Saturday 29 October 2022

1991 Berlin

30.8.91 Gatwick airport

I was here on Monday; and less than two weeks ago.  Life is so...hectic; interesting.  I can barely keep up with myself.  Work is crazy – editor of PC Magazine, Personal Computer Directory launching, publisher of Windows User, Electrical Retail Trade and (until today) Electronics Weekly.  Freelance stuff for the Daily Telegraph had to be done this week.  The novel barely touched for months…

Well, I sit now in the café of the main museum at Dahlem. Amazingly, outside, in the entrance hall, there is still (still? - the same one?) an exhibition of musics from the ethnomusic collection.  And one of them is Balinese.  So I came here to complete that cycle.  Alas, not symbolic, I hope, the headphones had been removed.

A strange day so far, but not unpleasantly.  Due largely no doubt to its sheer speciousness – there was no real reason why I shouldn't have come on Sunday – except that I wanted to see a little of the new Berlin.  So a little work this afternoon – more problems – but hey.  Then out to Dahlem.  Always so strange going back after all those years.  Too soon and things are spoilt, but leave a decent decade, as the memories begin to fade or simply get slightly mislaid, and the re-visit has a real charm.

So I recognised the museum and some of the pix.  And as for the Balinese and Sumatran musics…  Some new discoveries – the Burgundian stuff, Weyden, Campin, two great Canalettos – a pair of night scenes, one of which I saw in New York, probably on the day the Berlin Wall came down...ah, the connections, how I luv 'em…  But given the limited time, my main advance today was the Central American collection.  

Well, it had to be.  Having found an Afghan restaurant recommended by one of the guide books (Cadogan, which really seem to be taking off – some are quite good – lovely typeface too), Katschikol, Pestalozzi 84, I had to go.  Suitably Afghani cimbalom in the background, very full menu – better than Caravanserai in London by Paddington.  

Long walk here through mainly residential areas [Dooch turns out to be cool, milky, with cucumber and herbs – lovely for this weather.  Wow – vorspeise Torschi very hot – gherkins and fruits in vinegar and chili etc. - yow.]  I find it hard to get a feel for Berlin.  It is undeniably busy, but looking through the inimitably named "Zitty"(City Limits here) I'm not impressed by what's available.  The contrast with somewhere like Paris is painfully clear: there I felt immediately that this was a bustling city I could live in.  Here… [Main course badenjan, bonani, tschalau.  Dessert – falooda, plus Afghan tea – scented, quite strong.  Heavy but pleasant meal.]

31.8.91 Outside the Pergamon Museum

Strange to be back here.  It is all so different – just walking in – and yet the same – the wrecked or decaying buildings, the strange absence of something – liveliness? Museum not yet open.

On the way back last night, I walked along the Ku'damm.  Very like Champs-Élysées.  Interesting the prostitutes out – in regulation gear of body-hugging pants.  Many quite attractive – and young.  But what a life – what prospects.  Odd little Trabis everywhere – along with the huge, squat-brutalist architecture – damning evidence that architecture reflects the soul of a nation.

Sun very pleasant now.  Along to Alexanderplatz.  Amazing – a kind of grey Milton Keynes, now suddenly gone very tacky.  Poor Döblin.  To Moskau restaurant – very quiet, very civilised – fish soup (Baikal) followed by Uzbek plov (whatever plov is).  Opposite, across the eight-lane road, a cinema is showing Lawrence of Arabia… Behind looms the Hotel Berolina.  The air-conditioning whines.  The food – and general ambience of the place, with shapes and objects all slightly foreign – reminds me strongly of Moscow – not surprisingly.  The same is also true of East Berlin generally so far.  Strange to be here again after so many years.  Impressive main course – served in a hollowed-out cabbage, with lamb, peppers, mushrooms, rice, cream – huge and good.  Good value too – about £6.

Back to  Alexanderplatz, where I have to stop to read Döblin...but now how things have changed.  The U-bahn number 2 to below Unter den Linden, which I walk along.  The Oper, rather fine, a good square with crazy Pantheon-like church (hallo, Peter Greenaway).   Unter den Linden busy – I can almost imagine it as the centre.  To the Brandenburg Gate, now looking rather sordid with the Imbiss stands everywhere – the obligatory lumps of "wall" being sold.

S-bahn not open here, so I walk through the Tiergarten to the Neue Nationalgalerie – lovely cool woods – where I sit again now.  I vaguely remember the Neue Nationalgalerie – a huge bright slab – of nothing – typical van der Rohe.  The galleries are below.  It all works pretty well.  Lots of good stuff, but I am particularly struck by the integrity (sic) of the Lovis Corinth.  I must find out more.

1.9.91 Kleist's Memorial, Wannsee

I think I must be getting into necrophilia or something: first Proust's grave, now here.  So morose these krauts...but what a wielder of the German language. 


I'm getting behind, as ever.  Yesterday after Kleist to the 
Schloss Charlottenberg.  Rather rushed alas – I was meeting someone for business at 1pm.  So along to the Galerie der Romantik – for the Caspar David Friedrich – wunnerful.  Then outside to admire the facade – and enjoying the sun (too much, I fear).

Lunch um die Ecke of our street and Ku'damm.  Not much good – and lousy service.  Then into the former East Berlin on U-5 to Friedrichstrasse.  To the Brandenburger Tor along Unter den Linden for coffee and cakes in the café by the Oper – very nice, waiters with strange accents.  Very civilised.  Then back to the hotel for a shower and a rest.

Afterwards, we went looking for "Istanbul" – a Turkish restaurant, not surprisingly.  Closed for repairs.  Wandered around and found a Greek dive (ha!).  Eat there – with various fun trying to get what we wanted.  Had fun also trying out a list of Greek.  Walking back past the deceptively attractive prostitutes on Ku'damm.

Today, along to the Funkausstellung – not as bad as I expected, but bad enough.  Lunch up in the Funkturm restaurant – very nice.  Lovely view, cool and good food.  Then walk to here – after buying a ticket for the Israel Philharmonic tomorrow – an open air concert.

3.9.91 Waldbühne

Where I sit now, in a huge natural amphitheatre, to the west of the Olympic Stadium.  The sun has just set, casting a slight orange glow to my left; the sky, blissfully, is utterly clear.  The day much the same as yesterday: long, hot and sweaty, lunch up in the tower again – very nice – could get used to it.  Back to the hotel, quick eats, then out to here.  One bit of nonsense: I follow everyone out of the U-bahn, after buying my ticket for the return – and throwing away the old one.  But following everyone, I find buses to take us the rest of the way: will I be done for travelling without a ticket?  No, in fact…  Good few thousand around, eating, drinking, smoking.  We were given small candles as we came in...could be good.

The concert about to begin.  As the light changes, so does the aspect.  I see now the candles already lit being used by people for their supper – especially where they have a ledge for cloth and appurtenances.  Nice.  Pity about the smokers...

As I suspected, this place becomes more magical as night descends.  Sunset turned into a peach blur, the podium gradually stood out, and then the candles were lit.  Hundreds – thousands soon – of points of light, wonderful ancient symbols.  I shall light mine now...

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