Every hotel in the city was booked for the Berlin Marathon. Stressful, but I was getting used to it by now: the tired scramble to find accommodations in a strange city. Scotty (a drinker, he) and I pleaded with a hotel clerk to call around for us. He found us a cheap, dirty room in East Berlin, somewhere in that maze of unlit streets and alleyways where you got the feeling that, in the wrong circumstances, you could get into trouble if you weren't careful. But we were two strong young men, so no worries, eh?
|Somewhere along the line...|
Back on the U-Bahn. Back to the room. Crash.
***The next day started late. Breakfast downtown, there to be approached at our table by homeless gypsies begging for coins. Berlin is not Stockholm or Oslo. There are beggars here. "Raus, raus," shouted the headwaiter, shooing them on.
Daytime Germans are very different from those of the night. During the day, they are all business, in that uniquely Prussian way: stingy with their smiles, quick and purposeful in their step. These are a deliberate people, with a sense of their own greatness. Some might call it arrogance.
We visited the impressive, newly reconstructed Reichstag. The Reichstag, symbol of a recently united Germany, rose from the rubble that was Berlin in 1945; up from out of the debris and wreckage left behind by Hitler and his minions as they fled this mortal plane, the Red Army soldiers hot on their heels. Five thousand Russians died in the advance from the Spree River to the Reichstag. The scars from the war were still there: bullet-pocked colonnades.
From the roof of the new government building we looked out on a forest of construction cranes, midwives of modern Berlin, the economic epicenter of the infant European Union.
|Fragment of a wall between East and West|
We saw the ruins of the SS dungeons and other reminders of the grim past, of the dangers that loom when a people in crisis unite and lend their strength and discipline to the cause of fanatics and demagogues.
|A gray past... a brighter future?|
Scotty (a drinker, he) and I went to Brandenburg Tor that night, to drink and party. There was a Japanese glam rock group playing Beatles' cover tunes. Party on, you crazy Prussians. Du verrückte Deutsch.
Tomorrow, we leave for Prague!
To be continued...
- Pt. I Amsterdam - Arnhem - Copenhagen
- Pt. II Copenhagen - Oslo
- Pt. III Bergen
- Pt. IV Flam fjord - Goteborg
- Pt. V Stockholm - Gavle - Stockholm
- Pt. VI Berlin
- Pt. VII Prague
- Pt. VIII Budapest
- Pt. IX Vienna
- Pt. X Munich
- Pt. XI Salzberg - Innsbruck
- Pt. XII Venice - Florence
- Pt. XIII Siena
- Pt. XIV Rome
- Pt. XV Naples - Pompeii
- Pt. XVI Cinque Terre - Geneva
- Pt. XVII Avignon
- Pt. XVIII Arles
- Pt. XIX Barcelona
- Pt. XX San Sebastian
- Pt. XXI Bordeaux - St. Lo
- Pt. XXII Paris
- Pt. XXIII Brussels - Waterloo
- Pt. XXIV Brugge
- Pt. XXV Amsterdam at last