Berlin was interesting for so many reasons. Olaf and I went by car on Friday for a brief trip and stayed with Olaf’s good friend Alexander. His apartment was super groovy (see photos) and he and his partner were very hospitable.

I’m not sure Berlin is a place that I would really enjoy living, but it was interesting to visit, mostly from the weight of its history. The scars and healing from the war(s), the holocaust, the division of east and west, reunification, immigration, and economic insecurity are noticeable everywhere. I wouldn’t call Berlin a particularly beautiful city (and it sure didn’t help that it was cold and raining), but there were parts of it that were very impressive.

The rundown of our trip was basically the following:

We drive to Berlin (took about three hours), stop at leather shop for Olaf to pick up some pants he was having altered and introduce me to his friend Holger who runs the shop. Holger tells us about a party that night for which the entrance fee is a bottle of Absolut vodka (whose marketing idea was this?). We make our way to meet Alexander at his place, discuss our options and head out into the cold, cold night to meet Holger and his friend (whose name I forget, but I will call him Madonna ’92 since he was sporting a gold tooth). We all proceed to drink many drinks mixed with (what else?) Absolut vodka and have an ok time despite the bad music. Oh, did I mention that this party was called “Black and Gorgeous” and everyone was supposed to be wearing black? I was of course in a white t-shirt, which would have been ok except that this was the costume of the staff, and although I don’t speak German, I could swear people were ordering drinks from me all night. When we had had enough, we took a cab back to the fabu flat we were staying in. The next day we woke up to go have breakfast with Alexander, where we proceeded to get into a touchy discussion about, well, almost everything, starting with immigration, rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democracy, scape-goating, the meaning of culture, and more. And all this before noon. It seemed appropriate that afterwards we would head towards the Jewish Museum (designed by Daniel Liebeskind), followed by a tour of east and west sites and parts of the city ending up at the interesting museum island. Around this time we had another lengthy discussion, this time about architectural contextualism and appropriateness (or not, in my opinion) of recreating exact replicas of historical buildings that no longer exist.

Later on Saturday we went out to a fairly mediocre meal at an Italian restaurant and then Olaf and I watched an old AbFab episode while we dithered about whether to go out and finally decided that it was late and we were old and went to sleep. I am actually glad we did, because otherwise I don’t think I would have had the energy for all the walking we did today. We started at the Potsdammer Platz, then walked thru the Holocaust Memorial and all the way over to the Brandesburg gate and the newly renovated Bundestag and huge collection of new government buildings in the area. We continued our walk thru the Tiergarten and back to a quite good German restaurant for some very good Sauerbraten (and good company as we were joined there by Alexander and Hans). Soon after, Olaf and I made our way back to Hamburg.

It is now late and I am going to bed, but I will post pictures tomorrow. Guten Nacht!