The U.N. Security Council has approved a force of over 17,000 troops for Darfur. Now the only thing missing is the approval of the Sudanese government.
Signalling their interest in taking the matter under careful consideration, Sudan boycotted the council session. Add to that the threats of violence made by the Sudanese government against any non-African Union peacekeeping force and I'm sure that the situation in Darfur will be resolved in no time.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
The U.N. Security Council has approved a force of over 17,000 troops for Darfur. Now the only thing missing is the approval of the Sudanese government.
I'm off to Miami this weekend and thus have spent much of the week on hurricane watch with my fingers crossed. Gaia has been kind to me, and Ernesto "Che" Tropical Depression did not ravage the Florida coast. And while I am thankful for that, there is one more favour I would like to ask: since we are all on Fidel death watch anyway, would it be too much to ask that he go to that great workers paradise in the sky this weekend?
We haven't had a good dictator death since Mobutu, and that was nearly a decade ago (unless you count Pol Pot, which I don't because it was shrouded in weirdness and I don't even remember where I was when I heard the news. Or Slobo, but the joy of his death was tainted by the sense that he had escaped justice). And while I will admit that I did a little jump for joy when I heard of the kleptocrat's death on the radio, the customer that I was serving at the time did not seem to share my enthusiasm and gave me a sort of concerned look.
But when the people of Miami hear the news of Fidel's death, there will be no worried looks, no concern for their barista's sanity; there will be jumping and there will be dancing in the streets. And I for one would like to be there to witness it.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 12:45 AM
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I keep hearing that the Islamist militias in Somalia are nothing like the Taliban and that just because they bring stability in the name of Allah doesn't mean that they are going turn Somalia into a theocracy. Yes they burned down theatres that showed the World Cup, but that was just a misunderstanding. You'll forgive me for not finding this very comforting (despite the fact that, as the article points out, it is only the second public flogging since the militias came to power).
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 5:42 PM
I would like to start this post by saying that I love The New Yorker. Last weekend I sat down and read all the issues I had missed while I was away in Europe and it was perhaps the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. It is true that I own the Complete New Yorker DVDs, and despite this I have been unable to get rid of my back issues (if anyone feels that they can give them a good home, please let me know, but recycling them feels like sacrilege).
Having said that, this strikes me as a little odd. Perhaps, I am wrong. Perhaps there is a huge market out there for an 80 GB portable hard drive that contains all the back issues of the New Yorker. It is true that switching back and forth between disks can be a little irritating if you are trying to read all of the articles by one particular author in one sitting (not that I would ever display that level of obsession).
But seriously, are there a lot of people out there who love the New Yorker that much, and who are also comfortable enough in their geekdom that are willing to spend $300 on the hard drive version rather than (or as well as!) less than $100 on the DVDs. And if so, who are they and why aren't we dating?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 1:00 PM
Omar Al-Bashir has rejected a proposal for a U.N. force to bring peace to Darfur, and has written a letter to the U.N. Security Council saying that the government in Khartoum needs more time to cope with the situation themselves. In his letter he states that he fears that a U.N. presence would lead "to acts of violence and unmanageable confrontations among all parties in Darfur, including the United Nations forces." Which, given the fact that he is a genocidal killer, reads to me as more of a threat than a concern.
He also says that he is going to send more troops into Darfur in an effort to keep the peace. Which is about as comforting as if Hitler had said that he was going to send more SS officers to help improve conditions in Auschwitz.
But the U.N. will continue to talk with the Sudanese government, because no matter how criminal a state has become, everyone is equal at the U.N. (or at least, they are as long as they have oil to share with the Chinese).
But perhaps all is not yet lost for the suffering children of Darfur, because I have a plan: dress them all up like little pageant contestants and take pictures of Omar sipping champagne. That region will get the 24 hour news coverage faster than you can say Nancy Grace.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 10:53 AM
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Clearly, at this point, Kofi is just counting down the days until his job is over. Only a few months left until he can go on the lecture circuit and start seeing some serious profit from this whole Secretary-General deal. If he hasn't come down with a case of senioritis, can someone explain why he didn't bother to find some new material for his most recent report? It seems that Sudan's armies and militias are guilty of abusing children! He urges the Sudanese government to do something about it:
Mr. al-Bashir Omar,
Can you please tell the Janjaweed militias that when they are burning down villages, raping women indiscriminately and hunting people as they go to the well for water, to be careful not to upset the children. You have been extremely co-operative with our organization and I have every faith that you will take my concerns seriously.
p.s. I'm going to have some time on my hands come January... you wanna go for beers?"
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 8:47 PM
Monday, August 21, 2006
This month's president of the Security Council, Ghanaian ambassador Nana Effah-Apenteng, is puzzled by the Arab League's request to delay a meeting planned to discuss the situation in Darfur. I'm confused. What in the Arab League's history would suggest that they should be expected to put the interests of a few hundred thousand innocent people over those of a member government?
To be fair, perhaps the Arab League representatives can't be bothered to waste their time in pointless meetings. The Sudanese government has made it clear time and time again that they won't allow a force into Darfur that has the power to stop their crimes. What good will a meeting do?
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 9:51 PM
Monday, August 14, 2006
I will confess that after hearing that they had foiled the terror plot and that nobody had died, my response was "getting home is going to be a bitch" and started plotting routes back to Canada that didn't involve flying back to England first. Luckily, it wasn't nearly the nightmare that the news would have you believe. Granted, I wasn't at Heathrow so I can't really say what it was like for passengers there. But it does seem to me that if you film footage of your average international airport on any given day you can make it seem like a nightmare, 'cos let's face it airports generally consist of people standing in line or sitting around looking frazzled. Even people who like flying generally can't stand the airport.
Despite the fact that Europeans are far less ignorant than North Americans and spend their lives absorbed in world affairs instead of malls and NASCAR, nobody at the airport in Poland seemed to be aware that they wouldn't be able to take carry-on luggage. So the check in line was a little longer than expected, but no chaos.
Gatwick was a little bit more crazy, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. Watching a toddler stand with her arms out getting patted down by a security guard was one of the stranger things I've witnessed in my life, but she seemed to find it all very amusing.
Having drilled it into our heads that we weren't going to be allowed to take anything except our travel documents on board, the folks at the check-in desk failed to mention that once we got through security anything we bought could be carried onto the plane. So I walked all the way past the main shopping area and to my gate thinking it was going to be eight hours without anything to read. At the gate I noticed the little W.H. Smith was packed with people. At first glance, I assumed it was just people getting a magazine to read while they were waiting, until I saw people with bags of stuff. I checked and, yes indeed, it was okay to bring stuff onto the plane. We were supposed to be boarding at any minute, so I didn't think I had time to get back to the main area, buy a book and make it back to the gate. Of course, it turned out that the plane was delayed by an hour. So needless to say, my one magazine (they were running very low) and my crossword book failed to keep me entertained for the duration of the flight -- but considering how bad things could have been, it seems petty to complain.
I have had a wonderful trip, but I am glad to be home.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:52 PM
Krakow was great. Lots of restaurants and things to do without the sense that it was all about the tourists. I suppose that may be because they don't get as many visitors as Prague or Budapest, but there was more of a feeling that people were just going about their lives with normal jobs.
Auschwitz was strangely unsettling, and not in the way that you might expect. It is very green, a lot of trees have grown up around the barracks and I couldn't escape the feeling that, were it not for the knowledge as to what had gone on there, you would not feel out of place having a family picnic on the lawn. This was less true of Birkenau (where more people were actually murdered), but it still didn't have the same impact on me as I would have expected. Ultimately, I think the fact is that the pictures from that time and the memoirs of the survivors are just so disturbing that the site of the camp today was never going to have as significant an effect on me. The one exception would be the room of shoes. Seeing children's little sandals and women's stylish high heeled shoes made the fact that this happened to regular people, with otherwise normal lives a lot more clear.
Warsaw is not an attractive city, it seems to fall somewhere in between Detroit and Cleveland in the looks department... but in its defense it was bombed to smithereens by the Nazis and then run by communists for fifty years. Its old city seems somewhat artificial, having largely been rebuilt after the war.
The rest of Eastern Europe had left me unprepared for the Poles. They are far more outgoing, friendly and helpful. When a woman in the Krakow train station realised I didn't speak Polish, she decided that I was utterly helpless (or at least I gather that this is what she had decided... she didn't speak a word of English and so just spoke slowly and yelled at me in Polish) and would not rest until she saw me get on my train (for my part I was very nervous to get on the train until I confirmed for myself it was indeed the one Warsaw.... they leave every hour on the hour and this train was waiting at the platform 40 minutes early... I had no desire to end up in St. Petersburg). She then refused to allow me to carry my own bags and started ordering around male travellers to help me.
