Thursday, September 07, 2006

More on Berlin

The Brandenburg Gate

The last time I was in Berlin with my friend Bibsi, around 1990 or a bit before that, the infamous wall had just been knocked down and small bits of it were being sold on Berlin's most famous street, K├╝rfurstendamm Str. (popularly known as the Ku'Damm) by canny entreprenuers - odd shaped pieces of stone and concrete rigged up with bits of barbed wire to lend it an appropriately sombre look. There was a lot of excitement in the air then, people either complaining about the unification and fearing the worst or bubbling with enthusiasm about starting a new life. The difference between east and west was very obvious at the time. West Berlin, like the rest of west Germany looked spanking clean, and wealthy while the east looked drab and grotty, with broken down sidewalks and grass growing between the huge cracks. Also noticeable was the absence of advertisements - of the huge hoardings otherwise looming over buildings and street corners and the traffic lights.

Today the difference is more difficult to spot. When Marlis drove me around day before yesterday I was amazed at how much has been achieved in such a short time. We started out with a look at the western part of the city with its sweeping avenues lined with chic stores and hotels. And I noticed how the eastern part of Berlin has caught up with the west in the short span of a decade or a little more than that. Today you find huge department stores selling all kinds of luxuries, sweeping apartment blocks, fancy restaurants and cafes. The works. Buildings like the Brandenburg Gate and other monuments, which earlier gave the city an oppressive air with their blackened facades have now been restored and almost sparkle with health.

All the sights were pointed out to me - Brandenburg Gate which marks the border between east and west Berlin, which was the site for all the celebrations when the wall came down; the Berlin Cathedral; the lively square at Alexander Platz, the operas and theatres, various museums, huge parks including the "Tiergarten" - an extensive park in Berlin where Marlis said the Love Parade was held. The Love Parade started off in 1989 as a political demonstration in favour of peace and international understanding in Berlin through music. Earlier it used to be held on the Ku'Damm but after 1996 was moved to the Tiergarten Park which provides lots of open space for the crowds which attend it.

It has been an easy stay here with Marlis and Michael. Every morning at about 8:30, before going to work, Michael serves me coffee in bed, a huge bowl of it topped with frothy milk. It's the first time as far as I can remember, that I've been served coffee in bed. Marlis then goes jogging and I settle down to do my yoga exercises, after which she and I retire to the kitchen for a veeery leisurely breakfast, either of Muesli and cream or bread, cheese, salami and orange juice and of course laced with choice gossip and discussion about the work we do with Samuel.

Today has been one of those rather warm sunny days so we decided to have breakfast in a nearby garden cafe. I chose a Spanish omlette which was stuffed with all kinds of vegetables and even had some chilli and Marlis went for scrambled eggs. For some reason they serve 3 eggs per portion instead of the usual 2. Had a leisurely stroll back home and now she is gone for her sewing lesson and I am relaxing here at the computer.

Love Parade 2001

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