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A collection of good reasons to visit Berlin

I have visited Germany several times – I lived there for about a month while a student (in the Moselle area) and briefly attended a Gymnasium school in the town of Ahrweiler, but have not yet been to Berlin, the capital. I have always had a good time in the country – the Rhineland is as impressive as the photos suggest – and this article by Tyler Cowen at his Marginal Revolution blog definitely makes me want to get on an aircraft and go there. I’d probably avoid it in the height of summer, though, not to mention the harsh Prussian winter.

Talking of Berlin, here is one of my favourite Michael Caine films. And of course David Bowie did a lot of his best work while living in the city.

Inevitably, when the name of Berlin comes up , it raises the issue of that palaver of 1939-45. Anthony Beevor’s book about the attack on Berlin in 1945 is a must-read. I remember there was an old guy who used to live in my parent’s village who was on pathfinders (Mosquitos) during WW2, and he played a part in the near-flattening of that city.

And of course, like many people of my generation, I vividly remember those scenes as beamed around the world of the Berlin Wall coming down, and imagining the joy of people in the East who were no longer treated like cattle in their own nation. I sometimes wish, naively, that there was more sense of shame among the hard left about its support for such a state of affairs. Let’s not forget that that overrated smart alec, JK Galbraith, made light of the wall and what it represented.

4 comments to A collection of good reasons to visit Berlin

  • My husband briefly visited East Berlin in the 1980′s as a graduate student, on a study trip that came under military auspices or sponsorship in some way. I forget the exact circumstances, but it was interesting that he was firmly told that if it looked like he was getting in any trouble with East German authority he was to say, “I demand to see the Russian officer.”

    The point being, I suppose, to reinforce the jurisdiction of the Western Allies in West Berlin by dealing only with their fellow Ally, the Soviet Union, in East Berlin, rather than acknowledging the jurisdiction of the East German state there. Astonishing to think that all this palaver was only a little over two decades ago.

    That we can now happily talk about the merits of the now-unified city as a tourist destination, complete with slides installed as a fun alternative to the escalator in a station on the U-bahn, is something to feel grateful for.

  • In the words of my friend G., to an officious resident of that city:

    “Oh, Berlin? My grandfather got about four miles from Berlin a dozen times or so.”

    The hun never got it.

  • There is, or at least there was, a creepy and outwardly derelict (apparently gutted by fire at some point) building on Oranienburg Strasse near the junction with Friedrich Strasse which houses on its first floor a nightclub of sorts populated by apparently far-left types and furnished with wall mounted flame throwers and copious anti-U.S. literature. This building stands directly opposite a series of quite middle-class looking coffee shops, restaurants and bars, which attract both tourists and locals – and in particular lots of charming women in their 20s and 30s who can teach you plenty of things quite apart from glottoral stops if only you can contrive to be funny in German…

    The larger area of Friedrich Strasse – which lies only a comparatively short distance behind the Reichstag – had formerly been the site of a great variety of prostitution during the hyperinflation that ruined Germany following Versailles. The prostitution is now confined to the lower (i.e. eastern) reaches of Oranienburg Strasse I believe, but that whole section of Berlin is quite freaky. There is also, or was, a very nice swimming pool near Zoologische Gartens which sits on top of a perhaps ten-story building and has connected outdoor and indoor sections. But of course, you must enter the pool naked.

    Vienna is very interesting too.

  • jsallison

    If I was to ever return to Germany my only desire(s) would be to walk down the hill into the town of Modlareuth (coupla k’s north of Hof) and have a beer on what used to be the eastern side of town. As part of 2ACR one of my periodic tasks on patrol of the IGB was to brief various and sundry (and some of them were pretty damn sundry) VIP’s whilst overlooking (yet another) Little Berlin, famed for being split by the border.

    Well, that and have another roulladen at Gasthof Vogel, formerly situated on a salient a coupla k’s north of Naila that allowed one to partake of comestibles whilst surrounded on three sides by the (soon to be deceased) evil empire.

    We won, bite me.