Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Berlin's frumpy coolness

I was so happy last year when I finally got the chance to go to Berlin. It's such a eclectic place, and I'd move there in a heartbeat.

Nicolas Kulish believes Berliners don't seem to realize just how appealing the city's quirkiness is. In today's New York Times, he remarks on plans to raze the Palace of the Repulic, an old Communist building located prominently on Unter den Linden. What will be done with the space? A replica of an old Prussian castle that was demolished in 1950.

As an on-and-off resident of the city, I have played host to many tourists in Berlin and not one asked to see castles, of which there are several originals. Will they clamor to see a reconstruction? My visitors wanted to see the Berlin Wall. They wanted to see Checkpoint Charlie. The history that matters to tourists coming to Berlin is 20th-century history.

I have never met a German who moved to the city because it was the imperial capital. It is Berlin's liveliness and strangeness that attracted them. For many West Germans part of that was the allure of the old East Germany, in all its splendid ugliness. History happens. It cannot be engineered.

Well said. Here's more.


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