The rest of my journey had also left me completely unprepared for the men of Poland. Or rather, Warsaw. Walking to my hotel from the train station, I had a number of men try to speak to me in Polish. They were all very old men (father, bordering on grandfather age). Since I don't speak any Polish, I don't really know if they were just being friendly or trying to be "friendly". But it is my general experience that friendly types don't stare at your chest when they are talking to you.
People staring at my chest I can handle. My final day in Poland I was walking from my hotel to the subway at 11 o'clock in the morning. A guy came up to me and started talking at me in Polish. Obviously I had no clue what he was saying. "Sorry, I don't speak Polish". Unlike the old men he didn't walk away. He looked sort of confused for a moment and said "erm, sex?". Apparently, standing there in my jeans and t-shirt I looked like a Polish prostitute. He didn't seem to want to take no for an answer so I got away as quickly as I could. I was ready for home.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 2:35 PM
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
The trains between Berlin and Prague and Prague and Budapest had been completely effortless. They were comfortable, largely on time and figuring out where you were supposed to go was all very simple. Budapest is not Berlin or Prague. For a start, when I had bought my ticket at the station, rather than getting a nice printout with my train numbers listed on it like I had everywhere else, I got a handwritten ticket with the names only of my connections. I wasn't concerned... I would find the information I needed from the departures board. I arrived at the station a little after 6 in the morning for my 6:50 train. Nothing past 6:30 was yet listed. So I stood around thinking my connection would appear. A few minutes later, I was starting to get concerned, other trains were starting to get listed, but nothing that appeared to be mine. I was to connect in Breclaw. The Polish town of Wroclaw is referred to as Breslau by the Germans (the 'c' sounding sort of like an 's' and all that) and so I assumed that was where I was headed. A little knowledge (Wroclaw/Breslau) is a dangerous thing. No trains listed were headed to Poland or anywhere in that general direction that I could see. I needed to ask someone. All of the information booths were closed. I am now running around the station trying to find anyone who can help me. Nope. No one speaks English and anyone who does has no clue. Finally, I find a ticket booth that is open. I am supposed to be headed to Hamburg. The train is now about to leave. The tracks are not in any sort of order that would suggest that their counting system originated on planet earth. I figure out where I am supposed to be and run across the station to face a wall of people getting off my train. I am at this point a clearly panicked girl all on her own screaming "excuse me" but these people are Europeans and they are not about to move just because I am having a bad morning. They have centuries of history to be moody about and human decency isn't their thing. The train starts to move and it is now obvious that I am not going to be making this train.
I return to the desk to ask if there is another train to Krakow. Not until 22:00 (have I mentioned yet that I hate the 24 hour clock?). Now I am worried, I have a hotel booked in Krakow and I really don't want to give up a day in Poland as I have so little time there as it is. I am upset and I am crying (with the perspective of time, I will acknowledge that there was never any danger, it was always going to get sorted out, but I was tired, alone in a foreign city and no one was being in any way helpful....). There is no internet cafe open in the station and the tourist offices aren't open yet either. I call my mummy (who is of course very worried to be woken up at 1 a.m.). She is trying to find bus information on the internet (unfortunately, her Hungarian is not as strong as it could be), I am trying to call the bus company (the person who answered the phone responded "I am not tourist info, hello, goodbye" in a way that suggested either she worked for the bus company but not in reservations, or she had no relationship with the bus company and her phone number had been listed in the tourist book by mistake and I wasn't the first person who had called asking). Now, by this point, I had largely resigned myself to taking the overnight train, but I was really not happy about it. I had barely slept the night before as it was, and I really wanted to get to Krakow.
Time passes and eventually the hostel office with the internet cafe opens. I start looking for possible connections to Krakow. There is a train at 10:50. Basically the same route except one extra connection in Katowice. This one stops in Breclaw too. Breclaw, Czech Republic (aka Breclav, Czech Republic). It seems I was always supposed to be headed that way, which would explain the whole Hamburg thing. I return to the same woman at the ticket booth. "Hello, it seems that there is a train after ten with connections to Krakow". "Yes, it is at 10:50, it stops in Breclaw and Katowice." She says without looking it up. Now, at no point in my earlier conversation with her had she said. "Well, there is a train, but you're going to have to make two transfers." Cos if she had, I would have heard it. Yes, my ticket would work, it will appear as the train to Berlin. The fact that I now had my problem solved made me happy enough that it overrode my murderous rage and so I am not writing this from a prison in Budapest.
