I am a doughnut. Part 2.
(I made the mistake of leaving a 3 day gap before finishing this, running out of steam in the process, so if you get two paragraphs, or less, in and think it’s even worse than the normal rubbish that’ll be why. Like the noted philosopher Natalie Imbruglia suggested – ‘the inspiration has run dry’. You’re right Natalie. You’re so, so right.)
Did you get it? The title? When Eddie Izzard was a funny person he did some little sketch about JFK saying ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ which means I am a doughnut, more or less, when he should have said ‘Ich bin eine Berliner’ which means I am a citizen of Berlin. Or the other way around. If you don’t know the historical context then the last few lines will mean absolutely nothing and they certainly won’t have been enhanced by me probably not getting my facts right and everything being a bit topsy-turvy. Please come back funny version of Eddie Izzard, force majeure it is not, and I do have all your DVDs. Except that one.
Where were we? Ah yes, Berlin. Berlin is above all else a city in Germany, the capital city no less and in that sense it did not disappoint. Following bag drop my splendid ‘the wife’ and I eventually reached the city centre around about the Potsdam Plaza area where glamorous things used to happen, then didn’t, but do a bit more now. We ate at a magnificent chain of Italian restaurants called Vapiano which, a bit like ‘The Crystal Maze’, or a squirrel run, make you work for your food and figure out how to get it before you can eat. I got stressed and for moment felt like I was on another planet, a lonely planet, until ‘the wife’ told me to grow a pair, stop stressing and get on with it. So on with it I got, more or less, and after stuffing ourselves we fluttered around for a few hours. First stop the Holocaust Memorial which was as sombre and subtly impressive as a monument which represents a high point in human evil shittiness should and could be.
Then the Brandenburg Gate which is stamped with the label of being the big one to see, so soaked in iconic statusnessness it probably should have its own selfie stick (contender for worst invention ever? Or should I say wurst? Boom boom.). It was pretty cool to stand there and imagine the stuff the frauline on the chariot must have seen. Endless ranks of Nazi soldiers strutting their stuff for a moustachioed fucknut, Napoleon himself riding through on a victory parade or the warmth of East and West embracing the fall of The Wall. Possibly the greatest moment of appeal from this blogs perspective would be the one from November 2002 when the deluded idiot singer Michael Jackson dangled his infant child over the balcony of his hotel room, overlooking The Brandenburg Gate, in an effort to prove once and for all that he was a deluded fucking idiot. As soon as ‘the wife’ reminded me of this era defining moment of pure 100% stupidity and I gazed up at the flank of the Hotel Adlon the Brandenburg Gate could have collapsed in a heap and I wouldn’t have noticed. What was he thinking? What was he on? Who cares, I’ve read about many tree-topping moments of moronity in the music business but this one could beat them all. Not only was it heartbreakingly daft and compulsively retarded (as if my history of stupidity can talk) but it smacked of desperation and a chilly recognition that for all the crowds and cameras he was now a circus act and that his was a spent force. That day, if it hadn’t already happened, was it for the ‘King of Pop’. End game. Period (for anyone who likes crass Americanisms). Keeling over before a belated tour to keep the banks at bay must have been some sweet release for poor Michael. From weirdo to zero.
Blimey I’m starting to bore myself now. Let’s move on. A nice walk. A posh chocolate shop. A wander round a square including a grumpy lady telling us with a look that we could come back to climb the church tower at 4.00pm or, if we preferred, we could just bugger off over the horizon right now and pretty much stay there. Eventually we slumped down in a ‘traditional’ beer house and ordered wine. ‘The wife’ went for boiled sausages, the German way, which resembled two albino donkey cocks floating in a chamber pot. Chips were ok though. I think at this stage the heating should get a mention. I appreciate that this was Berlin at the cold end of October but it really wasn’t THAT cold to warrant having every indoor space switched onto furnace mode. The next night we tried and failed to sit in a restaurant where we were placed between a jammed on radiator and one of those 1970’s gas heaters. It felt hotter than the sun. So we left, the smell of burning hair wafting behind us..
Back to evening one, worn out, we retired to our swanky hotel and went to bed early where I was woken in the night because ‘the wife’ was overheating (sadly nothing to do with my charms) and promptly kicked the window out for some fresh cool air. Noisy but nice. Next morning Berlin Zoo beckoned, the most species varied in the world and one of the great zoos of all time. Any zoo, every zoo, offers a pretty much equal blend of fascination, revulsion, frustration and sheer undiluted sadness. And that’s just the animals looking at us. Some things we saw: a polar bear slumped on her belly not giving a tiny shit about anyone, as if she should anyway. A brown bear, turned crazy from the boredom, pacing round in an endless figure of eight, the grass at his feet long worn away. Quite brilliantly ‘the wife’ suggested he probably had Asperger’s. She’s mean. Other highlights included a pair of eerie submerged hippos; frustrated, sleep deprived Rastafarian Orang-u-tans; and four Russian Moschino addicted sub-model types who took more photos of each other in the reptile house than I’ve taken photos of anything, combined, in my entire life. Not that I was looking, of course.
The sad thing about a zoo is the inescapable irony that we’re trying to preserve animals and protect them from the threat of extinction whilst being the sole source of that threat. We are such a bunch of dicks. The primate house (that’s big arsed monkeys to you and me) was crammed with people, fondling each other to get to the front to see the apes pulling faces and the chimps scratching themselves. It was the audience laughing that put me off. The apes know what you’re doing and they’ll remember you when they’ve taken out the guard and found the master key. To my shame I found today that I had taken far too many photos of the monkeys to make me a nice person. Sorry monkeys, please don’t pay me a visit. What I will say for Berlin Zoo is that at least they make an effort. It’s broad and light and open and relatively clean and it puts London Zoo to shame in every respect. Berlin offers variety and relative class and, dirty, shameful enjoyment. At London Zoo the most you can hope for is a couple of penguins, lots of enclosures undergoing ‘refurbishment’ (translation: Fifi the giraffe caught leprosy and we can’t afford to replace her) a fat kid petting a belligerent goat and an endless supply of discarded Solero wrappers surrounded by bastards wasps. For £24.20 each. Great.
Heaving from a post-zoo lunch and beer special we staggered, under the blazing indoor heat, through the Neues Museum, highlights of which were a 3,000 year old gold conical hat and the famed bust of Nefertiti. To my shame I was in no shape to be cultured-up so that’s 12 Euros a head we’ll never see again. Big church with early dusk dome view was more fab, though the climb up 272 stairs had us panting like Les Dawson on a treadmill. Chocolate shop again.Then, just when we thought we could wind down we reached the apex of the weekend, a snug looking Italian restaurant, opposite the hot one, which turned out to have lazy, disinterested Spandau Prison guards as waiters. If you’re ever in the zoo district of Berlin and you’ve been shopping or whatever and you want to sit in a horrifically overpriced restaurant and feel as welcome as a Scottish 10 pound note in Penzance then try:
We suspected we lost all hope when we took too much time finding something on the menu that didn’t cost the GDP of Paraguay and when we then had the cheek to ask, after 20 minutes of struggling and questions, for a menu we could actually understand. The three grumpy old cunts (sorry, they were) waiting on us seemed very congenial with the other customers but we were cursed by our own specific something or otherness. We left a 50 cent tip purely because we didn’t want to wait for change. It was exactly 1 cent more than 50 times what they deserved. Such a shame, because the food and wine were both wonderful. Wonderful enough to recommend it? Fat chance, don’t go. Unless you’re a silly sod with more money than sense.
That was it. Quick drink in hotel bar, sleep, train to airport for the screaming little child experience and home for lunch. Go to Berlin, as soon as you can, before Putin starts the war to actually end all wars. I still can’t decide whether he’s more likely to have a tiny nob or a massive one. Maybe he just has a medium sized one. With a tattoo of his own face on it. Where on earth am I going with this? Sorry this has been a ramble, I like a ramble once in a while, it’s better to ramble when you can’t think of ideas than just go no-where at all or indeed try too hard. Certainly no-one has ever accused me of trying too hard. Just ask my parents.
G. B. Hewitt 30.10.2015