I have always believed that we take far far too many photos for any of them to be paticularly meaningful. Photography is so ubiquitous that it is almost impossible to take a photo of a major tourist site without thousands of tourists trying to get the exact same photo. What is going on? My theory is that photos are a way for people to remind themselves that they are part of this world. Its almost like self soothing behaviour - we feel anxious about our place in the world, we take a photo of ourself in it, therefore we now feel slightly less anxious. And this cycle keeps getting repeated, until some fool has a 1000 photos on their camera to sort out. Yes, this is probably a cynical point of view - but I can't help but be cynical when I encounter backpackers who think they're having a rare and unique experience, when in fact they are only following in the footsteps of a gazillion backpackers before them.
This trip I made a concerted effort to only take photos that I felt needed to be taken, that would specifically remind me of something. To just be in a moment, rather than worry about trying to get a photo of it. Its interesting then, that my most abiding memory of Berlin involved no photography at all.
I remember sitting in the museum under the Holocaust Memorial and looking around and realising that no one had their cameras out. Not one person took a single photo. Instead all I saw , were people absorbed by the enormity of what they were seeing or reading. The Holocaust memorial has a room of names, in which the names of every person who died and a short biography of them is read out. It is estimated that if someone was to sit in that room and listen to the name of every known individual who died, it would take over 6 years. And it is estimated that over a million names will never be known.
Most museums I have been to, there are always people talking, cameras going off, teenagers running around. Here, there was silence, as if it was a mark of respect for all those who died. An enlightening and moving experience for me. I spent a good portion of my teenage years fascinated with German history. Particularly the period around the Treaty of Versailles and the rise of the Third Riech. My trip to Berlin has inspired me to re-visit that once I get home.
Speaking of home, I only have 2 more weekends here in Europe. I will head to Amsterdam on Friday, and then I might decide to stay in Paris for my last weekend instead of going to Barcelona.