How odd the journey is. One minute you have sand on your shoes and the next it shuffles through fallen leaves. Long ago we had time to process and feel the passing of time and place; the long boat journey with head leant over sea, salt in the hair and on the tongue, or body swaying in time with a train as most of Europe passes as a mere smudge against a window. I love the train and was thrilled by any trips taken across countries and landscapes. I remember falling asleep somewhere outside Miton Keynes and pushing up the blind of my sleeper to see the moon scape that is the Scottish moor. Listening to some teachers say they had a train to catch home to Holland, I felt the pangs of jealousy. And I have always wanted to take a boat from Southampton to New York, the other direction wouldn’t satisfy my romantic grasp of the situation; I want to see the Statue of Liberty looming like a beacon of hope out of the fog. But who has time to travel? We need to get there as fast as we possibly can, forget about the journey.
The airplane is too fast, my mind arrives behind, dragging along like some lost luggage.
We stumbled across the most extraordinary jumble sale/rummage sale/garage sale while lost some where in the East. We saw two mannequins propped against a most gracious old building. They looked as if they had been tossed off the set of a horror movie and indeed their pasts turned out to have been equally dramatic. Turns out we had walked into the sale of the Opera House. Sets including fabulous chandeliers, fake harps, velvet chaise longues and even a large ship were for sale alongside lace, tuile and chiffon ball dresses. They entire sale was housed in a slightly crumbling but romantic space complete with spiral staircase, velvet rouched curtain and yellow walls. It was like walking into a Lars Von Trier meets Versailles set. In my mind it summed up Berlin. Under the skin of practicality and organized decorum lies an artistic soul that burns and trembles. I wondered if it was because of or despite the fanatical order that such creativity is allowed to ferment.
I had never really wanted to go to Berlin, funny really. It didn’t stand high on my list next to Rome or Madrid or Amsterdam. So I was gently surprised and impressed. Yes it was chilly, in both senses of the word, I certainly saw no German warmth from any bus drivers or waiters, and yes everything was in German, a language I cannot comprehend so I was in the dark a fair bit, but it hardly mattered. Brushing my hand along a fragment of the Berlin wall one moment and peeking behind it to see a huge temple of Capitalism where the East once stood was simply extraordinary. How this city has transformed, rebuilt and redefined itself in the past 20 years is impressive to say the least. Not only does everything work but it works well. The architecture is brave and startling, modern and fit for a new Germany. The shops sparkle and the people click their beautiful boots with purpose. The food was excellent and tasted fresh, not in the least bit processed or fixed in a speedy and lazy microwave. In fact every bite I ate and every sip of divine coffee seemed made for a discerning and picky clientele with high standards. The city was extremely clean and easy to walk; after eating their curried sausage people actually put the rubbish in the bins provided. Yes I am amazed by the obvious because for the past 4 years I have seen more than enough simple folk treat the sidewalk and street as their own personal bin.
Here are some photos taken from my trip. My only regret is that I took the tiny Leica point and shoot and not my lovely big Canon.
It turns out I missed this iconic little green guy’s 50th birthday by three days!