Shake 238: October in Berlin

November 29, 2010

Me, Berlin (Germany), Oct 2010

I read somewhere that your ‘morning eyes’ are different to your ‘afternoon and evening eyes’. What you see at high noon looks totally different when the dusk drifts and settles itself comfortably over it. I think this is also true of seasons and cities. A snow-blanketed city will definitely be a different experience to the same city, slow under the weight of the summer heat. I’d never been to Berlin til this year, but I’m sure my opinion was coloured by the beauty of its autumn shades. Everywhere you turned, there was a harmony of red, gold, earth and green, and when the wind decided it was time to move on, it would leave behind a shower of leaves making me stop in my tracks. These surprising bursts were frequent because we walked all over the city – another benefit of visiting during the chillier months. When you walk, you stay warm and you convince yourself those currywursts and bratwursts that came along for the journey are no longer guilty added kilos, but much needed fuel!

We stayed in what was formerly East Berlin in a grand, refurbished old building that was a neo-classical residential palais in a past life. And because this past life flattened much of the city, its present reflection was a beautiful blend of historic buildings and modern, stylish architecture. One such example is Norman Foster’s Reichstag: an awe-inspiring glass dome built over parliament. I wonder whether I was more impressed with it because I had a strange feeling of being inside a snow dome! Passing through the usual stringent security which is slowly becoming part of normal life, you are armed with an audio guide that knows your exact location as you walk along the path that spirals around the dome perimeter up to the peak. Your 360 degree view of the city means a lot more after you’ve walked around most of it over the preceding days. As you reach the top and look down the centre over parliament, you notice the largest leaf-like form covered in solar panels. This acts as a sunshade and moves around the centre of the dome throughout the day to catch the free energy that powers the building. Yet another example of impressive engineering and design here, I really should have kept a tally of how many of these wide-eyed, head-nodding moments I had in Berlin.

Although Germans are generally well known for their precision, they also have a sophisticated design style. This was apparent in everyday graphics all over the city – from advertising to simple male/female symbols on bathroom doors. I was particularly enamoured with Ampelmännchen, their walk/don’t walk symbol at crossings (one of the few remnants of the communist East) and even more delighted when we discovered an entire store dedicated to this graphic device. And of course, there had to be an Ampelmännchen snow dome.

The Reichstag

'Dawn eyes'

Brandenburg Gate

Autumn hues and shoes!

Guess who in the Tiergarten?

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