Wo Ist Die Toilettes?

There’s a lot to be said about Berlin. The most obvious is that the city had it’s ass kicked. Just like that, in italics. Ass kicked. In the spirit of pitching a movie, it’s a Los Angeles meets the Gloomiest Weather On Earth kind of thing. Most of the buildings seem to have been built in the 50s or 60s, with that odd aesthetic of dull playroom for kindergartners. And then a few of the buildings are that brown tri-angles 50s 60s thing. I’m lacking in any architecture vocabulary to make myself understood here, so just go ahead and visit the two cities and let me know if you see what i mean. The corny aesthetic sort of makes sense in a place as corny as LA. Berlin on the other hand has an actual serious place in history, and there is little left that gives away any of it. And what is left is in terrible shape (with the exception of a handful of buildings on the creatively named “Museum Island”).

I haven’t seen many places where the scars of war are so in-your-face. And here they looked as well like big bleeding gashes. A crumbling half facade of the old railway station at the station near the apartment stands in the middle of a trash filled empty lot, surrounded by a really sorry excuse for a fence. You can tell that before several tons of bombs followed by several decades of complete neglect, these few thousand bricks topped by two oxidized Greek-like sculptures was probably a magnificent structure.

In another parallel to LA, the streets are deserted. One looks up and down the large boulevards and they are lined with boxy 10 story apartment complexes. And then one looks around at the sidewalks and the courtyards where one couple maybe walks a dog and few kids kick around a soccer ball. Where are all the people? They can’t all be sleeping or watching television. Or can they?

A brighter spot is Potsdamer Plotz, which is one of the weirdest mall complexes i’ve ever seen. Only the Universal City Walk can be considered a distant cousin to this experiment in glass, neon, and climate control. There’s an elliptical glass dome that tops the complex, from which a giant, disturbingly asymmetrical, metal spike hangs suspended. I considered that a medium sized sneeze could bring it crashing down into the reflecting pool beneath, with the entire glass roof coming trailing behind. Oh, and spotlights light up the thing from the inside and out, changing colors every 10 seconds or so. All the surrounding buildings are made of glass as well. My main thought was how the thing would withstand a truck crashing into its base. Would there just be a big hole at the bottom? Or would the structure shatter in total the way a vase would? Probably the former.. smarty-pants architects.. For some reason being surrounded by that much glass sets my mind on destruction and nothing else. It was so bizarre, i liked it. I begged to eat dinner in the square. I’m glad it exists, and i’m glad it’s not in my city.

We also went to see the Berliner Philharmoniker (Berlin Philharmonic). When John first said he had tickets, i was content to drift through a sleepy hour or so in the presence of some nice acoustics. I had to get up at an ungodly hour to catch my 7am flight that morning so it might be a nice time for a nap i figured. Imagine my surprise at being so captivated. The conductor / musical director is Sir Simon Rattle, whose total rapture while conducting was so fun. At times his ecstasy was so much that it felt almost voyeuristic to watch. But mostly it was just great fun. The Philharmonic – who knew?

As befitting a city of neglect, my phone and camera battery both promptly died upon arrival, so i only have a couple of pictures of it all. We did take tours through the Mini showroom, the Volkswagon showroom, and stopped to look at several antique cars including a classic Bugatti which had John practically foaming at the mouth. I’m not particularly interested in cars beyond the novelty of the shiny paint and the new car smell, but it is nice to be in the presence of real enthusiasm and admiration. We also managed to have excellent food across the board including, bar none, the best tomato cream soup i’ve ever had, a complete surprise to my spoiled French palette. All in all i was psyched to get out of Paris for the weekend, and then quite happy to return. I also picked up some pretty snazzy postcards. If you haven’t sent an address for one yet, get your order in now.

Oh, and the german i learned : Wo Ist Die Toilettes? : Where are the toilettes?

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