Sunday 19th July 2009. Berlin. Day off.
An actual day off somewhere other than Nice, which was a real treat.
In the morning I went to spend some time at the Holocaust Memorial. This might not sound like a particularly jolly way to spend the day but this memorial is not only extremely moving in its presence as a silent witness and brilliant in its conception, but also stands as a deeply inspiring work of art in its own right. It is located close to the Brandenburg Gate and occupies an area about the size of a city block. It is made up of thousands of waist-high grey stone slabs in grid pattern which you can walk between. The surprising part is that from outside you don't realise that the ground slopes away as you enter, so very soon the slabs are towering above your head like a mini-Manhattan. It's open all hours, so I've seen it during the day, at night and, most memorably, covered in snow. This morning it was bathed in sunshine so, having walked through it for a while, I spent a further hour sitting on one of the outer slabs just appreciating it.
The most visually remarkable part is to see the dozens of shades of grey on all the various surfaces and to realise that all of this is produced by light and shade. The stone is the same colour throughout, but this huge variety comes from the light. Talk about 'less is more' - it really is a brilliant piece of work on all levels.
In the evening a few of us went to dinner at a restaurant in a quiet part of the West of the city noted for its traditional East Prussian cuisine. Mmm... I bet you're salivating already. It’s called 'Marjellchen', and is billed as an experience akin to dinner at your grandparents' place (it just gets better, eh?) but turned out to be a truly unique and wonderful experience. The proprietor spoke perfect English and had an extremely dry, deadpan sense of humour, which took us a little while to pick up on. The food was glorious; old school, quite game-centric and wonderfully flavourful. Our hostess had us in stitches with asides such as 'ah yes, food and drink, they're my three favourite things' ('Three?' we replied, taking the bait). 'ah yes, and Christmas, I almost forgot.'
By the end of the evening we'd emptied the place and our hostess eventually confessed that some years ago Pauline Quirk had dined there and (presumably after an evening as hilarious as ours) had given her a part in the 1991 Christmas special of 'Birds of a Feather.' For non-British readers, if you've no idea what I'm talking about, please don't feel obliged to do the research on my account.
Cab home. Great night.