Philosophy, Attachment To Place, And World Culture


It’s true too, let’s face it: There’s nobody quite like Goethe. The dramas, like ‘Dr. Faustus’ and ‘Götz von Berlichingen’ (The Knight with the Iron Hand), of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) are still performed in theaters today. His poems and novels like The Sorrows of Young Werther are still printed and even read.

But it is not the works he produced as poet, writer, theorist and natural scientist that make him such an absolute sine qua non. With his universality and holistic view of nature, Goethe rose above the Catholic-Protestant conflict in which Central Europe had been locked since the 16th century and above the debates between clerics and men of the Enlightenment that were added to it in the 18th century, to become a towering figure who blazed new paths in German culture. Naturally Goethe did not accomplish this singlehandedly.

But it was he alone who was regarded as the precursor of the three, very distinctive, ‘Sturm und Drang’, classical and romantic movements. Overshadowed by France, England and even the Low Countries during the ages of the Baroque and the Enlightenment, and making a fragmented and provincial appearance, Germany in the short space of a few years in the early 19th century suddenly became a culturally and intellectually exhilarating place.

Figures like Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and Richard Wagner in music Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Leo von Klenze and Gottfried Semper in architecture and Caspar David Friedrich, Max Liebermann and Adolph von Menzel in art preserve their reputation even today. But the real development without a doubt was experienced in the domain of science and thought.

From Immanuel Kant, who in a sense was the culmination of the Enlightenment, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who consolidated Kant’s idealism, to Hegel’s rival and archenemy, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche, who advocated a life-affirming philosophy based on the concept of will, German philosophy achieved a richness, an account of which exceeds the bounds of this short article.

Even Karl Marx, who radically criticized philosophy from a materialist point of view, saying, “The philosophers have merely interpreted the world in different ways whereas what is important it is to change it,” was a German philosopher.  The federal system that persists in Germany today is a legacy of that dividedness. Although Germany has suffered great damage both politically and economically from that lack of centralization, its benefits on the cultural level cannot be denied.

The universities, for example. The German universities, founded in the 19th century in cities like Heidelberg, Tübingen, Göttingen and Marburg, which were undistinguished apart from being university towns, prepared the ground for an intellectual flowering that left people awed by their elite, autonomous culture.  Losing territory and divided in two as a result of the Second World War, Germany was reunited in 1991 when the Western economies won the Cold War, becoming a ‘normal’ country as perhaps never before. Berlin today is not Europe’s glitziest or most trend-setting capital, but it is a vibrant city with an allure all its own.

Today’s Germany is a prosperous country, with numerous and strict rules and a high level of social security, where regional, even local, loyalties remain strong and where people live who feel no need to follow the lead of the center. One of the most pronounced changes of the last half century is that Germany is becoming gradually less German. Nearly one-fifth the population of Germany today is immigrant in origin. And Turks make up the largest group among those immigrants.

What brought Turks to Germany was not the German Empire that formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire and was destroyed together with it in the First World War, but the economic growth experienced in Germany following the Second World War. Living with the Turks has taught the Germans a thing or two about integrating with the world, and that Turkish (and ‘post-Turkish’) population is going to play a major role in Germany’s future. Remember what Goethe said in his ‘West-Eastern Divan’ a little over two centuries ago:  “He who knows himself and others / Will realize here as well / That Orient and Occident / Are separable no more

Berlin is widely regarded as one of the most fascinating cities in the world. With its historic structures like the centuries-old Charlottenburg Palace on the one hand, and its modern buildings designed by some of the leading architects of our day on the other, we witness in Berlin an extraordinary juxtaposition of old and new. And the figure of a bear, symbol of the city representing the creative imagination of different artists, can be found at locations all over the city.

The Pergamonmuseum, which welcomes thousands of visitors from countries around the world every day on Museuminsel, the Museum Island between the branches of the River Spree, takes its name from the famous Altar of Pergamon on exhibition here. Built in the second century B.C., this important monument, aka the Temple of Zeus, is so called because it was excavated and brought here by German archaeologists from Pergamon in Turkey (today’s Bergama).

