Monday, June 18, 2007

5 Comments from Berlin

1. The line of Ortlieb bicycle panniers in Berlin includes not only the red, black, yellow and green popular in London, but also silver and - my new favourite - orange.

2. Bagels - New York style, filled with cheese, and salmon - are all the rage in Berlin, served in the student cafes and in art galleries. P says that's a new development. Personally, I'm not too keen on bagels, unless its past midnight and I'm near the cheap 24 hour Brick Lane bagel shop: their bagels are very filling. But it's not something I grew up eating: unlike other Jewish East European foods, bagels never made it to Israel, that is until the 1990s and globalisation, when New York bagel shops started appearing. There are, of course, the Jerusalem bagels of the old city, but they are something completely different (I still have to find the history behind them) tastier - thinner, long and crispy, they are eaten with Zaatar (tyme, sesame, salt). - Pretsel, however, is a long tradition in Germany; strangely, they spell it Bretzel.

New York Bagel

Jerusalem Bagel

3. Cliches about Germany made me expect the train loudspeaker announcement to be delivered in a shrill and aggressive man's voice, ending with a stamping of his shiny boots. I was surprised to hear a woman's voice, almost whispering the names of the stations in the most seductive tone one can imagine. Sexier than any underground announcements I've ever heard, including Madrid.

4. The gap in the heart of Berlin, the legacy of the cold war, is still not quite filled. Construction work is largely over, but something still has to sink in, to take its shape. All the buildings - new or renovated - seem too clean. In former East Berlin, history was cleared away with the soot, and the result is somewhat contrived. Maybe it is yet too early, and things will congeal and flow. At the moment, like all large nationalistic projects of regeneration, there is still too many facades, and too little to bring them together.

5. It was my first time to Berlin and yet the city felt very familiar. Partly it's the modernist architecture which reminds me of Tel Aviv. But a lot of this familiarity is because of the beautiful children books of Erich Kästner which I read dozens of times as a child. Kästner's world of sausages restaurants, trams and cafes, and little boys who travel on the train to Berlin, was an fantasy land of which we knew nothing but could, somehow, imagine. These books are probably the reason for the dejavu feeling I had swimming in the small lake in the centre of a city park, and eating fried fish and Kartoffelsalat while standing by the bar in a west Berlin Deli-supermarket. There is more to say about that lost Europe and its resonance in a Israeli childhood.

Emil und die Detektive, in Hebrew

1 comment:

Lilli said...

hi dear,
if you are interested in ante litteram skipping there is a few seconds of 1957 skipping in Covent Garden market in a documentary about the market called "Every day except Christmas", in a series called "This is England". Check it out.