Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

By Stephen Ewashkiw | September 28, 2013

Nearly 80 years ago, despite outcry from around the world, the Olympic committee decided the Olympics should go ahead as planned, in Nazi Germany.

Since we all know now that the IOC have taken a bribe or two in their time, I assume that at some point Hitler sent a few henchmen to visit various IOC members with suitcases full of cash, not wanting a repeat of 1916.

Due to pressure from the world’s leaders, Hitler relented on his initial decision to ban homosexual and black athletes from participating. The Nazis then had to busy themselves interning all the Romani and taking down the “Jews Not Welcome” signs from the stadium and the city’s tourist attractions.

Relishing the chance to show the world how awesome the Third Reich was, Hitler set about building colossal locations for the events to be held.

The centrepiece of Hitler’s Olympics was the Olympiastadion, a 100,000 seat colosseum, which still stands today.

football in berlin

Size matters at Olympiastadion.

Hail Hail Hertha

Today, along with my good (Jewish) friend Jesse, I went to the Olympiastadion to watch Berlin’s Hertha BSC football club defeat Mainz.

Take that Hitler!

It was a fantastic, high-scoring game in which three of the four goals entered the net on our end of the pitch.

hertha player in berlin

A lonely job, Hertha v Mainz.

On this beautifully clear and sunny Saturday, around 40,000 football fans gathered to sing, chant, and cheer their team to victory. Even though the stadium was only half full, the energy was so high that you didn’t notice the empty sections of seats.

I have been to countless World Cup qualifiers and North American professional soccer matches, several LA Galaxy games, and a couple of English premiership games. Never have I been to a match with as much organised chanting, such incredible flag waving, and abundant use of the team colours.

Happy Hertha supporters post-game.

Happy Hertha supporters post-game.

The only close comparison I can even come up with is the sea of red you see at an Angels baseball game.

naked statues of athletes in berlin

Naked athletes at Olympiastadion.

Inside A Wedding Cake

Our next stop was to meet Jane for dinner before heading off to the Konzerthaus for some classical music.

Prettiest plate of dead animal we've ever seen.

Prettiest plate of dead animal we’ve ever seen.

The odds are that of the 40,000 people at the football, Jesse and I were not the only ones whose next stop of the day was the Dvořák Marathon at the Konzerthaus. But I like to think that in the whole of Berlin there is no one with as diverse a cultural palate as Jesse.

The Konzerthaus is the centrepiece of Gendarmenmarkt square, situated between the equally impressive German and French cathedrals.

german cathedral berlin

German Cathedral, Gendarmenmarkt.

However, it all becomes a bit less impressive when you realise that during WWII this area was severely damaged by bombing, and the concert house wasn’t reopened until 1984. Rather than take this opportunity to make a modern work of art, to rebuild in a modern style, pushing Berlin into the 21st century, the city chose to recreate the original building, including its neoclassical columns and woodwork.

Sadly this also included 1984 reproductions of the artwork and decor inside, which now, in 2013, look like paintings you would find at a (bad) garage sale. The whole building is done up like the an over-the-top wedding cake.

While this style would be acceptable if it were original work, or if you are Nicki Minaj, as a 1984 reproduction it’s just a little off.

Masters At Play

Acoustically, however, it works wonders. Wikipedia says the Berlin Konzerthaus is one of the five best places in the world in which to hear classical music. Jesse informed us that the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, who we were going to see, are one of Berlin’s best orchestras. To top it off, we had incredible seats in the third row, with a perfect view of the conductor and the musicians.

Jane’s note: To really top it off, the tickets were €12.50 each. LA Phil, are you paying attention?

The Konzerthaus was hosting 12 hours of Dvořák, billed as the Dvořák Marathon, performed by several orchestras and string quartets in one-hour segments. The Berlin Marathon is tomorrow, so the timing isn’t a coincidence. There were even two men running a marathon on treadmills outside the Konzerthaus to draw more attention to the event.

We went for Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, conducted by Iván Fischer.

stephen & jesse at berlin konzerthaus

Waiting for the show to start, Berlin Konzerthaus.

As you would expect, the audience was silent for the entire concert.

Jane’s note: Sitting silently for 40 minutes or so, while an orchestra performs just feet away from you, is an odd experience to those who are more used to the dancing, singing along, cheering, and hands-in-the-air raucousness of your typical rock concert. But it is no less enthralling. The orchestra conveys so much emotion through changing tempo and volume, through musical phrases being shared, repeated, and reinterpreted by different sections of the orchestra, and through the judicious use of silence… if you haven’t been to see a top-notch orchestra, you really should do yourself a favour and go.

As Fischer’s baton dropped, cheers went up all around the hall. As if designed to show indie bands the world over how to accept adoration, he kept going off and coming back to more and more rapturous applause.

Accepting the audience's adoration, Berlin Konzerthaus.

Accepting the audience’s adoration, Berlin Konzerthaus.

Then came the encore.

Yup, the encore.

The orchestra performed a shorter piece, Nocturne for String Orchestra In B Major. The encore was even more impressive than the main piece and ended with such subtlety and skill that it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

On our walk back to the U-bahn we passed a Drive Now car, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, for less than €5, we hopped in the convertible BMW M3 and sped home through the Berlin streets, getting back to Jesse’s before we would have even been on our first train.  

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