the fabric upon which our emotional lives are based; the buildings, parks and fields, the roads and the places where we stop to rest and be entertained, all become places of the heart.
We can stroll along a road and encounter a moving event; a political protest in action, stop and look and it feeds us with new impressions about the people with live with in our city.
Take the Time to Go Out and Look at Your City
Or visit a new building, something with the latest ideas in architecture and structure. These days you can go to Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and wonder at the tallness of the buildings, the glass facades and the techniques that the architects and builders used to ensure that the glass won’t break when hit by high winds, reflect blinding rays of sunlight that would otherwise cause foot traffic and motor traffic to experience confusion and danger.
Modern Wonders of the City
The use of modern materials allows architects and builders an ambitious vision of how our buildings can look. No more arches to support a roof or supporting walls to ensure stability. It seems that they have cracked the code and defied gravity with building materials that will allow designs to run wild and flummox logic – and still not fall down, nor crack into pieces under the weight of structure.
You are part of one Great Structure
Its how we react to it that can pique our interest enough to cause us to investigate the enjoyable experiences of living in the town or city that we have chosen.
Love and hate play their role. It’s part and parcel of city living to have to navigate streets, mostly dodging egoistic cyclist who dart through slow moving crowds of real people. Tall adults who conceal the smaller, and more vulnerable members of society – children. Bike riders don’t have much respect for their fellow human, so it’s up to us to protect ourselves out there.
A Colourful Experience worthy as a Place in Your Heart
City life becomes a colourful experience if you take an hour and head out into the unknown. Cities can be deceptive in that its dwellers often believe they know the place like the back of their hands, after a year or two of living there. Then, one fine and sunny day, while out walking you come across the weirdest looking structure. Or you see a group of people practicing a sport that you have never seen before. These days, cultures mix and people shift and move through the world, new ideas are brought with them – for good or bad.
Changing Times and Bright Sparks
We live in times of change. Ideas come and go, even the good ideas get replaced by a new idea that some bright spark came up with. Innovations, creativity for business, different looks, new colours, change is happening because new attracts attention and constant “eyes-on-what-we´re doing” creates influencers.
The city where I live, Berlin, is always being reinvented. Sometimes it takes a decade of prosperity for the residents to get down to serious business, or a war, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, but change seems to be a part of modern life these days. Berlin knows all about change.
I can go to certain parts of the city and find buildings and neighbourhoods that represent the past. Wedding is a strange name, it’s pronounced “Vedding”, it’s still the same as long ago. All though it has experienced high-street changes, phone shops and modern style bakers that hardly bake and who also offer a seat and a coffee in a paper cup, the buildings are fancy looking red-brick structures of the past.
Red brick is a pleasant shock to the eye after all the flowing, glassy, structures of Mitte in the centre of Berlin. Those old red brick buildings were once factories and warehouses. Today, they just about serve small communities who need space to work. But, alas, the prices keep swirling into the hemisphere. As if all renters have bags of dough to pay for their art studio or find a place to create a private school for after work enlightenment seekers.
Start-ups galore. Many not so start-up. More like fuck-ups that are shelved after a short spin through Berlin’s business world. Owners scurrying away with burned fingers and aching hearts. The quick and the fiery seems to be the order of the day in the start-up world, it glows in Berlin. Yet when I walk the streets of this great and robust city, I see its veneer. The plastic sheet of “new” that I know will be gone tomorrow, ripped away by more money and a newer, better offering by some innovator, until the day comes when “new” is recognised, finally, as the same-old-thing as yesteryear.
One day new will be out of fashion and what was once old and rejected will return as a genius idea. Less glass, more of the red brick, please.
Quality is not in fashion, these days. Hopefully it will return with a vengeance – and I don’t mind if some smarty-pants claims they invented it. Just bring it back.
Lack of quality is seen in the veneer itself. The cheapness of ideas in business and off the shelf lifestyles that we are offered each day.
Commercial Trash and the Quality of Your own City Experience
That’s why exploring a city kicks that commercial trash into the bin and allows a person to go out and make personal choices about what they experience and see.
Quality of life can be found in the experience of walking through your city. You make what you will of it, you love it or you hate it, it’s really all down to you and you stand point. I like to take a strongly positive vantage point and hopefully find something interesting enough to pique my interest that I’ll look forward to “looking it up” in a book, or watching somebody’s video about the structure that I’ve discovered.
