Berlin, first photoshoot

By: | Post date: July 27, 2008 | Comments: No Comments
Posted in categories: Countries

I’d already summarised my sojourn in Berlin as a timeline and a report. Having left it for so long, the experience is awash and faded enough that I can get away with just one more posting about it. A long posting, with pictures. And some ill-founded cultural critiques.

[EDIT: Crap. I have only one post’s worth of memories without prompting from photos; with photos, this will go on a bit longer…]

The trip around England had the odd crank piece of commentary; and of course my every minute in Belgium was filtered through my own particular take on the Franco–Flemish divide, which should have gotten me in a lot of strife. They did not, because I was doing cultural critique as drive-by shooting: the commentary was confined to the page, and did not get shared with the locals. (In the instance of Newcastle, the commentary was coming from my friend Camilla, who was not a local anyway; and I’d hit my first of two walls in terms of exhaustion while in England—so I didn’t blog about it much.)

With Berlin, I won’t quite get away with the same drive-by tactics, because I ran my impressions past some actual Germans—Gert there, Dale back here; and whaddaya know, my impressions are not necessarily well founded. That’s a useful corrective in case you’re taking any of the blog content seriously. If you are, you might want to reconsider: the blog has ended up an excuse to string together stream-of-consciousness shaggy dog stories about lambics, which have only an approximate relation to the truth.

That said, my ignorance was of great benefit when I went to Berlin: I had the best time of the entire trip, and it was largely because I knew close to nothing about the city. I knew they had a Gate, and a Wall, and a Reichstag, and a Love Parade, and a Free and a Humbolt Uni, and some new glass buildings. That was it, more or less. As a result, Berlin surprised me a lot. I hadn’t articulated or even thought about what I expected; in retrospect, I probably got my Axis powers mixed up, and was expecting Rome. I didn’t get Rome; as both my German contacts so far pointed out to me (with some degree of bewilderment), Berlin never claimed to be pretty. But Berlin was unexpected, and that made it enjoyable.

I feel sort of bad that I enjoyed Berlin more than I enjoyed Newcastle; that of course is no aspersion on Camilla’s good company while she was in town. It is very much an aspersion on Newcastle’s weather: rain Saturday, gale Sunday, miserable either day. We’d made a brave attempt to explore the riverside; but most of the exploring of the city was done inside the Laing gallery, which confined the rain and gales to the paintings. (There was an exhibition of art about Newcastle, so there was still plenty of gales to be seen indoors.) Berlin was sunny and mellow, and had a street party on with grapefruit–beer cooler. Newcastle would do well to lift its game, and take some pointers from Berlin already. Though maybe not with the grapefruit–beer cooler. See if you can’t get a better deal on gales, at least. Maybe move inland a bit, away from the North Sea. That’s the ticket.

Ok, back to Berlin. Berlin has new glass buildings: this I knew already. The Central Rail Station, which was the first building after the 20 meters of Baden-Württemburg I saw, is a very recent construction—

—and lo, it was glass:

M’kay. Not to my taste, but whatever. I learn from Wikipedia that the 1882 Lehrter Metropolitan Rail Station (Statdbahnhof), which was a heritage listed building and had survived the war (unlike the Intercity station), was demolished to make way for the New Glass Building. This is my drive-by shooting commentary theme: Old Things get dealt with here more brusquely than I expected. It doesn’t necessarily mean (as I’d assumed) that the past is denied. But it isn’t necessarily kept around either.

The Rail Station is across the Wall from East Berlin, so it was not Ampelmänchen territory. But the tourists like that kind of thing, and tourists go to the Central Rail Station, so the hat-wearing pedestrian has made it across:

On the way from Central Rail Station to Kreuzberg: Anhalter Station. Or what’s left of it: the facade has been left as bombed. I scooted by it quickly in the bus (as befits my drive-by social commentary); but it was a great facade. (This piece of the past, obviously, was kept around.)

Hm, this has gone on for a while. OK, break.

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