my berlin | extracts from my summer journal

By November 18, 2013blog

Day 3, Berlin

Slept well; no palpitations. …..Aha, 2 glasses of red only. Well, condemned to a life of restrained intake may not be such a bad thing. I don’t warm to control or rigid self-control for that matter, yet my habits, like good linens, have mostly softened over the years. Before, I was always up for spontaneous fun and mischief. However, the price may now be too high, so today I begin the 2 daily glasses only regime, which therefore probably means no ‘beverages’ at lunchtime- although an aperitif could be in order – my morning research tells me that an Italian, orange based liquor with soda is a safe option. I will clearly have to seek out another, untried bad habit – not many of those left.

After breakfast did reasonable workout and went for Berlin tour. Private tour with rather overconfident South African tour guide, who made up for what he lacked in people skills with a sound knowledge of his subject. Berlin is, of course, a fascinating city, having been at the forefront of European history for most of the last century. Two world wars, Nazism, Communism, the Berlin Wall, and now of course as the center of financial and political Europe. So many books, movies, newspaper articles from my life resonate around Berlin. I
Am happy, despite feeling slightly out of place and a bit melancholy, to have had the chance to finally see this city. I wish I wasn’t seeing it on my own though, next year I shall plan things better. What to do bout the remainder of this trip? I shall leave for Krakow on Tuesday, see Auschwitz (how will I cope with this?) on Wednesday, play golf Thursday and contemplate my next steps on the golf course. I must remember I am free to do whatever and go wherever. Maybe I will fly to Patagonia or Tahiti ! I just asked for the bill in French. Really must be losing my orientation, though I am surprisingly pleased at my ability to recall an acceptable amount of spoken German- Ein espresso bitte, for example. Easy really.

Well, stumbled on small Thai Spa and had lovely massage and first conversation longer than 3 words. Feel almost like new. Back to hotel, it’s raining, bit Sunday blueish. Just put that on Facebook for what it’s worth. Tonight’s dinner in the same restaurant as yesterday, nice brasserie next to hotel. Actually looked for other options, but I feel welcome here, an old customer, 2nd day and I know the people. They don’t talk much but at least I feel comfortable. 3 glasses of red… slipping into hazardous waters. I hope I will sleep ok. Rain stopped. People in the restaurant well dressed but super conservative, old money, quiet and controlled. Europe (or Northern Europe, perhaps) feels alien to me. Everybody talks about the ‘ dynamic German economy’ i feel it but it bores me. Give me Asia with Its vibrant youth, complex social issues and new found energy. Germany reminds me of Belgium, years ago, when I was growing up.

Day4 Berlin

Slept well, morning went to DKW, large and famous department store a la Harrods. Bought memory card for my camera (who didn’t put the old one back and where is it?). Also bought golf shoes in anticipation of a golf game in Krakow. Anyhow, I shall leave them in Sofia if I go. Feeling very indecisive about whether or not to press on to Bulgaria after Krakow. Skype with Pol who has concerns about political demonstrations in the centre of town. It seems Europe is very unhappy at the moment. Lunched in Italian Trattoria, only pizza or pasta. So pasta it is and yet another promise to myself to decrease carbs. Raining of course. Decided to spend the afternoon on Museum Island, which was a perfect decision. Stunning place, visited the German history museum and just wandered around the beautiful gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Finished my current book, Phra Farang – the story of an Englishman who becomes a Thai Buddhist monk. Lovely book and quite inspiring, spent much if the evening and next morning on the Internet reading up more this subject. Buddhism is a fascinating religion/philosophy. Much we can take from it and I feel the urge to start meditating again. I could never become a Buddhist per se as there too many commitments that I could not really undertake, but some of the precepts are wonderful and aspirational. Went for long thoughtful walk on the back of all that spiritual intake and dined in small brasserie. Steak again. Difficult to find plain grilled fish here. A paradise for meat lovers. Bed and sleep. Pink dreams…….

The German history museum

I am not someone who particularly likes museums. However much this coin or that parchment might be unique, rare or valuable, it never particularly stirs me, unlike a book, where the words inspire one’s visual imagination to expand and conjure up thoughts and feelings.There are of course exceptions, and I have been fortunate to experience a few – the national Cairo museum, the Vatican, the British Museum to name a few. However what was extraordinary for me, visiting the German history museum was not so much the content as the story. The museum is laid out so the visitor can be exposed to the history of Germany from 500 BC to the modern post reunification day. What this does in effect, is to give one a snapshot of the insanity that has been European history during this long, violent, miserable time. Man’ s inhumanity to man, hatred, war, conflict, struggle, poverty. England against Spain, against France against Prussia against Austria against Russia against Germany …….on and on and on. So much blood, so many lives cast away to satisfy lust, power, hatred, intolerance, greed. Only poverty is understandable in this steam of madness. Everything else is incomprehensible. And now Europe is finally…..united?? We will see. The story may not be finished yet. Not by a long way.