Sunday, November 19, 2006

An American in Berlin

In preparation for a business trip to Berlin, I consulted a travel guide called The Rough Guide to Berlin. Here's how the book described the city:

"No one would come to Berlin for light-hearted sightseeing: this is a profoundly scarred city... Berlin isn't a city where you can simply stroll and absorb the atmosphere...[P]oints of interest are, almost without exeption, sombre."


And here I'd actually extended my visit to allow for light-hearted sightseeing. Guess I'm going to have to stock up on the anti-depressants.

So, here I am, on the ground for two days, and my first advice is to never, ever buy a guidebook of the "Rough Guide" genre. Boy do they have it wrong. Berlin is a fascinating city, rich in culture. The architecture is breath-taking and the history runs very, very deep. To the extent there are "scars," they are the kind of scars that are consciously preserved for the amazing stories they tell. These stories are the fundamental stories of the 20th Century. The Kaiser Wilhelm Church, with everything but the steeple bombed away in WWII, preserved as an anti-war memorial. The remnants of the Berlin Wall, the guardhouse at Checkpoint Charlie. Amazing stuff. It's not for nothing that John Kennedy declared, "Ich bin ein Berliner!"
So rather than figure out what to do with myself in this "sombre" city, I find myself concerned that I do not have enough time to fully appreciate it. Sure will give it a try, though. Details to follow.

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