Near the apartment the Zionskirche emerges ruddy and defiant from behind bushels of leaves that were nowhere to be seen last time I walked here, frozen and looking for eats with Katie. Mitte and Prenzlberg are splendid in September sun, even if it doesn’t last all that long. While it does last we decide to head to the top of the Fernsehturm. The elevator only takes a handful of ear-popping seconds. The city was snow and ice monochrome last time I saw it from this height. Today it is blue and brown and bustling. As soon as I see the kitschy cocktail bar sign at the top I’m reminded of the film idea we devised on my last visit about a Fernsehturm barman who has worked in the tower before and after the fall of Communism. He eventually dies from the bends or something, or that’s what it seems like, perhaps it’s a broken heart. It is 1,605 kilometres to Moscow.
Back on the ground, the Radisson Hotel houses the AquaDom where thousands of tropical fish swim ceaselessly in a million litres of water suspended in the hotel foyer. It sounds strange, and it is, but it’s also grand and soothing. Next visit I will take the glass elevator that climbs up and down the centre of the spectral blue tank. It’s a little bit whale-y for my liking but I’ll manage.
The Humboldt Box is a temporary information and exhibition space overlooking the rebuild of the Stadstchloss Palace at Museum Island. I was going to try and discuss the debates surrounding the project, but I’m pretty sure I don’t get a vote. The Palace was a royal residence, a symbol of perpetual violence to the people by the Prussian Kings, built in a religious style to boot. Whatever degree of cultural vandalism you consider the GDR’s demolition of the Palace to be (and it was already in near-ruins following the bombings in WWII), the rebuilding project, even if it resurrects only the frontage, resurrects things some people might think were equally as inhuman as short-lived Communist oppression: christianity, militarism, royalty. I don’t think twenty-first century Berlin needs it. I don’t think they ever did. But then, Humboldt Box does a mean apple strudel and coffee and the building project will only get more enticing to watch as the months go by.
The ‘Mother and her dead son’ memorial is one of the saddest and loveliest pieces of public art I’ve seen. It’s raining a little when we’re there and she shelters her grown son’s head from the water that falls through the skylight above. People contemplate from a respectful distance but there’s really no need, it pays to stand close and see the grief on the dark bronze faces. From here I take an inevitable sad turn. Humboldt University courtyard over the way houses its own memorial, a set of underground bookshelves that stand empty to recollect the book burning that Goebbels held here in a futile attempt to murder ideas as well as people. Bullet holes in the pillars of the Alte Museum hypnotise me a bit. A man plays classical music on an electric piano nearby. There should always be music around, especially where there are bullet holes.