Visible scars help the invisible ones – a walk through Berlin

I am in Berlin. Perhaps you may have noticed due to this post of my Hitch-hiking adventure to reach this place.

There are many things I love about this place and I have some postards to re-iterate what I see as the countless reasons for loving this place. There is a huge part of me that actually wants to move here. To live here. I want this to be my home.

Today we all gathered from many parts of Europe and different learning institutions to meet at Brandenburgertor to begin this AMAZING program. More like a mission. It’s called Mission-U (very aptly named) I will write more about this as the week progresses, all I want to share for now is that it is off to a fantastic start.

[Source of Image]

Our first “mission” was to walk from Brandenburgertor to our home and hub which is in the very very centre of Berlin and to look at the city whilst we do it. We were also challenged to look at the fascades of the buildings and what lies behind the fascades and also look behind the fascades of the people we meet on the streets, whilst meeting someone new from our over 100 group of participants. It was great.

The person I was speaking to gave me a brief and interesting history and explanation of why the buidlings look the way that they do. He explained and showed me the parts of the buildings that were damaged by bullet holes. He described them as the scars of the city.

I found this fascinating, I couldn’t help but relate our conversation and the comaprison of the city and it’s buildings to the situation in South Africa. That perhaps our scars are not visible and so therefore it is difficult to be careful with them – all of them. Those belonging to the Afrikaner people as well as the people who were oppressed during Apartheid.

Later I thought, “Ah, maybe our “scars” are the statues, monuments, buildings and street names that celebrate and commemorate the leaders or figures from the past who drove and stood for and supported the system of Apartheid”. I immediately found discomfort dancing in my stomach.

That’s a problem, when the scars of a city or country are represented by people, or monuments, buildings, statues and streetnames celebrating those people. That is a problem.

Because, we then struggle to move past the person and the group of people and what they stand for outside of what these physical structures represent or evoke within us.

This is a problem because perhaps these things I have named are not the scars of the city.

It is a problem when we don’t have those visible scars to keep up with what we are feeling within. It’s hard when a city does not easily depict the hurt of a place, especially such a heavy hurt.

It is not simply the act of “closing” the subject and moving on. Because it takes time and a very caring and careful process in order to close anything. I mean, think about how hard it is sometimes to just walk away from a conversation where you and the person you are conversing with are simply not reaching agreement.  How hard is that? To walk away from the conversation and just “close it”. It is hard.

This topic is an open and continous and long one. These thoughts I share as I go along.

Does South Africa have visible scars in the city? I mean physical structures? If not, what is best, seeing the scars or not seeing the scars? I’m overwhelmed by my heading back to South Africa, I suppose it is obvious and this is a therapeutic process for me. A needed process.

Let’s see how the rest of my visit to berlin will be like. Let’s see how my feelings become as I approach my arrival back to South Africa.

Thank you for listening.


4 thoughts on “Visible scars help the invisible ones – a walk through Berlin

  1. Would sooooo love to visit Berlin! VERY SOON… Everything I’ve heard about it has tempted me to no end. Guess I’ll just have to come and see for myself. Like what you say about the visible scars, it’s better for the healing that’s for sure. L

  2. Living here, as you said, did evoke some feeling of my country and its many tribulations. Since I am a firm believer in that we find ourselves when we lose ourselves. I find that I have lost myself in this city. In losing myself it has given me great inspiration for my own home country. That, yes it can be done. Hard as it is, hurting as it is a country does and can move on.

    We are where we come from and that in us we can either celebrate, whether terrible or great, we could rebuke it which can be uncomfortable or we can look at it indifferently. Either way where we come from inspires who we are RIGHT NOW; celebrated, uncomfortable or indifferent. It is not as black and white as that though…A smartass I know once told me this: “So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”

    Thank you for sharing your experience

  3. Maieke Van Dijk said

    “Miss mmmmdidi!

    How are you my girl? Just read you post about the scars of the city. I do believe Cape Town has many. Maybe not bullets but empty plots (like district 6) and still the highways and railway tracks dividing certain groups of people… inheritance of the apartheid era. Those divisions are still in place in some sort of way. And we also have streetnames and statues of people that we’re not so proud of, but that is history and we’ve moved along from it because it was such a long time ago (like hundreds of years [:P] )
    It just takes time for people to forgive but not to forget. And thats where they help. Those statues, monuments streetnames etc help you not to forget what has been, and to learn from it.
    Just sharing as well.

    Good luck on your exploring adventures! Enjoy, have fun!!

    hugs from Canada [:) “

  4. Paul Mckay said

    “this might be one of those visible scars you speak of in cape town – I used to appreciate it every time i drove passed – history meets politics meets art imho. I also think that lots of germany is kinda paint over rust – eg in dresden they have demolished the last war ruin and they rebuilt all the old buildings – when i am walking about i am constantly wondering if i am looking at a real old building or a rebuild since the war. here is what it looked like after the war

    Berlin 1945: A City Destroyed by war (in colour)
    Horrific pictures in colour of Berlin after the war. All houses are bombed down. Simmular scenaries were to be found in Warsaw, Leningrad and other European …”

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