Its name meaning a resident of the city, this tasty deep-fried ‘doughnut without a hole’ is very popular in Germany. It has a fruit marmalade filling and is sprinkled with powdered sugar.

World-renowned director and winner of the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival for his film, Gegen die Wand (Against the Wall), Fatih Akın serves as a cultural bridge between Turkey and Germany.

Symbol of Berlin, the Brandenburg Gate represents Germany’s imperial legacy. And the heart of the capital beats in the areas around it.
With its museums, art galleries, theaters, concert halls, parks and rich array of entertainment venues, this extremely cultured city affords both its own people and visitors a satisfying experience.

Among Berlin’s famous historic buildings, the palaces (Schloss), city halls (Rathaus) and churches attract great interest. Originally completed in 1750, repaired in 1905 and severely damaged in the Second World War, the Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom) is among the city’s most prominent neo-Baroque structures. If you want to survey Berlin from the 98-meter-high dome at its center, you have to climb some 250 steps.

The former Western sector of Berlin in particular offers residents vast opportunities with its shopping centers, entertainment centers and arcades. Since Berlin, unlike many cities, is quite flat, it’s easy to get around on foot or by bicycle. Although winters are cold and rainy, come summer Berliners happily surrender themselves to the sun’s embrace in cafes along the avenue known as Kurfürstendamm at the city center.An ideal introduction to the city is a stroll down this boulevard ‘Unter den Linden’ from the new parliament building (Reichstag) past the Brandenburg Gate to the Television Tower at Alexanderplatz.

Turkish Airlines has Istanbul-Berlin flights in both directions. For fares and timetables:

There’s no doubt that Germany is famous for its currywurst and chips and in Berlin you can eat chips at a wide range of venues from sidewalk stands to gourmet restaurants.

A remnant of East Berlin that has crossed over to the West, the famous ‘little traffic man’ with a hat (Ampelmännchen) used at pedestrian crossings in place of the usual red and green lights, has an important place in the graphic arts.

People can meet their everyday needs in the shopping centers and at the open-air stalls set up on Alexanderplatz, which was formerly part of East Germany.

Densely populated by Turks, the famous district of Kreuzberg with its artists’ ateliers and meeting places is the magnetic new center of German intellectual life.

Berlin is justly famous among world cities for its green areas. And the Tiergarten, or Zoo, is one of the most extensive.In the Lustgarten district, the Altes Museum boasts a rich collection of ancient works of art as well as hosting temporary exhibitions.An unusual way to get a feel for Berlin is by viewing the city from above. And the top floor of the ‘Panoramapunkt’ building is ideal for this.

The canals immediately in front of the ‘Hauptbahnhof’, or main railway station, one of the city’s most prominent architectural monuments, organizes boat tours for tourists keen on exploring the city via its waterways. If you choose the long tour, you will go from the river to the lakes outside the city. Tourists who stay on shore meanwhile can stretch out in chaises longues and soak up the sun.

“I’ve been going to Berlin for the film festival since 1978. With its artists and festivals, it is a lovely city. Years ago I went to Berlin two days late. Without even claiming my bag at the airport, I dashed off to where the press conferences were being held. I wanted to see and hear the immortal Fellini. I made it, and it’s a good thing too because I never got another chance to see Fellini.”

The main crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie today is a tourist attraction where visitors have their photo taken with guides dressed in U.S. and Soviet army uniforms.

The Berlin Biennale adds enormous vitality to Berlin, a city of art in the true sense. Realized last year for the ninth time, the event hosted Turkish artists Nilbar Güreş and Ferhat Özgür and their works. 

Boasting the most important museums in Berlin, Museum Insel welcomes visitors despite a major restoration project that has been under way since the unification, and makes a key contribution to the city’s culture.

The Berlin Wall, fragments of which have been put in museums or taken home as mementoes, and the rest sold to the curious, constitute some of the most important examples of street art for the images painted on them.

Like the world’s other major cities, Berlin has been the subject of a number of films. Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin (translated as ‘Wings of Desire: Between Heaven and Earth’) and Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 14-part TV film, ‘Berlin Alexanderplatz’, are some of the best known.