Gloss No.4                                                                                                           olvassa magyarul

Two days in Berlin

I spent two days in Berlin last week. Two years have gone since my last visit, which was my first unofficial one.

I have paid a few official visits to Berlin during the Condemned Regime and I hated it very much. Though both Hungary and East Germany belonged to the same lager I hated the open presence of the tools of dictatorship, the Wall, police cars with huge antennae at every corner, policemen in helmets and equipped with kalashnikovs walking even into restaurants. I hated the state of buildings: ruins still spoiling the view, scars of the war on the rest of the old buildings, the empty plots even in the "centre" of  East Berlin, the dominance of socreal architecture. I hated the resultes of the planning system infuencing every step of the inhabitants and visitors as well: you had to wait at least half an hour to get a table at restaurants, order taxi 24 hours in advance, doing your shopping in department stores full of people.

What I hated most was the behaviour of my partners: they were stone-minded, without any flexibility and they were clearly afraid of each-other. I made a sport of telling political jokes at every possible occasion, during business-encounters, lunches, dinners. You cannot imagine the effect: my partners not only did not smile at all, but stared at their plates, not lifting their heads for minutes.

What I liked was the public transportation system inherited from the fascist system and the Pergamon Museum.

I did not like Berlin during my first unofficial visit two years ago either. The city became too big for me, the scars of war were present without much change and though I appreciated very much the tempo of reconstruction of Autobahn-s, living quarters, public buildings, I watched the construction of the world-famous new centre of the city at Potsdam square and around the Reichstag with doubts: I could not understand the concept at all, the variation of different styles seemed to destroy the beauty of the architectural composition, there were too many block-buildings, I did not like the colour of most of the new structures.

I loved the united public transport system, the way national values were handled, monuments reconstructed, museums shifted into new, modern buildings, the well planned reconstruction of the old and central ones. I also liked the mushroom-like growth of small restaurants and shops. What I  liked most was the smile on faces, the openness of people around.

This last visit of mine that lasted two days was the first occasion I started liking Berlin. The city's size remained as disturbing  as ever before, the centre with all its fantastic achievements remained as foreign to me as during my last visit. But there are clear signs of changes that may result in Berlin becoming one of the best cultural centers of the world, a city where both inhabitants and visitors will like to stay. The scars of war are still there - thank to the crazyness of dictators and dictatorships - but the overall state of buildings is good if not excellent, the reconstruction of museums is forging ahead at the planned speed, I enjoyed excellent meals at small foreign restaurants like Amrit (Indian) and Chagall (Russian), saw small, but interesting exhibition halls and the city is full of entertainment programs. I recalled an article of one of our (Hungarian) journals stating that the cultural affairs of Hungary are not in the hands of experts; I am sure they are in Berlin.

Then I came across two surprises: the central synagogue (the main walls reconstructed) is guarded by armoured  police car and well equipped policemen (very sad that it has to be guarded, but proves that the state understands its responsibility) and a huge plot in the very center of the capital is selected for raising a monument to commemorate the extermination of millions of Jews in Germany during Hitler's dictatorship. What a difference between the behaviour of the ex-No1 fascist state and of the ex-No2 or 3 one where far-rightist forces are not disturbed at all and where Horthy is treated almost as a national hero.

I was not at all surprised  after having seen these two places when I was told that names of streets like Karl Marx, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are still untouched. As if I were in India experiencing unbelievable freedom of thought.

I advise you to go through some of the web-sites I found about Berlin and its entertainment programs: