Brandenburg and her capital: #longing

I dream of the city, as it was, long before Frederick, not the capital of  a respected and feared kingdom, with a formidable army, but the main settlement of a peaceful people, in the midst of lakes and thick forests, surrounded by wilderness.

Soldiers plundering a farm during the thirty years' war Then came the long war, the uninterrupted banditry, the destructions, the killing of women and children by drunk and pitiless soldiers, the burning of churches. All the German lands were ransacked by marauding troops of mercenaries, and the land’s own army was no better. Lawlessness ruled, and finally the whole land laid in ruins. But the people fought back, order was recreated out of chaos… It took thirty years.

The city, Faust’s city, later became the capital of the new kingdom, that was proclaimed, far to the East, in Königsberg, on the shores of the Baltic Sea, the Ostsee. When Frederick, der Philosopher König, inherited the crown from his father, der Soldaten König, Prussia was already a power among the other European powers. His city, Berlin, became the centre of the Enlightenment, and it was befitting that Königsberg was also Immanuel Kant’s birth place.

So, I keep dreaming, of the long history, of Blücher’s victory in Waterloo, for it was Prussia, and the Prussian armies that won that war. Before many others. I see the Siegessaüle column, in the middle of the Tiergarten, and the memorial that dominates Viktoria Park. My thoughts are never very far from there, from the streets of Kreuzberg, from the river, from the Landwehr canal where they threw the martyred body of Rosa Luxemburg in 1919. So much to think about, to write about.

Soon, we will walk those streets again, our minds full of those memories, our eyes capturing the beauty and strangeness of the scenery: us, among  so many others, enthralled, astonished, under the spell of Berlin. And so many ghosts, so many familiar faces that cannot be there, but somehow are, out of films, out of books, out of our own demented imagination, out of a deep past.


Hectic weeks in perspective… #amediting

Photographed by Frode & Marcus for Smug Magazine #6 Spring/Summer 2013. Well, my friend Tara is soon starting work on The Page book 1… In the meantime I am getting ready to rewrite, at the same time as making a start on book 2. There is already a lot of material there which needs editing – of course – and sorting. The tale continues in Berlin where the four protagonists have to chose their side of the fence. It is timely that book 1 was completed – well, first draft – as the German elections got on their way. In the Summer we admired the little posters in each town or city we travelled through from the Baltic coast to Weimar and Hessen where regional elections took place on Sunday. Mrs Merkel is an expert politician, a real head of government… But there is a drama in the background: that of a successful and powerful European country attempting to develop more democracy in the midst of a serious crisis…

What comes next on this saga of mine? The plot is beginning to make sense – after 35k! for this first draft before serious editing – and the second part will see the story spiralling into a conflict between absolute love and survival. Long evenings are in front of this writer in learning!… Most of the action in book 2 is in Paris, and of course, Berlin.

Still interested to hear from beta readers! Just sayin’…

In Berlin (in five sentences…)

Viktoria ParkI drove carefully along your highways, approaching your centre as one approaches a very beautiful woman, a little tensed, perhaps apprehensive at the thought of your contemptuous stare…

How quiet were your tree-lined streets, how beautiful Viktoria park in the late Summer light, and how radiant your smile when you open your door, my adored lover, my soul, my mistress.

It was so quiet, everywhere, as if the leaves of the trees were silencing the far-away murmur of traffic; but this is not London nor Paris: this is the city of a hard-won peace. Oh Berlin, city of our love, where so long ago, you said we would meet again, here, on the banks of the Spree, unter den Linden.

Memorial to the Berlin Airlift, 1948, TempelhofFor I adore your city, as I adore you, knowing that history never totally disappears, knowing the Topography of the Terror, the martyred bodies on the Wall, the long way back to life after the fall… Eastside Gallery, die Alte National Gallery… Dem Deutschen Volke…

In Tempelhof we ran, my eyes never leaving the golden hair and your sun-tanned legs, the goddess’s steps. And in the evening we walked the calm streets of Kreuzberg, and then you taught me that Aphrodite herself lives here.

The Young Dancer, Alte Nationalgallery

#AtoZChallenge: April 29, 2013 ~ Yalta (Conference)

Yalta Conference, February 4-11, 1945

Yalta Conference
Yalta Conference in February 1945 with (from left to right) Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. Also present are USSR Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (far left); Field Marshal Alan Brooke, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, RN, Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Portal, RAF, (standing behind Churchill); George Marshall, Army Chief of Staff and Fleet Admiral William D. Leahy, USN, (standing behind Roosevelt).

It was their last meeting, the last Allies Conference of the War, that was to reorganise Europe in “peace-time”.  WWII was drawing to a close: soon Hitler would be dead in the ruins of Berlin, soon the USSR, and her martyrs, would win the war, at last, at the price of 25 million dead.

Soon President Roosevelt would die.  The former Allies would become the enemies of the Cold War.  Atomics would be dropped on defenceless Japanese cities.  When they meet again in Potsdam, in August 1945, Truman is President, the dice are down, and the Cold War has started, in all but the name.  But still, in this cold month of February, 1945, it was possible to hope… against all hopes.  German refugees were flowing through the ruined roads and cities of central Europe, in their millions.  For the next 45 years Germany would be a divided country.

In the US Roosevelt’s New Deal would survive in the guise the warfare/welfare state till the late 70’s, then other demons would take over.

Britain was a shadow of her former self, then a hopelessly indebted country, the country soon of  Orwell’s “1984” –  of food rationing perduring till the 50’s, still a colonial power, although not for much longer.

The long night of Stalinism would last until 1954, the year a French army was defeated in Dien-Bien-Phu in what would be soon called the Republic of North-Viet-Nam, and was still then “l’ Indochine”, and the United Nations (chiefly the US and Britain) would stop bombing what was already North-Korea.

#AtoZChallenge: April 2, 2013 – Berlin

Über den Dächern von Berlin

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.

Reichstag 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!

Dem Deutschen Voke

Links to the city and her past:

Jewish Museum

Liane Berkowitz

The Guardian’s City Guide

Joerg Von Stein

Related Articles

#WritersWednesday: July 25

A hero for our time: Rosa Luxemburg

 She was a beautiful and intelligent woman, who ended her life in the violent and extreme world born from the chaos and massacres of the first world war. A revolutionary, she was also a sharp and lucid critique of the rising bolshevik dictatorship in Russia. Born in 1871 in Zanosc, in the Polish area of Russia, “at sixteen, when she graduated at the top of her class from the girls’ gymnasium in Warsaw, she was denied the gold medal because of “an oppositional attitude toward the authorities.”” She was one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party of Poland, and witnessed the failed revolution of 1905 in Russia. With Karl Liebknecht, the only deputy in the Reichstag to vote against German participation to the war in 1914, she became one of the leaders of the socialist movement in Germany, from 1898 until her murder in 1919 during the suppression of the Spartakusbund uprising in Berlin.

In “Die Akkumulation des Kapitals”, first published in 1913, and her most important theoretical book, Rosa deconstructed the mechanism of reproduction and survival of capitalism, from its origins to the present. Her work is one of a handful of reliable guides for those who wish to understand how and why we are where we are, and what really leads to economic crises, financial collapse and misery for a majority of us.

In January 1919, on the orders of the new chancellor Friedrich Ebert, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were arrested, and brutally murdered while in police custody by the lost soldiers of the Freikorps, who were soon to form the backbone of the National-Socialist party, the Nazis.

On the evening of her murder she wrote:

“The leadership has failed. Even so, the leadership can and must be recreated from the masses and out of the masses. The masses are the decisive element, they are the rock on which the final victory of the revolution will be built. The masses were on the heights; they have developed this ‘defeat’ into one of the historical defeats which are the pride and strength of international socialism. And that is why the future victory will bloom from this ‘defeat’.
‘Order reigns in Berlin!’ You stupid henchmen! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will already ‘raise itself with a rattle’ and announce with fanfare, to your terror:
I was, I am, I shall be!”

Clara Zetkin wrote: “In Rosa Luxemburg the socialist idea was a dominating and powerful passion of both mind and heart, a consuming and creative passion. To prepare for the revolution, to pave the way for socialism – this was the task and the one great ambition of this exceptional woman. To experience the revolution, to fight in its battles – this was her highest happiness. With will-power, selflessness and devotion, for which words are too weak, she engaged her whole being and everything she had to offer for socialism. She sacrificed herself to the cause, not only in her death, but daily and hourly in the work and the struggle of many years. She was the sword, the flame of revolution.”

#BlogMeMaybe: May 22 – May I tell you something about myself?

The old daemon

This post is dedicated to @JenVinci

“What is the one thing you really wanna do that you keep telling yourself you shouldn’t ? And what’s really stopping you…?”

Three motorcycles with a view on the Alps, parked at the rim of an abyss

Photograph from:
the Lazy Motorbike site.

Yes, I must tell you about this… One of the great passions of my youth! I dreamed about it at school, watching with envy those older neighbours who were earning, and thus could buy a… motorcycle… Ahhh the sound of the engines, the symphony of exhaust pipes! During my time in the armed forces – some five years – I read the magazines, talked about it with other guys who were also fanatic. Then it was my turn to earn enough to make a decision. Then, we worked six days a week and 10 hours shifts, in my industry. After a year I could buy my first bike, a second hand 250cc Triumph which was my training steed. A very nice bike, very rigid frame, and a beautiful sound, though it was losing a bit of oil! I learned, frightened myself in occasions. By then I was living in the Rhônes valley – a short distance from the Alps, and some 200km from the Mediterranean coast…

Ahhhhhhhh those rides, in the Spring, over the recently open passes, still littered with snow drifts and ice, the thrill of sharp bends, over those mountains, to reach the Italian plain and then the magic name: Imola, then the temple of two-wheel serious races for big heart bikes, 500cc and above – soon to be dominated by Oriental steeds under the banner of Honda and Suzuki. I indulged in my first new 750cc bike for my 24th birthday – a BMW R75. Parents helped a bit, and then I was earning comfortably, having no other responsibility than for myself. Those were the days: long rides to the coast, Cannes, Nice, the Alps of Hautes Provences. We were camping, drinking, and were, by the standards of the time, rather promiscuous. But then, we were clean, and so were our women. The days before Aids and worse are now long forgotten. Penicillin, then, just worked.

I rode thousands of klicks to Germany and Northern Europe. As a reserve officer, I was then prohibited to go further East, behind the Iron Curtain. But there was plenty to do this side of it! Those nights with Finnish and German Angels – men and women looking as if they were inclined to drink the Bavarian Hydromel and Finnish Vodka in the skulls of their enemies (maybe they did!). I enjoyed the orgies, the dancing and drinking around the huge fires, the worship of the bikes.

And one cool morning far North in Jutland, on an isolated beach, I saw Aphrodite, in all her perfection. She was from Norway, and was bathing nude, as I was, there were only the two of us, and the bike, I still have no idea how she got there. Probably with a group camping nearby. It was a happy encounter, without complication, the sort of thing that I still remember and cherish today, (without kidding) a dozen bikes, and a couple of  hundred other bodies later, and being married, and loyal, to the same very beautiful person, for some twenty years… The bike took me to England and her short circuits, my first encounter with Brands Hatch, at the time one of the fastest circuits for motorcycling competition in Europe (but was England Europe then?) We live nearby now.

I never had any serious incident, broke down a few times, had near misses. Some 120,000 klicks later, I was drawn irresistibly by money and the big city. Traffic scared me. I had other needs. I was working 70hrs a week, no longer in shifts, but a gruelling schedule that left me exhausted every week. I got older, and sold the last bike.

Since then, every few years, it takes me in the guts (no it takes me in the balls): I wanna ride again, I look at the youngsters, and occasional oldies, on their steeds… I get restless. But I am now heavier, married, committed to other activities. So, even when I see bikers winding their ways around the beloved Italian passes, in the clear Alpine air, I told myself to stick to who I am now. So fade old bikers, on their way to Walhalla.