What use is a day in Berlin – how can such a complex collage be comprehended in a day, in any way, other than first impressions ?
But first impressions count for a lot. And anyway, the difference between having been to Berlin for a day and not having been there at all is infinite.
Highlights, apart from Queen Nefretete – my paradigm of beauty redefined (1340 BC) – include the Neues Museum, like the city but more honed – gracious, grand and gritty – and the walk from East to West by night.
The damage of post-war de-densification, like so many other cities, runs deep. The layers of the map show post-war pink and pre-war grey, and the thick green line; now a barely discernible seam.
Words and images interweave, networks overlap in the courtyards of public and private life. Battle-scars are cherished, in ongoing combat between gentrification and repair.
Is the Neues Museum a microcosm of Berlin ? Collage layers of colour, light and time. More full than empty; content laden, with plenitude and generosity. An essay in aspiration, aggregation and appropriation.
Berlin is polished and rough hewn – well-made. Its cracked surfaces delight and intrigue; many greys, with yellow, white, green and pink.
On first inspection it seems to combine Babylonian ambition with improvised (and institutionalised ?) bohemia.
Like all patchwork cities it has been arranged and disarranged. Tangible memory; even for a one-day visitor.
Naked imperfection; accretions of moss and smoothed, compacted dirt.
Even the concrete weeps.
Quiet streets and calm sleep.