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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s the inside, looking out and a small glimpse of the trains coming in and out below!
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….
The Bundestag from the water…
The elaborate underside of a bridge…
The Berlin Cathedral
Again up close and personal:
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….
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.
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!