1316 words on Travel
This was a nice weekend in Berlin. Not having a railcard anymore, I had to buy – and make an effort to buy – one of the more restrictive and cheap tickets for the journey, which are bound to a specific train. Not as enjoyable as the more flexible options but at least affordable. And coming in the form of a fancy online ticket to print out yourself with a giant dot-code on it which they refer to as a bar code for some reason. Not that I’ve ever seen any of their employees actually using that collection of dots or carrying a machine that could scan them. To top things off you still have to carry a printout of that e-ticket while airlines can handle you just giving them the little code printed on the ticket without problems.
Of course I didn’t book a seat reservation, as I am still used to more flexible travelling where getting a reservation doesn’t make sense. And because I dislike the whole mindset that goes with booking seats… So when I hear that a friend of mine had real troubles with even buying a seat reservation for a trip to Berlin a number of days before the fact, I was scared for a moment that I might have to sit on the ground for two hours. Apparently many people were getting to Berlin because they had all sorts of marathons there this weekend.
But as usual I found a free seat in the trains to Berlin and back to Göttingen without any problems. It’s really strange that this works so well for me – I never had considerable troubles finding a seat on a train. It may just be luck. Or an attitude thing which causes luck… I like to think that people who believe in seat reservations are less likely to actually find a grab a free seat that might be available. While those who don’t are more open minded…
I like to compare this to parking cars. Around my parents’ house, parking spaces are ultra-rare and getting one can be a royal pain. While this forces you to be quite patient and develop skills in getting into rather small spaces, it also changes you to think that the natural state of affairs is a street without any free parking spaces, while a parking space right in front of the house means you’re very lucky. When people from the suburbs or the countryside come to visit, they think differently. Having a parking space in a convenient location is just what they expect and more often than not they seem to get one. So it’s just an attitude thing…
Apart from seeing the Shout Out Louds, I got some ‘signatures’ for my Thawte certificat that I use to sign and encrypt e-mails. To do this I met two guys who are already trusted, and who confirm to Thawte and the ‘web of trust’ that the name I give with my certificate is actually mine. An important step for the ‘social’ aspect of the whole encryption thing. I think that encrypting messages is important and will become even more so in the future. Why should a number of ISPs, and potentially people snooping on your wireless network be able to read your messages when preventing them from doing so isn’t very hard. If you are using an e-mail client that makes encryption simple (e.g. Apple’s Mail), I strongly encourage you to get yourself a certificate and encrypt your messages whenever possible. If not, you could still try using PGP or gpg.
I also went shopping a bit and got some films and film paper for making my own prints at a nice photo store. That will hopefully happen soon. Then I tried to pick my friends of from the Goya exhibition that’s currently running at the Alte Nationalgalerie but things got a bit complicated because of the traffic disruptions for the marathons, the long queues and my iPod having run out of power while I didn’t know the relevant phone numbers of my friends by heart. Not that those would have helped me too much as I find Berlin definitely lacking in terms of public infrastructure. There aren’t enough public phones. And their underground systems has a severe lack of network maps – with the platforms at some stations apparently not having a single one. In addition, they often only list the final stop of a line when you get on a platform. Which means that not knowing the names of Berlin’s suburbs and their locations requires you to use a tube map to know which way you want to go. (Compare this to London, where I usually found a display of all the upcoming stops on the line that let me easily figure out which side of the platform I have to use.)
On Sunday I met Jörg again and we went up the TV tower. A nice view but not excessively spectacular. Particularly as there was quite a bit of haze at a distance despite the day being generally sunny and nice. Berlin looks quite strange from above, with different parts of the city having very different architecture. And the Brandenburg gate and Reichstag really look small from a distance. After seeing what seemed to be the very last arrivers of the marathon, we went to the Holocaust Mahnmal which has been opened in May.
It’s quite a remarkable site. This starts with its short name, which I find hard to translate into English. Usually things are a ‘Denkmal’, i.e. a memorial, but that’s usually for remembering positive things, so it’d be a poor choice in this case. Thus they made up the word ‘Mahnmal’, which is about admonishing people today as well as commemorating the victims. Then there’s the whole history of how it came to exist. With discussions about whether it should just commemorate the jews who were killed by the Nazis or also the other groups who suffered the same fate. About whether the cool design by of the site by Peter Eisenmann leaves enough room for the historical graveness of what it is about. About one of the companies involved in creating the concrete for the site having had Nazi connections in the 1930s. But in the end compromises were found for everything and the site does exist now.
And it’s pretty cool. It is a large square with an array of concrete pillars on it. You can walk around the pillars and the ground goes down towards the centre of the site. And while the pillars are all slightly tilted and of different heights, it still seems very clean. In total it felt much more open and light than I expected it to be. Mostly because at any crossing of the ways you have four straight ways of looking out of the site, which looks a bit small for my taste, without a problem. I.e. while you’re in a way trapped inside it, you can still see the outside without problems. Look at some photos.
I’m not sure it’s the best thing that people could have done memorial-wise. But what would be? This is a site which is attractive and which people seem to like. Lots of young people were just sitting around at the sides which made it feel very alive. On the other hand it’s so nice that it seems to attract all sorts of behaviour which are – or an reasonably be considered – inappropriate for the place. At least they have notes telling people that it’s not OK to have barbecues around there or jump across the site on top of the concrete pillars… and I have to admit that when you’re walking around between the pillars, the idea of jumping around on top does seem very attractive; as does playing hide and seek in there.
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