Brussels/Berlin 2023

Friday 14th July 2023 – Der DDR

One of the reasons I like to stay so long in a location, is to avoid the feeling of having to “run myself ragged”, seeing much in a short period of time. As a result, I had no problem spending much of the morning sleeping in, doing a workout, showering, doing my washing, and submitting my Tax Return. I have no idea why the last activity occurred but for whatever the reason, it seemed the right time to complete this particular bureaucratic process.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs on toast with tea taken on my balcony. I read my book while some children in the garden below sat a table painting, supervised by an adult. Whether this was a summer club, small school, or a family group I couldn’t tell but I was pleased they were enjoying themselves away from screens.

I should mention at this point, the strange joy I am experience having easy access to a device to wash my clothes. I have been fairly open about having experienced homesickness in the past, particularly during my round the world trip in 2010-2011. I have since found that in fact it may not have been the “hills and glens of Scotland” I was pining for but perhaps a sense of my own space and ability to complete small aspects of domestic life. Here, this was no problem.

Ablutions, breakfast, washing, and Tax Return completed, I ventured south towards a museum I was eager to explore – the “DDR Museum”. I had in fact seem this museum highlighted in the programme “Travel Man” hosted by the wonderful Richard Ayoade and wanted to get my own perspective.

The museum was excellent and gave a comprehensive view of the history, culture, and way of life when this area was known in my country as “East Berlin”. It gave a strong impression of the complex political system, at the face of it involving many stakeholders but in reality controlled by a small number of the political elite. I considered as to whether this is any different to any modern and so called “democratic” political system but had to abandon this thought for fear of instigating an existential crisis that might mar my holiday.

The climax of the museum was a series of rooms set out in the style of a DDR apartment. Having been born in a period where the some of the styles in the apartment were “all the range”, I was surprised at how much was strangely familiar or at least was a “copy” of the world I experienced as a child. Suffice to say I enjoyed a longer period of time than perhaps many would spend here exploring the drawers, and cupboards, the recipes showing highly coloured food, and watching the programmes on the television set. While I now had some understanding of the political restrictions placed on the lives of the DDR population, it seems that there were many aspects of day to day life that would have been familiar to me as a child of the 80s. I left the museum feeling better informed than I had been when I entered.

I rested for a moment with a coffee and a cookie at an establishment across the river from the museum before taking myself around the surrounding area. Here there were many beautiful buildings such as the Cathedral, the Old Museum, and the Palace. There was also a monument to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, essentially the “fathers” of the philosophy that led to the founding of the DDR. I do not know enough about either of these men to comment on their motives but as always, I wonder what they would have thought if they had known the path their philosophies would take. Again, I left this thought and tried to focus on being on holiday.

On my way back north, I visited a supermarket for some fruit, wine, beer, and other essentials. I was particularly proud to have managed to buy three slices of salami that I intended to have with my breakfast the next morning. I conducted this transaction in a mixture of English words, pointing at meat, and holding up fingers. I am always embarrassed about my lack of ability to form intelligible speech in any language other than the bizarre form of Scots-English that comes out of my mouth. Incidentally, the Lewis Capaldi song “Someone You Loved” was playing on the supermarket tannoy and given that I regard him as a fellow countryman, I decided that this was a sign that buying these goods was the right thing to do.

Further up Brunnenstraße, I stopped at an established called “The Wash”, for drinks and a moment of rest. My attempt at utilising my broken Standard Grade German was met with perfect English from the charming bartender. I particularly enjoyed a cocktail called “Beer and Butter” that he recommended. It contained the longest ice cube I have ever encountered.

I made my rather wiggly way north up Brunnenstraße towards my accommodation. Across the road was a “Döner” take away. There are many of these in the city due to the large population of Turkish-German heritage. I ordered the “Mix-Döner” and enjoyed this on my balcony accompanied by a German Rotwein, feeling I had very much made the most of this day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *