There is no theme to these posts, other than perhaps geography, as in places, landscapes and people – and of course writing, books, authors and you, reader. Some cities are more propitious to certain books, whether as one travels to them (those long journeys on fast trains across Europe), or in the new surroundings, as one discovers streets, buildings, history and faces.
Berlin has a special place in this writer’s heart and mind. The capital of reunited Germany, her intellectual and youth capital as well as the political one, may well become one day the capital of an enlarged European Federation – from the Atlantic to the Urals, to paraphrase Charles De Gaulle – but this is in a future as yet undeclared. The city covers just under 900 sqkm, and her boundaries are 234 km long. The length of her main river, the Spree, is 45 km. Her population at the end of 2012 was 3,513,026.
Berlin is one city on the long list of the world’s martyr cities of the 20th century: together with many other German cities incinerated by the “Allies”, Dresden, Hamburg, Bremen, Stuttgart, together with Coventry, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki… and many others. In Germany’s year zero – 1945 – the city was split, occupied, a hostage in a divided country in ruins.
Berlin has not forgotten anything from her history, from her early development as a medieval trading centre, through becoming the royal capital of the Prussian kingdom, the napoleonic occupation, her transformation into the imperial capital of the German Reich, the cosmopolitan city of the ill-fated Weimar Republic, the destruction of 1945, to the fall of the “Wall”, and now her position in a powerful country at the centre of the European Union.
Some of her buildings and squares have more than iconic values: there are for us places of pilgrimage: the Reichstag, burnt by the Nazis, now seat again of the modern legislature – “Dem Deutschen Volke” – shrapnels and bullets marked, the Tiergarten, the Spree, Museumsinsel, the place near Humboldt Universität where the Nazis burnt books, Checkpoint Charlie…
And what book? It has to be Alfred Döblin’s “Berlin Alexanderplatz”, written in 1929. Berlin’s literature is rich, varied and well worth exploring… Perhaps see you there!
Links to the city and her past:
The Guardian’s City Guide
Joerg Von Stein