Archive for the 'Berlin' Category


Berlin Again

Ok this is me trying to catch up big time.

Berlin, my second (recent ish) trip was as L is saying over on Facebook about cake. A Sacha Torte, a Praline Torte and a Apfelstrudel to be exact. The last being the pièce de résistance. I met an old classmate as well as L and I’m sure she thinks I live on cake alone.

Apart from eating cake it was all about height: the top of the Reichstag, the top of the Neue Synagogue, the top of the Fernsehnturm… coincidence… I’ll have to have a think.

And reclaiming things: a bench in the Tiergarten, the German flag, the Reichstag, a Jewish film.

And an ever expanding flee market…

Climate Change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Download from here. 2500 scientists from 130 countries and 6 years research. The report backs up what we* already believe, but maybe drums it in a little bit more, which can only be good. When I was in Berlin the awareness of environmental issues were everywhere, where they are not here. Solar panels on roofs, bins for different types of waste on the street and in train stations. L had a whole stack of cloth bags for grocery shopping; absolutely no free plastic bags at supermarkets and lights on timers. There was even a joke in my guidebook about different coloured bins for recycling in every courtyard for every residential building.

[* Maybe this is a royal ‘we’, cos obviously not everyone believes this.]

Thinking back

on 2006. So this is what I came up with for my year in 24 words:

Techno leap. Braces. Finally a digital camera. Bad wrist; no exercise. Bleak House continued. Film zombie. An answer? New ancestry. Berlin. More grounded. Friends.

Just rereading it now I could start adding to it, but on the whole I think it sums up my year. The techno leap refers to all the stuff I’ve had to learn for Frizz, which has been a step into the complete unknown. The braces, well they are now a part of me and I flaunt them gleefully, I’m not sure me a year ago would have believed that, I was still so reticent about getting them. A digital camera has just been a joy, but the bad wrist has not. Eight years of yoga slowly going down the drain, I can feel the whole way I move is different. Bleak House might be ‘over’, I don’t want to go there until it’s in writing, it would be such a relief though. Film zombie is a reference to the film festival where I outdid myself, I’m still too embarrassed to say exactly how many films I saw and I never did do a best of, but I’ll mention them as and when they come out. Even though it got a bit much at the end (as it always does) I had a great time. An answer, well that’s something personal and not for here, at least not right now. I discovered that one branch (or at least one branch) of my family came from Portugal way back when and I’m now in contact with at least five new relations, some of them as close as second cousins and some as distant as sixth cousins. I finally made it to Germany as an adult and was moved and home and alienated and met one of the new relations and I’m still getting my head around it all. I do feel more grounded and if I’d had space I would have added that I’m learning to trust my instincts more as well. And friends, because they are wonderful and keep me sane.

Historical ties

I’ve just found out that I have an ancestor who in 1609 was burnt at the stake by the Portuguese Inquisition. I think that might be more information than I wanted or needed to know.

Answers and questions

Well, we spoke for ages and the new, ‘new cousin’ seems very nice and really she didn’t know anything about us. I admit it, I have an odd family. It was one of those conversations where an answer would lead to another question. Not only didn’t she know about us, but she didn’t know about various ancestors who at the very least, because for one reason or another they are quite interesting, I thought she would have known about. Her story regarding the black sheep being sent to America is completely the other way around – that he saved his pocket money and ran away…. first to London, where he worked to save the passage for America. It’s all very intriguing, although my aunt is adamant that my grandfather put him on the boat! I couldn’t understand as we had all had contact with the genealogist, how we hadn’t known about each other, but the genealogist hadn’t thought to give us the further generations – I guess he thought we already knew of each other, a fair assumption to have made. A said if it was her she’d be tempted to get on a plane and I am.

Pandora doing her thing

So the story continues, there was a black sheep in the family; one of my grandfather’s siblings was packed off to America as a young boy in the 1920’s. I didn’t consciously know about this side until a few years ago and no one that I know has had contact with them since perhaps the 1950’s. So the ‘new cousin’ was asking me what I knew and I had to say nothing, but there were children and grandchildren and great grandchildren leading from this branch on his family tree, but genealogists seem to ‘swap’ information so he didn’t know them either. By the time L and I had arrived back in Berlin he had done a search, found an email for someone whose name matched a person on his tree and sent a message. Me of little faith, I thought there’s no way it’s going to be right, but low and behold an email arrives back, the ‘new cousin’ had indeed found the relation and they in turn didn’t know anything about us. This is all very surreal and rather amazing. His daughter is going to call me this evening.

Yesterday, I finally joined Skype and let the programme do an automatic search for contacts and the first call I had, within minutes of joining, was from another person who is a very distant relative, actually I’ve no idea how, but also another genealogist (something in the genes?). The sad thing is that I’ve had contact with him, as has the new cousin and the branch in America in the past, but he seemed unaware that none of us knew each other and from what I can gather we are all more closely related to each other than he is to us. During the conversation he mentioned another person, this time in England and when I commented that I’d never heard of him, he said “but he’s your relation”. The mind boggles. He’s promised to send me some details – I feel like I’ve opened a Pandora’s box or am playing parce the parcel and the music’s got stuck and I’m unwrapping all the layers.

Berlin Selection

Berlin days

Getting used to using a German keyboard.

I got very wet on the first day and am now fighting a cold. L is giving me drugs. Yesterday, we spent the morning talking, so I rushed off late to see the German History Museum and ended up at the Rebecca Horn exhibition, a spontaneous change of plans on the train as it closed later. I loved and hated it, understood it and didn’t have a clue. The building though, it was in the Martin Gropius Bau, was stunning. I tried to get to the German History Museum again today and ended up at the Jewish quarter instead. The Neue Synagogue is beautiful – from the outside – of course I would choose Saturday to go there. At least I knew it would be closed and I have a good excuse to go back. I got emotional at Der verlassene Raum [I’ll add the photo’s when I get back]. And at what was Berlin’s first Jewish old people’s home, which was where deportations to the camps started from and next door to it the Alter Jüdischer Friedhof (Old Jewish Cemetery) which was completely desecrated. Then I went to an opening of a modern art exhibition – sort of by chance – it was a bit extreme self-harm, filming shooting yourself kind of art – I didn’t stay for long. I finished the day with Pumkin suppe, which was reviving and the worst Apfelstrudel I’ve ever had, or at least I remember having… Oh and somewhere in the middle I saw how hard sweets are made… which was fun.

We are off to see the newly found ‘cousin’ tomorrow…

Berlin – First day

Faces that look oddly familiar walking down the street, dark hair, half sentenses understood, a smile on my face, chickening out of trying to use my rusty German. So far I feel comfortable, even a New York kind of comfortable, I’m thinking about that. I walked through the Brandenburg gate, which I remember stopping in front of in a bus the last time I was here, when the wall was still up and Unter den Linden was in the East. I had the most divine hot chocolate at cafe Einstein and people watched. Friedrichstrasse, Alexanderplatz, Oranienburg names which seem to roll off my tough with ease. I went to visit the Pergamon Museum (like the British Museum) which my aunt had recommended, the last time she had visited was in 1937. I got a little emotional.