Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Berlin!

Once in a while an unexpected and exciting opportunity comes to us out of the blue! While visiting our son Tal in Swizerland last fall, we met an exciting new friend! He and his wife have a specatular family of five great kids. While Anita and I were off with the women of MFME, Tal and Rick had a great talk with this couple and a terrific friendship blossomed.

To make a long story short, the husband of this family, Fredy Gantner just happened to be the star partner in a multi-billion dollar worldwide investment company. Shortly after we left, he invited us to come to Berlin to present some ideas for work/family balance to this extremely successful  company at their annual meeting in Berlin which just occured last week.

Grateful for the kind invitation, we boarded a non-stop flight to Paris and then went straight on to Berlin. In passing I have to say that only on an Air France flight would one be served a lunch like this:

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Just look at those cold scallops in beet sauce, the sun-dried tomatoes, veggies and flaked parmesan salad. Dessert includes a little wedge of French brie cheese and a tiny french pastry and a divine minature macaron on the right!  Also note the creative salt and pepper shakers on the left.

But I digress! We landed in Berlin and were wisked to the Ritz Hotel in central Berlin where The Partners Group (company name) had taken over the entire hotel for three days. The scale was pretty incredible!

The main meeting room was set up with an enormous 100 foot screen showing the streets of Berlin and a warm welcome to 250 top Investment professionals from all over the world.

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The man on the stage shows the scope of the room. It was very impressive!

On the first evening of the event we had the splendid opportunity to give our half hour presentation at their gala dinner held at the National History Museum of Berlin. The room was an enormous space surrounded by the facades of beautiful historical buildings of Berlin.

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Since the people in the back of that giant room were so far away from the stage we decided to do our presentation in the middle of the room (presentaion in the round). Not only did it provide some variety, it also allowed us to see our slides which we could only see backwards from the stage.

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It was a stunning experience and though the vast majority (of mostly men with a few women) had children, some were still single without children, some were struggling to blend families and others were married with no children. We hope we covered all the bases!  Everyone was so kind and generous with their compliments!

In our estimation, this idea to help business associates balance their work life with “the real world” of their other life is cruicial and admirable. Our friend, Fredy, who engineered the whole event gave us an awesome introduction and is a true visionary when it comes to knowing that the ability of employees and “Partners” to balance their most important home/relationship life with their work life makes them more successful in both areas! 

We started with this quote: “No one on their death bed has ever said,’I wish I’d had spent more time with the business!’ “ (anonymous) and after giving them some ideas on how to balance their personal life and apply some the qualities they already have learned in busines to their children, we ended with our favorite quote from Harold B. Lee: “The most important work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home.”

That was an event we’ll never forget! The next morning, two of our last books, The Turning and Life in Full, were provided, compliments of Partners’ Group to the attendees. What a company!

 

The next day we had the opportunity to scratch the surface of history in a few important places in Berlin, one of the most historic cities in the world! Having read many books, especally about WWII and the Berlin Wall, it seemed like a sacred experience to be in that city!

Of course the city was almost completely destroyed during the war so it looked like a new city. except for some of the most famous land marks that have been beautifully restored.

The Brandenberg Gate once marked the division between East and West Germany during the era of the Berlin Wall. The fences had been up for quite a while, but the huge concrete walls were installed in 1961 and became the demise of so many innocent civilians who tried to escape until 1989 when President Regan pronounced those famous words, “Mr.Grobechov, tear down this wall!” Since the tearing down of the wall, the gate, has now become a symbol of the unity of the east and the west.

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Across the street is the Bundestag, the supreme constituional organ of the Federal Republic of Germany, the only organ of the state elected by the people. Millions of dollars went into its restoration and a beautiful dome is atop where you can walk to the top and have a magnificent view of the city!

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Inside there is a pathway to the top and a center column of mirrors that allows you to look down into the parliament chambers. The top is a central opening to the sky.

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The view from the top was pretty incredible! Even though the bleakness of winter had not yet worn off, it looked as one would think Berlin would look! The enormousTiergarden on the left, which was begun in the 1600’s brings thoughts of Central Park in NYC.

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Across the street from this building is the magnificent Marie-Elisabeth Luders Building (1998-2003) that houses the Bundestag’s Library and offices. Sadly the crosses on the fence below on this side of the river were dedicated to the last few people who lost their lives trying to cross the river Spree to freedom. The river was the dividing line between the east and west. The last person was shot and killed just eight months before they tore the wall down and ended the horror for those who were desperate to escape.

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We strolled down the river to see this garbantuous train station in the middle below, with the jutting roof. Inside it was even more impressive with cavernous tunnels full of trains moving people all over Germany.

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Here’s the inside, looking out and a small glimpse of the trains coming in and out below!

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From there we do what we always do in a new city….take a boat down the center of the city so we can see lots of history fast!

So float down wiith us and see what you think….

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The Bundestag from the water…

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The elaborate underside of a bridge…

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The Berlin Cathedral

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Again up close and personal:

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Museum Island where multiple museums draw crowds very day!  The tower in the back is the Television Tower which hovers over Berlin with the restaurant in the ball….

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After our river ride we visited probably the most stunning monument in Berlin. It was next to the Brandenburg Gate and is a remembrance of the Holocaust. Two thousand seven hundred and seventeen coffin-shaped rectangles occupy a whole city bloc to memorialize just a few of those people who were murdered during the Holocaust. The top of each structure is exactly the same size but they come out of the ground in different heights and create eerie shadows and interesting thoughts.

