Monday, October 01, 2012
Don't Mention Berlin
I'm standing in a flea-market in Berlin. A young American girl walks past, dragging her hot German boyfriend.
"Oh wow, this stuff is amazing," American girl enthuses. "We have a wonderful word for this, you know. Kitsch."
"Yes," says her boyfriend, "we have that too."
Going to Berlin is a little bit like going on holiday to the Death Star. You can try very hard, but you can't quite forget that something dreadful happened here. There's still an abundance of wide-open spaces, leafy gaps appearing in rows of houses, sudden wastelands glimpsed as your train crosses districts.
You're even reminded of it in museums. I went to see the Pergamon Museum (do go - there's almost an entire Greek Temple and the Gates of Babylon. Indoors. Amazing), and even there there's a small exhibit explaining how the temple was damaged during the bombing, taken by the Soviets, and grudgingly recovered. It was then that they realised that still more bits went missing, and someone had the job of touring the home counties, visiting members of the English army who had taken away the odd souvenir.
It's a curious sensation - amusement parks are designed to give you safe, exciting thrills - and you get a similar sense of artificial danger sneaking around a closed one, trying to avoid the security company. We dodged one patrol and fell through some bushes onto a forgotten railway track. It is, actually, quite hard running on a railway. We ended up crouched by a stagnant log flume as a police car and a bicycle patrol went past our heads. It was at this point I said to my boyfriend, "Well, we've climbed over a wall and we're being chased by guards. In East Berlin." Hipsters have reinvented the cold war.
We left, feeling very daring. We then passed a crowd of American tourists kicking a padlock before clambering through a massive hole in the fence. They strolled around, taking photos with the flash on and laughing about how, if they met any guards, they'd just bribe them.
Later on, we went to a bear bar. Two giant screens hung over the bar. One showed bear porn. The other showed The Muppet Show. The bears stood around trying to be serious and growly (although one tried to chat another up by pointing at the Muppets' guest star and cooing "That's Gilda Radner. She's fabulous!").We stood around laughing at the terrible carpet in the porn.
When we left, my boyfriend complained "It's weird knowing everyone's looking at you working out how much you'd cost." He paused. "I'm sure you must have felt that way once."