When you walk in a city you encounter characters. Imagine, Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. A trendy cutting-edge Platz that was once a convergence of dusty trading roads coming from villages and towns far away. It was the place to go and find out what’s new by meeting travellers who might tell of events from other villages. The exchange and mart of Berlin, the chat-box of a town. Now a glittering jewel of Europe.
Farther along the road, 6-7 minutes stroll along a straight road that borders the Tiergarten, a large “park” that once served the kings and queens as a hunting ground, you arrive at Brandenburg Gate. It stands tall and dwarfs all around it. A strong reminder of the past, yet always relevant.
Sandstone structure built by Friedrich Wilhelm II as a symbol of peace, after the temporary restoration to peace from the Batavian revolution, (a Dutch revolution with coups, threats and various groups calling themselves Patriots.).
This magnificent Gate has stood the test of time since its builder and architect, Carl Langhans conceived and constructed it after the Greek Propylaea gate that leads up to Acropolis in Athens.
Doric Columns and a Victorious Goddess
Winged by guard rooms for design and twelve Doric columns that give it its character of neo-classicism. Of course, only royalty and co, had permission to travel through the centre columns of the gate, normal citizens would have to scurry along the sides and through any of the outside columns. Today, it’s open to the public on foot, no motor vehicles allowed, due to corrosion.
Above the Doric columns is a plinth that supports the goddess Victoria. She is riding her chariot and reins in four span of horses.
To stop and look at the Brandenburg Gate, to take in the work involved in its construction and how long it has lasted can take your breath away. You either love or hate things in your city, so it’s up to you.
Sunsets and Reflections from the West
Standing on Pariser Platz at dusk to watch the sun dip down into the West gives you a lovely experience why sandstone was the perfect material from a visual standpoint. The reflections on the stone turn from a deep brownish to strong golden slabs of stone thrown into relief by the growing evening shadows. A gem of a site for any photographer, and no end to compositional possibilities between light, colour, and darkness.
The contrast that you experience after having visited Potsdamer Platz is worth noting; within a few minutes you experience two different epochs, one that has been wiped clean of all its past with a veneer of newness, glass structures, modern commercial outlets and entertainment, and the other that is constantly in upkeep and preserved for its purpose as a magnificent symbol of peace.
The peace that Brandenburg Gate represents is always contemporary. These days, when a country which has a meaningful relationship with Germany is in trouble, experiences a terrorist event, or needs assistance, Brandenburg Gate will be lit up with the colours of that country’s flag. Citizens and dwellers of Berlin are always reminded that Berlin is bigger than itself.
Berlin is full of places of the heart which are created by the people who live in Berlin.
Everything to See and the Reichstag
Standing at Brandenburg Gate and surveying the area you see the Tiergarten, 17. Juni Strasse, the Victory Column with the Golden Else (angel) atop it. And to look over towards the North-East, you see the top of the Reichstag with its new Dome. The dome is the work of architect Norman Foster, in 1993, built to symbolize German Reunification.
The Reichstag is parliament and represent the serving Government and its seat. Recently, during a protest about Covid 19, and anything else they could think of, a group of radicals stormed the entrance to the Reichstag. They were stopped by the three police officers on guard.
To aggressively storm Parliament, or the Reichstag in this case, is an act of absolute contempt for the Government. In Germany it raised memories and concerns of the last time the Reichstag was attacked and set fire to by Right Wing fascists.
You can make Your Journies complex, or keep them Simple
Travelling on foot through a city can involve covering long distances, stops for coffee and a meal, seeking out a nice wooden bench to sit on and watch passing people – all rushing, strolling, lost, and stopping to meet someone else. Contrast that creates an experience of the places that we live can be found everywhere if you look. Cities are not all about shops and parks, every city is filled with memories of the past that can reveal the good and the bad.
As time goes by, and your experiences grow in the place where you live, it will become more personal. Cafes and bars that you visited long ago, parks that were once vibrant with sunbathers and picnickers. The cafe still there, but no longer the hot spot it was when you and your first big love spent evenings chinking glasses of wine and meeting new friends. A place where you worked and the ghosts of all those people you worked with still hover behind the walls. Cities, hometowns, the places where we dwell are places of the heart.
Further reading on my Medium home Page