Historical Depth and Beauty

Prague Landscape

The beauty of Prague is obvious to anyone from the moment your suitcase hits any one of the cobblestone streets of the town. From the narrow, winding streets filled with quaint shops, the ancient architecture lined with elaborate sculpture everywhere you turn, to the St. Charles Bridge, also lined with breathtaking sculpture and conveniently accompanied with its own soundtrack of talented street musicians, to Old Town Square, St. Wenceslas Square, and finally the majestic Prague Castle, its physical attributes are such that the “visual” observer can quickly become overwhelmed if not taken in in small doses.

In this day of digital photography,  it will be easy to return home with hundreds of photos to sift through, but you won’t mind doing it and you won’t want to erase any of them. This is the enchanting fairytale land which is Prague; it is an undeniable aesthetic delight.

Prague landscape

The beauty of Berlin is less obvious, but is there if you know its history. During a recent study abroad trip, I learned in depth the history of Germany, particularly the history of both World Wars and the Berlin Wall. Many of the physical attributes of the city, like buildings and monuments, are under construction because even now the city is struggling with how to deal with its history.

 Berlin Palace Construction

Berlin has had to grope with the issues of its difficult history, for instance, memorializing the victims of the Holocaust in a sensitive way while also deciding what to do with the sites of the people who persecuted them. There is the issue of the former Berlin Wall which snakes through the town as a grim and very recent reminder of an extremely painful time for many of its citizens. There are also “Stolpersteine,” imbedded in the pavement, a constant reminder of those yanked from their homes during World War II. It is clear that the government is not trying to cover up its history; it is simply trying to deal with it in the most honest and sensitive way possible for everyone involved.

And yet, despite its ugly history and half-finished terrain, the beauty of Berlin lies in its resilience; a city that has been beaten down by so many brutal eras now stands in construction, rebuilding. Knowing the history of the place, I feel the beauty of Berlin rivals the aesthetic beauty of Prague.