Monday, September 4, 2006

A nice irony:

Malcolm enjoys Life's Little Ironies (phrase © Thomas Hardy: not many people know that!)

This one comes courtesy of a Reuter's report of last Friday, 1st September (but more easily accessed on MSN), a nice piece filed by Madeline Chambers. It deals with the way that, since German Reunification, investment in Berlin has changed the nature of the city.

Berlin was a divided city, long before 1945. Christopher Isherwood made the point pre-war in Goodbye to Berlin:
Berlin is a city with two centres—the cluster of expensive hotels, bars, cinemas, shops around the Memorial Church, a sparkling nucleus of light, like a sham diamond, in the shabby twilight of the town; and the self-conscious civic centre of buildings around the Under den Linden, carefully arranged.
For thos
e who miss the point, the 'cluster ... around the Memorial Church' became the focal point of West Berlin. The Gedächtniskirche at Breitscheidplatz was a ruin for two decades after it had a visitation from above in November 1943. It was built as a memorial to Kaiser Wilhelm I. It now sits as a symbol of past ruin and later renewal, between the Kurfürstendamm (once Berlin's Bond Street or Fifith Avenue) and the Europa Center. This area represented the glamour, glitz and seduction of the capitalist West. Now, says Chambers:
Long stretches of Kurfuerstendamm, west Berlin's most fashionable boulevard when it was occupied by U.S., British and French forces after World War II, now look neglected with discount stores and "To Let" boards appearing alongside upmarket cafes and boutiques.
On the other hand, Unter den Linden heads east from the Brandenburg Gate. To those of a certain age, like Malcolm, the much-photographed view eastwards, across the Wall, remains iconic. It was in front of the Gate that Reagan made his speech in June 1987 (great speech, shame about the speaker):
Standing before the Brandenburg Gate, every man is a German separated from his fellow men.
Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar.
The Gate itself was only restored in 2003, and this whole area has seen massive reconstruction.

The result is, as Chambers says:
As eye-catching new landmarks emerge in the eastern part of the German capital, much of the west -- once a proud model of capitalism -- is left looking drab and dilapidated...
Tourists are deserting the heart of the west and being drawn eastwards to the revamped Reichstag parliament building with its glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster, and the newly cleaned Brandenburg Gate.
And here's the irony:
Berlin's government, controlled by Social Democrats and the former communist PDS, acknowledges City West needs investment.
Got that? The lefties are having to rescue capitalism. Again. ... Sigh ...

It was ever thus.

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