Leaving East Berlin

A touch of lastminute-ism meant that we didn’t have much choice of hostel in Berlin and ended up at “East-Seven” located, presumably, in the E7 district a few U-Bahn stops away from Alexanderplatz. Here the famous TV tower emerged through a chilly mist to overlooked the seasonal funfair and Christmas Market that were not quite yet open for business. The hostel wasn’t too bad although Izzy did have a whole packet of Baby-Bell cheese stolen and a bunch of drunks (alas more than half of them British) stayed up all all night and trashed the place. It’s difficult to recall who apologised the most; the staff members telling us that the accommodation was not usually like that or us explaining that the Englanders were not typical either.

I had specified a stop off in Berlin for three reasons: I wanted to re-visit Museum Island for myself and felt that Izzy needed a trip on the One Hundred sightseeing bus to get a feel for this unique city. Also Boris had an important appointment to keep at the Reichstag.

Since I was last in this city (discounting quick stop-overs) I’ve spent time visiting the major collections in Dresden and Munich and begun to fill in some of the lamentable gaps in my understanding of the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire and the colossal influence and wealth that they wielded in Medieval Europe. Fragmentation into multiple smaller princedoms and ducal estates meant that the Germanic regions had declined considerably in power by the Napoleonic Wars, a fate much lamented* by Frederick William IV of Prussia, “the Romantic King”. As well as an extensive programme of public building, this moderate ruler** set about dedicating the island centrepiece of the city to the arts and sciences.

It takes more than a day to get around the principal exhibits of this concentration of museums, notwithstanding the reasonably priced combined ticketing, helpful signage and conveniently placed coffee and cake stops. A “one bite at a time” maxim needs to be carefully applied here but I’ve visited before and will no doubt be back with various of my grandchildren on further occasions. The Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Classical collections housed here are simply incomparable and, as well as becoming re-acquainted with certain special favourites***, I was impressed with the way in which work continues on restoration and recovery following the devastation of WW2 and the despoilment of the Soviet occupation.

Alas, Boris and the other three horsemen were a little late for their appointment at the German Parliament. Presumably they had been partying a bit too hard the night before but, in spite of the fact that the light had already faded, I was able to persuade a bunch of Spanish students to pose with Messrs Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg and Gove to suitable effect. Actually the only reason the other three came along with BoJo on this trip was because I received them as a freeby when I ordered a new Boris mask before setting off.

However, my encounter with Albrech Durer’s woodcut earlier in the trip had got me thinking about what this quartet of unrepentant disaster capitalists have in store for my country of birth. It looks to me as if all this chumming up to the Trump Administration threatens to bring American nuclear weapons back onto our soil, repulsive chemical interference to our food production and extortionate drug prices to our hospitals. Well, that takes care of the first three so who gets the encounter with the Pale Horseman when all’s said and done? With all that I experienced during the earlier years of my London police career, it really hurts me to have to say this but I think we have seen peace in Northern Ireland sacrificed on the altar of Mr Johnson’s political ambition. I don’t even want to think about what will come next.

(* and even more so by Adolf Hitler in his desire to return Germany to what he referred to as the “first Reich”)

(** at least in comparison to his successors)

(*** however culturally understanding I try to be, I still think that there is a special place in hell for the iconoclasts who smashed the nose off of the “Green Head”)

Categories: Europe

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