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I still have Berlin on my mind – you can see why people stick around there. It does seem as though life is a whole lot simpler. I was struck immediately on my return to London by how loudly people speak on their mobiles and how our press is truly dominated by celebrity. Both these things were missing in Berlin, but I didn’t miss them.
I was glad that I got the chance between barcamp and the Web2.0 Expo to have a walk around the city and to meet up with some friends of friends who were nothing to do with the geek scene. You can’t get away from the fact that this is a city that had a pretty shit time through the 20th Century. Revolution, world war, hyper-inflation, fascism, another world war, occupation, division, cold-war shenanigans on both sides of the wall, reunification. Many parts do feel beaten-up, like why would you bother? But everywhere, the contrasts hit you. Sure there’s steel and glass McRegeneration including the Bundestag and all around Potsdamer Platz, but even within a few blocks you’re back in the middle of faceless, brooding, old grey stone and then suddenly an empty bomb-site or two and shiny post-war cubes for the glorious proletariat.
I heard lots of Germans at both events say that they’d live in Berlin, if they could make any money there. Yes, me too, I think. I’ll be back.
By the way, coincidentally but aptly, as well as seeing The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas just before going, I got to see a preview of Imagine This at the New London this week. It’s about the Warsaw Ghetto and manages to avoid being as crass as “Sophie’s Choice: The Musical” – in fact it’s very powerful and moving with a great central performance from Peter Polycarpou and some very hummable themes.