It continued as at the start of February, Deb and I flew north to Berlin. Yet again travel has blown away misconceptions. With the cold war hanging all over my youth, propaganda left me with the idea 'West' Berlin would be a much better place than the dour old Soviet era 'East' Berlin. How wrong. What was the 'East' is in fact what was the original old Berlin and all its history. And the DDR's showpiece. It now has so much more to offer as well.
Really, you should read Deb's blog page 'Berlin' at http://stayontheroad-nz.blogspot.com/ which really does our trip justice.
I just loved the whole time there. What especially? Hmmmm...
The angel statue atop Victory Monument, in the Tiergarten is just beautiful.
Bismark stands proud in granite form.
The higgledy-piggledy heights of the stone stelaes, contrasting with the orderly lines in both directions, of the Halocaust Memorial, is an awe-filling sensation to view.
We chose to visit the Pergamon Museum, from the number of first class museums on Museuminsel (Museum Island). Wow. The completely removed, reconstructed, and restored Istar Gate from Babylonia is something to be seen to be belived.It's approx. 2500 years old. Rows of lions stand in relief. My pick. Though the Pergamon Altar, hence the Museum's name, was also impressive. What I did find interesting was the PR releases justifying the museum's reasons for not returning treasures to their original countries. We witnessed a lot of the other side of the argument in newspapers and magazines in Egypt whilst on the Africa trip.
And sometimes, it's the little things. Like Ampelmann. The really neat little green walking man of the pedestrian crossing lights. And the Trabbies ... the Trabants, those quaint little heap of shit Soviet cars. A local said that people used prefer buying a second hand one: there was a chance they might go.
And I especially love tying loose ends when traveling, those coincidences and such like I've often written of. Like visiting the Jewish Museum, not only for its own architectural worth and interesting and not over-burdening story of Jewish history and culture, but because its first Director was none other than, the late, Nigel Cox, one time manager of Wellington's best book shop, Unity.
I can't leave Berlin without quoting one of a series of plaques embedded in the footpath of a street. It quotes Miguel Cervantes, famous Spanish author (Don Quixote):
"Travelling and sojourning among various people makes men wise."
Walking in and around Berlin is great. Their Metro is beaut. Beer, naturally, damn fine. Stacks of 'The Wall' reminders. The glass and chrome Norman Foster-designed dome addition sitting over the historicist Reichstag parliament is interesting, if not a bit incongruous. But all the reflections, mirroring, makes for some interesting photos.
Home. Antequera. And only a chance to catch breath and repack the bag.
Back to New Zealand, family and friends, in Wellington, for a fortnight. Wacko. The purpose: to play my part in the RoosterRacing.com team sucessfully defending the Men's Grade Trophy won at the Around Lake Taupo running relay. Mission accomplished.
It was so nice catching up with friends. Unfortunately the time constraint meant it had a slight business feel about it. Make appointments, meet, next! But I got to see all I wanted to at least once. It made me think that I wished I was there a bit longer, could spend some more time with people, but then I'd be back in Wellington, and ...
Just had to visit Unity. And again connecting those loose threads, spotted Nigel Cox's Phone Home Berlin: collected non-fiction (Victoria University Press, 2007). Posthumously put together by Fergus Barrowman. Hey, and there's Ampelmann on the front cover! A nice gift for the Deb, who didn't make the trip. But ... ahhhhhh ... Victoria University, takes you back.
I took every opportunity to catch up with my old mates, Ingrid and Peter, los sobrinos. I loved doing all the old favourite things with them. Picking them up from school, going to beaches, rock pools, cafes, parks... On my last afternoon, after school, we walked the harbour front (Pete stood "the closest I've ever been to a helicopter."), we spent a couple of hours rock climbing the walls at Ferg's, and finished off with dinner at One Red Dog. Really neat. I went directly to the airport with a big fat silly feeling welling inside. It was bit tough.
This time I flew back to London via a transit in Hong Kong. Couple of times I've gone through Singapore, but mostly via the US. It was a good change. Nobody on the plane, window seats galore, and daylight travel over Mongolia, Siberia, and smack bang over the top of Moscow. Makes a change. A chance to finish off Ghosts of Spain: travels through a country's hidden past by Giles Tremlett (Faber and Faber, 2006). Took a while longer to read than I would have thought - too much traveling around.
Deb had already flown up to London, staying at her sister's. Tracey had given birth to Zoe, the Zoster or is that Zo-star, on Christmas Eve. She is a real little cutie. We goo-ed and gah-ed, and she puked milk over our shoulder and farted on your hand while you held her. A real charmer.
While in London, we saw Saracens play Harlequins, at rugby. Tracey's man, Rhys is a real Saracens fan. Deb and I went to the Brit Museum, yet again. But during my visits to London, this time and in January, I made a point of catching up on some movies. Ang Lee's Lust, caution. Kite Flyer, based on Khalid Hosseini's book. Ian McEwan's (one of my favoured authors) Atonement. Slueth, I just like Michael Caine. And of course, The Cohen bros' No Country for Old Men. Got lucky - I liked them all.
But by now I was itching to hear the sound of Spanish, have lunch at three, tapas and cerveza at ten (pm), and just be surrounded by charming Antequera again.
Not such a bad option.