Postscript Berlin

Home today.  Got to my door at 1am Monday morning.  Feels like I fell down a rabbit-hole and spent a month, not a week, in Germany.  It is a rainy, westcoast Vancouver day – air is wet and fresh, and the fog is rising like steam from the cedars in Stanley Park.  I usually take a sketchbook into the park, but didn’t today.  My brain is like cotton. 

Some last thoughts on Berlin.

In the Alte Nationalgalerie, I saw a great collection of German Romantics including Caspar David Friedrich.  They also have the painting, ‘Isle of the Dead’ by Arnold Bocklin.  Like many iconic images, it seems almost surprising there is an actual physical copy.  The painter did 5 versions of it.  A standing shrouded figure in a small boat stands in front of a mysterious island of white rock and cedars that rises in front of it. (There is a famous parody of it where the figure is losing its balance and about to fall out of the boat.)

The German keyboards interchange the Y and Z keys – which is the devil to deal with at first, but I learned it – now I have to switch back.  No wonder I’m jetlagged.

The area around my pension really wasn’t too dodgy.  A few massage parlors and bars.  Only a few blocks from both Kantstrasse and the Kurfurstendamm – both large shopping streets.  I was looking for the Brucke museum in the area (couldn’t find it) and stumbled across a wonderful children’s playground with dinosaurs made of rough blocks of wood and neat things to climb on.  How dodgy could a neighbourhood with a funky kids playground be?  Unless the playground is for dodgy children.

I was on my feet 8-9 hours a day.  Before heading back to my pension at about 8pm,  I would often walk around the lovely area of Savignyplatz.  The restaurants would start to get crowded and lively.  Many of them were lit by candlelight.   There was a feeling that things were just starting up for the night.  The city stays up late.  Stores don’t open in the morning until 10am.

Even though central Berlin was crammed with cafes and restaurants, I didn’t notice many overweight Berliners.   

The Holocaust Memorial is very impressive.  A whole square city block of stone slabs of varying sizes.  They are set on a grid on undulating ground.  You can walk between them and the stone blocks are high so it’s like a maze.  The shifting level of ground makes the experience of walking through them interesting.  And although the path ahead of you seems straight, you become aware of people crossing through ahead of you. Kids running through them.  I felt nervous that someone was going to walk into me from the side.  You don’t know what’s going to come from the side.  Very unnerving.  Very evocative.

 The disembodied voice at Tegel Airport sounded like an elegant, breathy goddess.  “Attention, ladies and gentleman,  please do not leave your baggage unattended…”  and in German, the same elegant tone,  “Achtung, bitte…”

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