Sat 11 Feb 2006
So, I’m again in Berlin! This time I’m not visiting my friends, just staying over the weekend to get better price for air tickets – and, let’s face it, being outside of Poland is always better even if it’s just a weekend.
Apart from working on my computer I’ve spent some time wandering around the city on my own. I went to a large bookstore and spent a few hours immersed in… Lonely Planet’s guide to Washington, DC.
I also did visit the Checkpoint Charlie museum – it’s a bit smallish and I think it might be seriously boring for those who don’t recall the soviet era. But I have twice seen East German border guards almost disassembling our car when we crossed the border between East and West with my father years ago. It’s amazing what methods people used to extract their friends, relatives, loved ones – or customers (yep, there were mercenary “escape helpers”) – from the DDR. Some constructed tunnels, others swam through sea, constructed ingenious hideouts in all kinds of vehicles or added armor to make them capable of forcing their way through the barriers. Some implemented gentler approach forging diplomatic passports for various countries, including some that didn’t exist.
I must admit to having thought for a second that it is a bit of a pity all this is not functioning anymore and I can’t see it in real life. It’s now hard for an outsider to even tell where the wall once stood, though locals are still able to see the bruises. For the last few years Berlin was one big construction site and the effects can be seen now. Huge, grandiose buildings appear everywhere, lots of modern, bold architecture but I must say there is some common note to the buildings from the Third Reich era. In a sense the spirit of Albert Speer still hangs in the air, lingers in the huge Chancellery (now the office for Germany’s first woman chancellor) and adjacent parliament building.
BTW – the number of buildings that house various governmental offices is astonishing. Running the whole Bismarck’s Prussian Germany and Hitler’s Third Reich seems to have required less bureaucrats than the new, peaceful (and much smaller) Germany needs now. But, that shouldn’t surprise anyone since the great discoveries of C. Northcote Parkinson.
So, to put some ending to my lazy notes: this city is quite interesting, relatively easy to navigate but… yes, there is “but”: I do definitely feel alien here. Maybe it’s the architecture, maybe it’s the language (German has somehow a definitely unfriendly vibe to me), maybe it’s just me but for me Berlin is a weekend destination but definitely not a place I would like to live in.