Saturday, 13 December 2008

Two days ago we woke to heavy snows, the surprise of which never fails to excite me. The trudge into work is dull, not for the anticipation of work, but rather for the laborious route. I head out past the garages and supermarkets, into the straight quiet road that runs past the lake and fire station and hotel. This used to be the German Hollywood, this area, and remnants of wealth can be seen in the huge balconied residencies that have fallen into disrepair, their crumbling fa├žades shedding dust and paint flakes into the little hills of swept snow.

Then after a while, I strike the main road into the city, a DDR thoroughfare, wide alleys and massive coloured apartment blocks that stand in impenetrable rows, taking fifteen minutes to cycle round each. Last time I came to Berlin, I helped someone move into an apartment, ten flights of stairs - not a new dwelling, but a typical old Berlin affair that lay at the foot of one of these towering buildings. I do not recall where that was, but everyday I cycle through the city I try to remember it and then patch it into the Berlin I know now. Marrying first impressions to a detailed knowledge is an interesting task. When all that was new is now familiar, how is recall affected?

I remember a long brick wall, graffiti and an overhead train line - it was not the green girdered high-rise tracks of Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, it was concrete. It must be a suburban train, the S-bahn. Things in my head are mixed; did we cross a road on the way there or back, was the station up or down, deserted or busy? Which was the destination and which was the arrival point? I have suspicions that my local main station is the very place in which we arrived to accomplish the move - tiny mobile booths selling food, rows of tobacco in the show windows, a renovated puppet theatre, giant sculptures of communist solidarity at the entrance to a tower complex, doner restaurants on the pavement, a steady flow of people to and from the frequent yellow trams with their steamed up windows and rising whine, the constant working of the roads behind propped wooden barricades. These things appear everywhere in Berlin of course, they are the thing that makes it for me. And, so now, what now if I am contemplating leaving? What then for recall?