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The Berlin trip had been slowly taking shape over several weeks, but now as the final meeting was taking place, discussions were over and everyone prepared themselves for a 4.00am rendezvous in the airport.

A very early morning flight is not a good way to begin a long day of sight seeing, if you like sleep, but does give you the maximum time to see the classic tourist attractions.

On arrival we made our way to the ‘Hotel Transit’ via first bus and then Berlin’s underground arriving at the ‘hostel’ by mid morning. This was our base for the next three days. After dumping all our bags in one room, we boarded the underground again and made our way to our starting point, the Brandenburg Gate.

This iconic and pillared monument towers over the square in front of it casting a long shadow over throngs of tourists from all nations all gazing up in awe.

The green four horses and the chariot atop the white polished stone monolith creating a sharp contrast in the bright sunlight and the cloudless blue sky.

Leaving the gate we made our way to the Jewish memorial. This is a vast area of grey concrete blocks. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe also known as the ‘Holocaust Memorial’ is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and engineer Buro Happold.

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It consists of a 19,000 m2 (4.7-acre) site covered with 2,711 concrete slabs or “stelae“, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The stelae are 2.38 m (7 ft 10 in) long, 0.95 m (3 ft 1 in) wide and vary in height from 0.2 to 4.8 m (7.9 in to 15 ft 9.0 in). They are organized in rows, 54 of them going north-south, and 87 heading east-west at right angles but set slightly askew.

An attached underground “Place of Information” holds the names of all known Jewish Holocaust victims, obtained from the Israeli museum Yad Vashem.

This tomb like exhibition paints a vivid and moving portrait of the holocaust. From the time line documenting the rise of the Nazi persecution, to the family photos of the victims, the display strikes at the heart of your humanity and leaves you with the question of how could such a travesty happen.

Over the next few days we visited a number of iconic museums, galleries and tourist attractions starting with Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and Mario Testino’s ‘In Your Face’ exhibition.

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The show ‘Mario Testino: In Your Face’ presents the full range of his photographic work, in 125 images, placing particular emphasis on its provocative contrasts. The exhibition explores and celebrates the innovation and diversity in Testino’s photography, which evokes elegance, irreverence and contradiction. Testino was involved with the selection and layout of the works, juxtaposing formal portraits with private snapshots, nudes with fashion, and black and white with colour.

“In Your Face, for me, represents the most free way of expression”, says Testino. “As an image-maker people always want to put you in a box. I believe we are made of many different aspects and not always are we allowed to let all these different aspects show, let alone to live next to each other as they do in this exhibition. This particular hanging style for these photographic works allows all of these different aspects of my curiosity to have a conversation; they not only exist on their own but trigger a reaction when being next to each other.”

Testino’s work is reproduced on huge backlit prints displayed in three large halls. The work whilst similar in subject matter throughout offers the feeling of an excursion into a dark and seedy world which I’m sure reflects the true nature of the fashion world famous for its endless parties, sex and drugs.

Finishing the quick tour with a wander around the gallery bookshop, we headed off towards the Sony Centre and the History of Film museum.

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The hype for this museum didn’t quite live up to the reality. A ban on any photography meant I have no pictures to act as a prompt to recall the exhibits. Quite literally though it was a celebration of Germany’s greatest films and their stars. Some familiar, however most were not. Best remembered was a large tribute to ‘Metropolis’ the 1927 film that practically invented the genre of Science Fiction films. Most memorable was a life size statue of the now famous android robot.

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Apart from a lengthy tribute to Marlene Dietrich the rest of the exhibition was very German orientated and thus offered very little frame of reference for us.

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