Walk XII: Treptower Park

August 22, 2016 § 1 Comment

It’s not every day that one can say, “that’s one of the most remarkable things I’ve ever seen.”

Well, after almost eighteen months in Berlin and finally getting around to visiting Treptower Park and its magnificent, imposing, bleak Soviet memorial, I’m sayin’ it.

If you want a visceral demonstration of what it means to use archetypal imagery to communicate an idea, this fits the bill.

The statue says it all: the hero, child in arms, over-sized sword in hand, standing atop the vanquished, broken swastika.

Sure, the beaten German public were substituting one totalitarian regime for another, but let’s disregard trivialities.

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I’m amazed by the idea that a group of people got together and designed this place. It’s put together cinematically: one moment leading inexorably to the next, the eyes being led point by point to the denouement. 

My brother told me to close my eyes to gain maximum impact. He gave me a gift; I was treated to the visual story in what must have been the way the designers wanted it.

I begin by beholding the gate, consisting of two monuments adorned with the Soviet hammer and sickle. Each edifice has a kneeled Soviet soldier at its base, epitomizing honour and devotion to a divine cause.

My eyes then move to the expanse beyond, a rectangular space featuring sculpted stone images of grateful Germans greeting their Russian saviours. It’s really a stone pantheon, an outdoor hall of immortals.

We walked down the wide paths until we arrive at the climactic structure: the statue.

Whatever one thinks of war, patriarchy, the ethos of the civilization being lionized in this memorial, one can’t deny the magnificence and power of the artistic work on display.

Added to this was a storm that blew through as my brother and I took it all in. This was perfect; my wife Victoria often says that she when thinks of the East, of the communist bloc, she’s unable to visualize sunlight. I’m with her: it must always have been overcast in post-war Eastern Europe.

I felt uneasy at Treptower Park. It was an echo of how I often felt in our first year in Berlin: that I was a long way from comfort, warmth and a smile. I’ve learnt that we must view those uncomfortable moments as opportunities to settle into the feeling and be at peace with it.

Any venture worth the time brings its share of cloud, rain and cold winds. We need only trust that we’re on a path and, unlike Victoria’s and my imaginary Eastern Europe, sunlight inevitably returns.





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