Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
In his unforgettable role as a college teacher, John Keating, in the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society”, the actor Robin Williams tells his students watching him climb on top of his desk: “Why do I stand here? I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
Not an easy task by any means. How many times have you kept passing places you did not realise where there? How many times did you stumble upon something only because you chose to take a different – sometimes the wrong – turn? How often do we find things not because we were looking for them but because we were lucky to stop and look where we normally never stop or look at all?
And now and then somebody looks at things in a different way for you. Although I was standing next to that wall myself, those were my sons who noticed the signatures on the bricks. While we were studying bullet holes still covering the walls of the old hospital like pox marks, they paid attention to the lines I believed to be regular scratches. They were not.
They were names and initials and dates from the days long gone, left by people who are surely dead by now (most of them were probably dead soon after they signed their names – WWI was just a stone´s throw away). Several mark a different time: the Nazi “Hakenkreuz” carved deep into the stone some time in 1930 looms foreboding for another bloodshed to come.
Königin-Elisabeth-Herzberge Krankenhaus, Queen Elisabeth-Herzberge Hospital, in Lichtenberg is one of the oldest original ensembles of this kind in Berlin. Beautiful red-and-yellow brick pavilions, created in the late 19th century by one of the greatest Berlin architects, Hermann Blankenstein, look very much like another one of Blankenstein´s designs, the old Krankenhaus am Urban in Grimmstrasse in Kreuzberg. But unlike the wonderfully re-developed area of the Urban Hospital, the KEH was not tot-saniert – it was not restored killing all the imperfections and removing all the marks of its past.
For which we, all Berlin fans, should be endlessly grateful. For all the opportunities to constantly look at things in a different way and seeing something astounding.