Monday, June 20, 2005

Berlin, final note (I hope)

I promised to say something about the sightseeing in Berlin. Now we have photos - I'll scan them in a minute.

We saw some pretty ordinary views, Brandenburg etc. etc. I even forget the names of the places. I'm not much of a sightseeing man and could be more interested in the forgotten buildings in side streets. But hey, once you go to Berlin, you can't skip the essentials. (But hell, we didn't even see the Reichstag - from a S-Bahn window, yes, but not from the inside.)

The new holocaust memorial by Daniel Libeskind was quite impressive, even though contradictory. Due to bad weather, though, we didn't spend much time between the concrete blocks. The thing raised more questions than it was capable of answering. I've read that the thing has been accused of making Jews nameless victims, instead or real persons in real history - and I think that's a right thing to say. But the memorial is good to produce a sense of claustrophobia and angst. I can imagine that if you spend some two hours between the blocks, you just want to get out. The memorial shows that the German government really cares about the issue: the thing is in the middle of the city and takes a huge place of surely a very expensive lot. It's no light feat to have the history of Germany.

We dropped by the former East Berlin side and visited a large shopping mall (the name of which I already forgot). The city also seems to forget its history very easily and very quickly: only 15 years back this was a communist country and hostile to capitalist ideology of shopping. Now there was a huge temple dedicated to spending money (or "usura", as Ezra Pound used to say). I don't personally mind and I actually liked shopping in there. (I would've liked to shop at the expensive boutiques at Ku'damm, Louis Vuitton and the others, but maybe I should have more money... Maybe there are some bestsellers waiting for me to write them...)

Architecturally the mall was very interesting and very bold - something you'd never see in Finland. In Berlin it seemed quite ordinary. I also visited the film museum that was located near the mall. It was quite nice, good balance between the experience-oriented and the fact-oriented museum. I was only wondering why the German post-war film got so little attention, with Fassbinders and all. They also had a smaller room for the stop motion technique of Ray Harryhausen. I haven't seen many of his films, such as Jason and the Argonauts, but now I'd really like to take a look. The museum had a small theater that showed classics, foreign films and new marginal movies, but the films showing at the time didn't seem very interesting. A week earlier they had been showing Erle Kenton's Island of Lost Souls! If only I'd been there...

As for the former East Berlin, there were many bits of it still showing - for example, the clock of the world or Weltzeituhr that is the monument to the solidarity between the peoples of the world and the peace etc. etc. Yeah, right. Some of the DDR buildings were collapsing and were only waiting for the machines to tear them down. But it does make the city more interesting: it has two histories and they can never be totally united.

My overall impression of Berlin was that it was too large. I'm accustomed to smaller circles. But now Turku seems too small.. it was a bit depressing to get back home and see the same old places that you've seen so many times. Maybe this is what happens every time when you travel - keep in mind that this was my first true trip abroad. Now I really see why there's no real café culture in Turku. And now I see the limits of the Finnish yoghurt production: where's the fig yoghurt or the marzipan yoghurt? Only the same old vanilla and strawberry...

I have a feeling I'm forgetting something. There was lots of stuff to see, as in other major cities in the world, and I want to get on with the scanning, so I'll rest my case. Many thanks to Päivi, our host and guide! It was a nice trip. Maybe I got bitten by a travel bug...

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