, , , , , , ,

Finally today we are having sunshine and mild temp, in the next few days it will go up to 14C, however for the Easter Weekend looks like rain and 6C.

This morning we went to Leonhard’s for breakfast, owned by a swiss german fellow, this café has a very elegant european flair to it, not only in its relaxed and elegant decor but also in the food they serve. All of it is clearly inspired by European cuisine and not the usual North American fair.

I had an omelette with vegetables, it was very fluffy and seasoned just right, something you do not encounter usually in restaurants here. Tables are set with fresh flowers, tulips at this time of the year. You could say that the atmosphere is clean, crisp and relaxed. No background music which is nice. In the summer they have ample boxes of flowers and hanging green plants on the front sidewalk.

We have another German bakery which just opened also on Great George street but on the South side of the Provincial Legislature, again offering a very different fair from all the other restaurants/café in town. More geared towards the local crowd instead of the tourist crowd.

This morning one of the blogs I follow, entitled Berlin Companion featured the National Monument to the Wars of Liberation in Kreuzberg on its 200 Anniversary.

View from Kreuzberg by Johann Heinrich Hintze, 1829 (currently at the Alte Nationalgalerie). The winding road leading to Berlin is today’s Mehringdamm.

For people who have visited the Invalides in Paris, under the dome is the Tomb of Emperor Napoleon, you will probably have noticed the 12 columns in a circle around the tomb, they represent the 12 military campaigns of Napoleon all across Europe over 12 years, basically continuous wars during his reign. The Monument on the Kreuzberg in Berlin also refers to the 12 wars which are named wars of Liberation from French oppression. There are all over Germany, other monuments were built celebrating that liberation from this constant warfare waged by Napoleon in his effort to conquer Europe and appoint himself the new Charlemagne.

This is something very rarely mentioned in history books and certainly never mentioned by French authors who prefer to present Napoleon’s action as a romantic endeavour. However if you follow the historical tread you will see that those wars sowed the seeds for further wars in the 19th century between France and German States and Prussia and after 1870 a unified Germany. It is almost a seesaw effect of trying to correct wrongs. Think 1870 Franco-Prussian War, 1914-1918 and then 1939-1945, in all those conflicts the underlying narrative is revenge, either by Germany or France.

The National Monument on Kreuzberg (Cross Hill) leads down the avenue to Belle-Alliance Platz this alliance/Treaty between Great-Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia created and maintained an army of 600,000 men until such time as Napoleon was completely defeated and overthrown. This Belle-Alliance ultimately led to Waterloo. Since 1945 Belle-Alliance Platz has been renamed Mehring Platz and sadly completely modernized.

On March 30, 1821 – the seventh anniversary of the Prussian charge of Montmartre and of the conquest of Paris, which unavoidably triggered Napoleon’s demise in 1814 – King Friedrich Wilhelm III arrived on top of the Tempelhofer Berg (also known as the Weinberg, soon to be renamed Kreuzberg). The highest natural elevation in what is now central Berlin but back in the days was still part of a district outside the city limits.

Accompanied by an illustrious guest, Russian Tsar Alexander I – Friedrich Wilhelm’s brother-in-arms in the conflict with Napoleon Bonaparte – Prussian monarch came to witness the unveiling of a monument commemorating their victories in what came to be known as the Wars of Liberation, 1802-1814.

As Prussia’s military ally in the wars against Napoleon it was Alexander who prevented the king – as well as the Austrian emperor for he was wavering, too – from making what could have been the biggest mistake in the history of the Coalition: he convinced them to take Paris instead of withdrawing their troops. Now it was time to celebrate these good choices.

National Memorial for Wars of Liberation – a 200-tonne cast-iron tapering structure installed on an octagonal stone base – was the work of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Johann Heinrich Strack (who was responsible for the stone base).

Schinkel, supported by several renown contemporary artists with Christian Daniel Rauch as the most prominent among them, created an artwork which truly had everything a memorial of this kind should possess: it was impressive, it was elegant, it was positively oozing with symbols which everybody understood and was happy to see included and, last but not least, it had twelve extremely good-looking statues with faces the crowds back then were often able to recognise.

The memorial’s leitmotiv was a cross: it was a direct reference to a new military decoration introduced by King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1813 after the Battle of Leipzig: the legendary Eiserne Kreuz, the Iron Cross. The foot of the memorial itself is shaped liked one, too, and you will see the shape repeated from the memorial’s bottom to its very top.

The 200-year-old memorial in Viktoriapark inspired the name of the hill and the neighbourhood.

The Nationaldenkmal am Kreuzberg – truly worth the climb. (Photo by Beata Gontarczyk-Krampe, author of the Berlin Companion.