Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Berlin Diaries: Ich bin ein Berliner

The Berlin Diaries: Ich bin ein Berliner

Back in January, sitting in Nice Pub, Charming Canadian raised the topic of getting a cheap flight to some unspecified location in Europe. Given that we are students which means that we get things like reading weeks and four weeks holiday for Easter (how completely decadent) this was decreed a very good way of spending time when we really should be working for that MA thing we're supposed to be getting. I, of course, agreed, for I love a crazy plan. After some plotting and planning and suchlike Berlin was decided upon. There was a false start, and we both lost and gained people on the way (yes, we missed you), but last Friday we flew out and I learnt that being fluent in Cabaret is not the same as being able to speak German.

So, what was Berlin like exactly?

Well, the official version went something like this:

Walking into the centre of Berlin down 17 Juni Strasse and the Brandenburg Gate rising to meet us for the first time, trekking to the top of the Dome in the Reichstag and surveying a city that still seems to exist of two separate identities, taking a four hour walking tour of East Berlin with a very excited (and only occasionally factually incorrect) Tour Guide, spending almost an entire day on the aptly named 'Museumsinsel' (Museum Island for those of you who, like me, speak only Cabaret) including seeing the Pergamon Altar, watching what can only be described as a very German production of Medea at the Deutsches Theater, riding the train out to Potsdam and seeing the utterly beguiling Sanssouci Palace and Park, taking a trip up to Schloss Charlottenburg and wishing that I had a big dress and spending our final evening inside the Sony Center, a landmark with its beautiful tented roof which is so irrefutably the Berlin of 2009 that it makes my heart soar a little.

There is lots more I want to say (and, of course, the unofficial version to come) but I feel compelled to say that Berlin caused an odd mix of feelings to arise in me. Maybe because I feel so acquainted with its history, because I trotted out the events that played out in its streets in order to score points in my A Level exams (ah, how right was Alan Bennett in The History Boys), it forced me to confront something that isn't in a text book but is real and happened and people, these people, lived through. Because Berlin doesn't hide its scars, the bullet marks are there for all to see. And because the city Berlin is now feels so familiar, so recognisable to me with its towering buildings and neon lights and expensive cocktails, that it pierced me.

I'm not sure how much more I can articulate until I've had time to digest but I do know one thing: I am incredibly glad I went.

And if you're wondering about the title of this blog - well, our hostel was just across the road from where JFK made that speech.


Style-less Tramp said...

"Yeah, it was alright, I guess. I don't know. Whatever." - PD

Val said...

I am also fluent in Cabaret, but not German! It all sounds fascinating, and what you say reminds me a bit of both being in Krakow and Amsterdam, when you begin to see, and feel a little of what those cities went through.