Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Berlin 2

Isn't it a nuisance when life gets in the way of blogging? And it does; it certainly does. This life has recently featured a bit of painting of Daughter 2's new flat, quite a lot of looking after my mother (who fell and cut her head on Sunday in church - now, that's no reward for churchgoing, is it?) And work. Far too much work.

Can I tell you a bit about Berlin? (The non-toothache aspect.)

My generation grew up thinking of East Germany and especially East Berlin as a sort of badland full of grey concrete and anxious people. As it quite possibly was to some extent. I certainly never thought I'd visit it or stay in a hotel on the east side. Nowadays, however, some of it's not terribly different from lots of other cities and the visitor isn't really aware - or I wasn't anyway - of passing from East to West - apart from where there are bits of wall standing isolated and gloomy-looking as historical landmarks.

Here's Mr Life taking a photo of this chunk in Potsdamer Platz. This bit's been transplanted, I think.

But this bit stands where it did.

We walked around a lot and saw the sights: Berliner Dom,

Under den Linden (somewhat distant here)

the Brandenburg Gate,

the Reichstag.
The weather may look good but it was chilly.

And the Jewish Museum - we didn't go in. I don't think that would have been a cheery experience. And we wandered through the Tiergarten and in and out of various shops and churches.
The city is still obviously in development and there are still many derelict sites, often right next to expensive new buildings.
Indeed wherever you go you're very conscious of bomb destruction - and who caused it. You feel it when you see these gap sites, like missing teeth in a sparkling smile (why did that simile come to mind, I wonder...?). You're aware of it when you look at beautifully restored old buildings, damaged during the war. You see it when you pass churches which haven't been rebuilt entirely but just in part, half-old, half-new, strikingly reminding you of man's inhumanity to man. I felt a little cloud of guilt following us.
So I didn't find Berlin an entirely comfortable place to visit - though interesting and in parts attractive. Maybe we'll go back sometime, without toothache, and explore further.


  1. I've never managed a trip to Berlin but always fancied it. I used to visit northern Germany a lot when I was at school and the Iron Curtain was still firmly in place. We used to go the beach at Travemunde, where you had the surreal experience of being able to sit on lovely wicker beach chairs only a hundred yards or so from the barbed-wire-watchtower-and-famished-alsation border running down the beach and into the Baltic. There is a photograph of a 14 year old me somewhere, sunbathing on the beach with an East German border guard patrolling in the background. Quite strange.

  2. The Bean will be very chuffed to hear your comment! I think he's a little shocked that more people don't notice the resemblance! That is also he, holding the cat. The mustache and the goatee are a movable feast, constantly moving, growing, disappearing, and then gradually reappearing. A fellow has to keep himself amused.....

    Very interesting observations about Berlin. Oldest son broke his wrist in a soccer game in Berlin the day the wall came down. That was also interesting!

  3. Oh dear -- your mum (and you!) are having some bad luck lately! I hope she's feeling better (and you too!) by now.

    Lovely pictures of Berlin. We went back in 1998 and there was construction everywhere -- I thought surely by now -- 20 years later, it would be mostly rebuilt. The wall was just so odd -- I'm amazed that it lasted as long as it did.

    I hope you'll be able to finally have a relaxing weekend this week!

  4. I have always thought I would feel discomfort in Berlin. I am old enough to remember a hit song, called West of the Wall.

  5. What an evocative account - thank you. The toothache didn't get in the way of your sensitive perceptions. So sorry it spoiled your well deserved break, though.

    I did go to East Berlin once, in 1985. You remind me that I was thinking I should blog about it on the forthcoming anniversary of the wall coming down.

  6. When my cousin was 15 around 1990 she went on a school trip to Germany (from Australia so it was a huge deal). She got a piece of the newly knocked down wall which she keeps to this day in a box in her bedside cabinet to remind her of man's inhumanity to man.

    When I was in Amsterdam once I made the mistake of going to Anne Frank's house. It was an amazing experience, don't get me wrong but it left me feeling awfully guilty and depressed - so you probably made the right choice re: the Jewish museum.

  7. Ooh, I've just been reading back about your terrible toothache and inflight fainting dramas .... poor you!!

    No wonder Berlin had a tinge of gloom, the history of the place not withstanding.

    It does look pretty, though, and must have been interesting to see.

    Hope all's well with your mother, your tooth, and life in general :-)

  8. I saw a doco on TV recently about that Jewish Museum - same architect as has designed the plans for the new architecture on the World Trade Centre site. The very structure of the Jewish Museum is part of the experience, including disorientation and darkness... perhaps not the best experience for a toothachy one!

  9. Thank you for these photos and observations. I think experiences like yours keep one grounded and give one perspective. As you say, though, they'd probably be better experienced without a toothache.