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I'm a bit daunted writing about Berlin.  

Somehow I'm happy to put down a couple of paragraphs about many other cities and towns I've visited but there are some that seem too complicated for a quick 'off the cuff' summary.  Sydney of course, my present home town, and past home towns like New York and London.  I know just too much about them for a glib first impression.

Although I've never lived there I've visited Berlin on several occasions for periods of up to a couple of weeks.  I also have family there and have been introduced to their circle of friends.

So I decided that I can't really sum Berlin up, any more that I can sum up London or New York, so instead I should pick some aspects of uniqueness to highlight. 

The most obvious difference when one gets of the plane is that people in Berlin speak, read and write in German.

Despite being told that tourists can easily make themselves understood in Germany because almost everyone speaks some English, the reverse is not true. 

Try sitting in a café over brunch with a group of German friends who are not about to attempt to communicate amongst themselves in poor English just so you can follow.  You will find yourself sitting there smiling like an idiot as they laugh and chatter, until you know enough German to catch the drift of the conversation or someone takes pity and fills you in.

For English speakers, normal domestic life, like shopping in the supermarket, can also be tricky. Some groceries are obvious, like different varieties of cheese, but can you distinguish full cream, light or skim milk from sour milk or yoghurt; or hair conditioner from shampoo?  Even using the S-Bahn or U-Bahn can be tricky.  It's simple until a train is cancelled or a line closed and there are alternate route instructions in German only.

 

Catching a train can be tricky
Catching an alternative train - I've decided that these are properly named: Ironic Columns
It's the same pun in German so I'm not at all sure the ionic caps aren't a deliberate joke

 

What would you expect?  Of course you need to learn some German it you want to go there for any length of time and would like to move outside the standardised tourist bubble.  I've talked about organised package tours elsewhere.  They're appropriately named as each tourist becomes a package to be labelled and dispatched here and there; contained by bus and hotel or moving as a self-protective organic group.

Then there are 'The Things to See'.  Every city in the world has a unique list of places and things to see that the tour companies have identified, prioritised and put on their itineraries:  "You went to Sydney and didn't climb the Bridge?  Oh, you missed the best bit!"

In Berlin it's the Brandenburg Gate; Checkpoint Charlie; remnants of The Wall; the memorial to murdered Jews; the Fernsehturm (television tower); the Reichstag (parliament building) Dome; the Berliner Dom (the cathedral); and the nearby museums. 

 

Brandenburg Gate; Checkpoint Charlie; Reichstag and its dome; Berliner Dom; Fernsehturm

 

But like the iconic places in other cities, Berliners go about their business hardly giving these tourist 'must sees' a second look, disturbed only by annoying tour groups blocking pedestrian traffic.

 


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Travel

Israel

 

 

 

A Little Background

The land between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea, known as Palestine, is one of the most fought over in human history.  Anthropologists believe that the first humans to leave Africa lived in and around this region and that all non-African humans are related to these common ancestors who lived perhaps 70,000 years ago.  At first glance this interest seems odd, because as bits of territory go it's nothing special.  These days it's mostly desert and semi-desert.  Somewhere back-o-Bourke might look similar, if a bit redder. 

Yet since humans have kept written records, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Ottomans (and other later Muslims), British and Zionists, have all fought to control this land.  This has sometimes been for strategic reasons alone but often partly for affairs of the heart, because this land is steeped in history and myth. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Recollections of 1963

 

 

 

A Pivotal Year

It appears that the latest offering from Andrew Lloyd Webber: Stephen Ward, the Musical, has crashed and burned after four months in London.

On hearing this I was reminded of 1963,  the year I completed High School and matriculated to University;  the year Bob Dylan became big; and Beatle Mania began. 

The year had started with a mystery the Bogle-Chandler deaths in Lane Cove National Park in Sydney that confounded Australia. Then came Buddhist immolations and a CIA supported coup and regime change in South Vietnam that was the beginning of the end for the US effort. 

Suddenly the Great Train Robbery in Britain was headline news there and in Australia. One of the ringleaders, Ronnie Biggs was subsequently found in Australia but stayed one step of the authorities for many years.

The 'Space Race' was underway with the USSR holding their lead by putting the first female Cosmonaut into obit. The US was riven with inter-racial hostility and rioting.  But the first nuclear test ban treaties were signed and Vatican 2 made early progress, the reforming Pope John 23 unfortunately dying midyear.

Towards year's end, on the 22nd of November, came the Kennedy assassination, the same day the terminally ill Aldus Huxley elected to put an end to it.

But for sex and scandal that year the Profumo affair was unrivalled.

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Opinions and Philosophy

Australia's carbon tax

 

 

Well, the Gillard government has done it; they have announced the long awaited price on carbon.  But this time it's not the highly compromised CPRS previously announced by Kevin Rudd.  

Accusations of lying and broken promises aside, the problem of using a tax rather than the earlier proposed cap-and-trade mechanism is devising a means by which the revenue raised will be returned to stimulate investment in new non-carbon based energy. 

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