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It is a sobering memory of a horrifying chapter in the history Germany.

Our three days there in Berlin were exciting and fascinating.  Sad as we saw the remains of the Berlin Wall and gripping as we saw several places that reminds us of the evil as well as the good that has occupied Germany.

It was cold and crisp and rather bleak as I had envisioned Berlin. Judging from the buds on the trees however, I think it will be ablaze with vibrant colors in another two weeks. For a first visit, it was perfect!

15 comments:

Sydney said...

What an extraordinary experience. Wow!

Matilda Blanche said...

This is my city!!! While you were in Berlin, I was travelling the U.S. ...haha, funny! Berlin looks totally different in summer, when it`s 90 degrees. I LOVE living there! Glad you liked it. Unfortunately, you really got just a glimpse of the city. It is SO diverse! The different parts of the city, the people...everything. Travelling the world is great, isn`t it?

Unknown said...

Privileged much? You and your "family" talks are so full of BS it is not even funny.

Cherlynn Allen said...

Thank you for sharing your visit to Berlin. Having the privilege to visit there with family this brought back so many memories. My grandfather immigrated to America and brought so much of the German culture that still can be found in our family traditions. My son traveled with a school class (after raising the money himself) to Berlin and Munich and learned and gained so much from this experience that has helped him be a better young man. Reading and learning about Germany in his language classes could not have given him the experience he was rewarded by traveling to the actual country. I am grateful for your perspective and ideas about families and their importance. Thanks again for sharing these experiences.

DV said...

Ronald Reagan (that’s spelled with two ‘a’s’) made his “tear down” speech directed at Gorbachev (also with an ‘a’) in 1987, not 1989. The former president does not deserve the credit for the fall of the Wall. Credit belongs to the courageous citizens of the GDR who organized and demonstrated against the oppressive regime. Read up at:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday_demonstrations_in_East_Germany

Eyrealm said...

Thanks for the "heads up" DV! This Live Writer Program no longer includes spell check. Should have checked that! Also, sorry about the incorrect date! Reagan may have started the ball rolling but the real credit belongs to those brave souls of the GDR who risked so much for the sake freedom! It is one of the great stories of world history!

DV said...

Note that proper names like Reagan or Gorbachev are not necessarily in spell-check dictionaries...

You missed my point. My point was that Reagan's speech didn't "start the ball rolling". He may have been a prominent advocate, but the fall of the Wall was the result of the following:
1. Economic troubles and stagnation throughout the Eastern Bloc, in the Soviet Union most significantly as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
2. This led to Gorbachev's perestroika and relaxation of Soviet control on the nations of Eastern Europe.
3. Citizen uprisings in Eastern Europe, including those in the GDR I mentioned before. The Soviet Union does little to intervene.
4. The GDR government, in response to citizen protests, announces reforms. One policy reform is the freedom to travel outside the country, but the details of its implementation were not completely worked out.
5. During a TV news conference, a GDR official was asked by a reporter when the policy would take effect. Blindsided by the question, he responded "immediately". East Berliners took this at face value and courageously approached the border crossings, hoping to visit the other half of the city that very night.
6. Events were moving too fast for border police to be instructed on the evolving policy or how to handle the mounting crowds. Luckily, none responded with violence and eventually let the crowds through. The Berlin Wall was rendered impotent.

Thus, the fall of the Wall came about by a complex series of events that were years in the making, and some very happy coincidences. It could have all turned out very differently. Whether or not Reagan gave his speech.

Also, note that the crosses along the Spree River at the Reichstag commemorate *all* of the failed escape attempts that occurred at that location, not just the "last few".

Eyrealm said...

I appreciate knowing these details DV. So interesting! We should all know and remember exactly what happened there! The info in the link you sent is important as well! As you probably know, there is a large amount of historical information at the base of the dome. I read it all and I didn't see anything this interesting or informative! Thanks again!

Tara said...

What a cool experience! I love reading about your travels and seeing pictures of the world. You are such a force for good.

kms said...

They only spent three days there. I doubt the tours covered so much information and targeting tourists telling it from what they think the westerners present would find familiar. Americans always associate the president during the event with the event.

DV said...

kms: George H. W. Bush was the president during the “event” of the Revolutions of 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. And your point is?

“Westerners” is an odd word choice, since Germany is at the heart of the E.U., and the E.U. is firmly a part of “the West”.

You don’t have to go to Berlin to understand that, just because the U.S. president gave a speech, entire societies and political landscapes changed to his will. No Berlin tour guide would suggest that, regardless of where his/her charges are visiting from.

kms said...

1987. Reagan.

It was a trip recap. It wasn't a Wikipedia entry.

If an American President can just say tear down this wall please send Obama to North Korea and reunify Korea. I think the only person who thought she said Reagan did all that was you.

DV said...

kms: The “trip recap” - which has not been suggested to be anything more than that - said Reagan gave the speech in 1989, when he was no longer president. It also suggested that the Wall’s victims met their demise until Reagan “pronounced the famous words”.

I was simply correcting an outright inaccuracy (1987 speech vs. 1989 events) as well as to call out what is a very simplistic and US-centric take on what happened. Some of the people in the Eyres’ audience at the company presentation could easily have been part of the demonstrations that brought the end of the East German regime. I don’t think they would necessarily appreciate the suggestion that “Reagan speaks, wall falls”.

Be A Saint said...

A miracle for sure. A true modern day miracle that we all witnessed!

Be A Saint said...
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