Laurent and I are currently on a little extended weekend break in Berlin. One of the pleasures of living in Rome – and despite my bitching there are many – is that you are only an hour or two away from most major European cities: London – 2 1/2 hours, Athens 90 minutes, Berlin 2 hours. And the many discount airlines that service the city always have deals on the go.
Despite my unfortunate experience with EasyJet two weeks ago – and that really wasn’t their fault, I mean a strike in Italy who would have thought????? – we flew with them this past Friday. The Berlin flight leaves from Ciampino, Rome’s other airport. As airports go its small but surprisingly efficient, we were through check-in in 20 minutes and through security in minutes. If we had left from Fiumicino, the big airport, we would probably still be waiting in the security line up. Just proves that things can be made to work in Italy, all you need is the will.
It has been almost 10 years since we were last in Berlin and Monday will be the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall. We will be missing the major celebrations as we are leaving Monday afternoon but the city is still very much “en fete” for the occasion. And I’m not sure I want to stand in the predicted rain with thousands of people at the Brandenburg Gate.
This is my fourth visit to Berlin, the third since the country was reunited. I was first in Berlin when it was still a divided city – my friend Gary and I came here in the mid-80s. I recall as our flight took us over East Germany our aircraft was escorted by two MIG-jets almost all the way into the city. It was a cold, damp dreary few days and the Day of Atonement, a major Lutheran holiday that meant everything was closed. We stood at Checkpoint Charlie and looked over the wall. We planned to go into East Berlin but the slow crawl on the U Ban that took us through ghost stations and our arrival at Fredrichstrasse station to find a platform lined with soldiers changed our minds. It was an unsettling experience as I recall feeling trapped and a German I met explained that it was like living on an Island.
Today we are staying in a hotel a block away from that same station and, except for dinner last evening, haven’t left Mitte (formerly part of East Berlin) since we arrived. The purpose of this little jaunt was to see the newly renovated Neues Museum and the new Museum of German History. Everything we wanted to see on this trip is within walking distance and had we decided to go to the opera or theatre all of the more well known venues are near by. That and some great restaurants and cafes.
The weather has been a bit on the chilly side and today was foggy but we had the warmth of Friday lunch with our old friend Daryl from Warsaw plus lunch with our friend Ben and then dinner with him, his mom Debbie, cousin Barb and their friend Susan.
I’ll have a bit more to report in the next day or two but now its time for kafe und kuchen – coffee and cake! And what better place than the Operapalais Cafe.
Sadly all I can do – damn gluten intolerance – is press my nose against the glass and salivate over Europe’s largest cake buffet.
08 novembre – Santi Quattro Coronati