So yes, we were in Berlin, and we went with Little A (who is now 10 and not that little any more.) It was a postponed trip that had to be put off in February because I was ill, and quite different from what it would have been in February. For a start, we could walk through the streets without being frozen to bits. And so we got the chance to stop and examine this manhole cover, which has a good selection of hints about what to see in the city.
The manhole cover didn't show Checkpoint Charlie, seen below with some pretty unconvincing soldiers (who are however having a great time.) We thought Little A would be interested in Checkpoint Charlie, but actually he found the whole idea of the Berlin Wall odd, weird and grim. Which of course it was. Perhaps we have become so used to it that we have forgotten that it represents something considerably more than an opportunity for souvenir sellers.
I also associate Berlin with all those famously well drilled and tough Prussian soldiers, but of course there are
endless stories of horror and war to be found at every turn of its hard-edged streets. Despite this, Berlin is a cultural hotspot, and its many museums include one about the Bauhaus - a style that transformed architecture, and certainly seems to evoke the city's style.
We didn't focus on history that much on this trip, but Little A did want to see the Computer Games Museum - a place we'd never have gone on our own. The museum offers the chance to play so many retro games - you'll probably remember them. Had you forgotten how good PONG is? Or perhaps you never knew? As you can see the museum provides a specially designed 1970s living room to play PONG in....
And it had a super Pac-Man arcade game
(Play Pac-Man online and very small here.) And Mario Brothers. The museum even had filmed interviews with the guy who composed the music!
The giant joystick was popular
And here's early Pokemon ...
but the museum goes back much further than this, right to the dawn of computing, the noughts and crosses game created in 1952 for the EDSAC computer and far too difficult to play without extensive training. Here is an ad for the Geniac Electric Brain from the mid fifties
and I was pleased to see they had a working ELIZA, the very first online therapist from 1965
and the chocolates are truly fabulous. We bought a box, and as you see they are very pretty and are also in delicious and unusual flavours. You can choose each chocolate individually to go into a fancy gold and dark green box. With the Euro quite low against the pound, we found the price of this (and everything else in Berlin) very reasonable.
We spent some time shopping, and this unusual sculpture in a shopping mall delayed us for a while. It seems to be made entirely of rubbish, or perhaps it is graffiti sprayed iron sheeting. What do you think?
As I said, although Berlin is full of museums and art, I don't think even its best friend could describe it as "quaint," "colourful" or "charming." This picture, showing the remains of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in the Breitscheidplatz,offers a desolate vista. Ugly though the scene now is, it has an interesting history.
Dating from the 1890s, the old church was something of a showpiece in its day. Here are some of the fin-de-siecle mosaics which still survive in the base of the ruined bit.
All that is left now is the broken old spire, bombed by the Allies in 1943, and a hallway below. It is linked to what is surely one of the world's ugliest churches, designed by Egon Eiermann. Its mean tower is made of grey concrete and studded with countless square little windows like you get in public toilets. Here's a clearer picture just to show it in its full exterior ugliness.
Inside, though, things improve. Each of those thick little glass windows is actually made of deep blue glass and the overall impression is unearthly and imposing. Even though the space seems claustrophobic and badly proportioned, there is something very memorable about this dark blue place with its huge, bright, sad Jesus.
Such a pity that nobody stopped Eiermann from creating something that looks so awful from outside. Unless, of course, they wanted it to be ugly and grim. I suppose that's possible.
The square also contains a fountain surrounded by a collection of bizarre sculpture and I believe the whole array is known as "Weltkugelbrunnen." I am afraid I've not been able to find out much information about what it all means, and why it looks like this, so if you know, please tell me. There must surely be an interesting story behind it. There are more photos of it (in better weather) here. Meanwhile feast your eyes on these.
There are still many "Plattenbauten" concrete apartment blocks lining the big wide streets in the Eastern part of the city, although many of them have been renovated now and are probably considered rather cool. Little A. did not mind this kind of architecture at all - in fact, he liked it. He also loved the excellent modern playgrounds opposite our hotel.
I can recommend our hotel by the way. It's one of the few in the city that has an indoor pool and that was a massive hit with Little A. We don't usually use hotel pools but in fact, encouraged along by him, we found we liked it so much that we went there twice a day - it also has a sauna, jacuzzi and well equipped gym. It was unsupervised and empty most of the time, and Little A. had fun running the wrong way round on the treadmill which was probably a bit dangerous, although when I remember what we did I feel that kids probably need to do things like that. He came to no harm, anyhow.
The hotel consisted of small and larger suites containing well equipped kitchens. It was called the Adina Checkpoint |Charlie, and it was reasonably priced, sparklingly clean, near the station, near Fassbender & Rauch - and there was a Lidl supermarket just across the road so we could cook Little A the food he liked. What more could you want?
A bit of romance, perhaps? No, only joking.
Sorry for the pun in the title of this post. Lidl uses it on its (increasingly frequent and annoying) ads here in Britain.