Relieved that I now have to just sit around for a while, I go find something to eat. Everything is meaty. People are eating shwarma and drinking beer at 8 o'clock in the morning. I find pastries. Plain croissants. Can't go wrong with plain croissants. I order two. I find a the one space on the floor of the station that isn't covered in pigeon shit and sit down(there were two benches in the whole station and they were occupied). I tear into the first, chew eat the pastry-y goodness, look down and see that there is a hot dog in the middle of my croissant. Why? Who wants this? And what is wrong with these people? All of a sudden, there are no homeless people around to give food to. So I go back and get some with jam instead, I'll have to just trust that there was no meat in the jam.
My train finally arrives, I'm going to be in Krakow too late to do anything, but at least I'll get a good night's sleep. A porter looks at my ticket and directs me to a seat (usually I would have avoided him, but the thought of having someone help me with my bag was too good to pass up at that point in time). Nothing appeared unusual about my seat. I am enjoying my ride (although passport came by twice within a five minute period... no wonder these people have so many wars!). The guy comes by to check my ticket and it appears I was put into first class by my helpful (well compensated) porter. So I move. Seriously people, don't pay for first class, it's the same (I suppose if you are tall, there is a little bit more leg room).
Next station, all is well (clean, computerized departures board). I went and bought some snacks and there were two American women in store behind me who I thought I recognized from my train. As I am sat eating my sandwich I see one of them approach the exchange office because they didn't have any koruna to pay for their food. I can hear that the woman is having problems and the guy will only convert larger bills. I try to interject that I have quite a few koruna left and can probably help. She doesn't hear me so it was too late, but her sister heard my accent and came over. She had seen me on the train when the ticket guy made me move, we started to chat. She is clearly very relieved to hear an English speaker. She and her sister (travelling from Utah) have also had a fun morning. They were on our train only to discover that the travel agents had screwed up their tickets. Although their itineraries were correct, the tickets themselves were for Moscow. They were about to get kicked off the train (the ticket guy just kept telling them to "go back to Budapest"), despite having offered to buy the tickets on board, when a Czech passenger intervened and resolved the situation. So they were now waiting for their transfer too. We decided to stick together (they were now nervous about train travel, I was just so glad to talk to friendly people with no obvious historical chip on their shoulder). They were also planning to go to Auschwitz, so lots to talk about. I share my booklet from the Torture House (they missed it), they teach me Sudoku tricks.... all is right with the world.
Our train is delayed by 5 minutes. Then ten. At our next transfer we had about 20 minutes, so provided everything goes smoothly from that point on we would be okay. We arrive at Katowice with a couple of minutes until our connection arrives. But which track to be on? We find the connection from the printout on the wall and start to go down the stairs to get to the other platform when I notice that the train is pulling into the station. Apparently at this point I yell "Oh my God, it's here!!!!" in a particularly loud voice (I have no recollection of doing so, but I have to admit it sounds like me). We start to run and make it to the train just in time. The people in the station clearly think we are mad as we are now laughing hysterically at the ridiculousness of our day. We are North Americans, we have a new emotion. It is called happiness.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:16 PM
So unfortunately, world "sporting" events (the Grand Prix) made it so that arriving in Budapest any earlier would have been exorbitantly expensive and thus I had to get through it in little less than a day and a half.
Budapest is a strange town. From a distance everything looks amazing, huge old buildings, castles, churches, a citadel, hills, a beautiful old parliament. But if you get too close to anything it will likely have grafitti on it. Clearly, there is a poverty problem, and more than anywhere else I constantly had homeless people approaching me (there was an old woman on a bridge who stood completely hunched over leaning on a cane... and maybe I'm just a cynic but I immediately assumed she was fake. If she were really in that bad a state, why didn't she sit down?). The relationship between poverty and facial hair on women needs to be examined, because I have never seen more old women with beards in my life. Then again, I found people to be generally better dressed than in the other cities on my trip (far less manpris with socks).
My morning in Budapest began with a tour of the Donany Street Synagogue, which is the largest Synagogue in Europe. It has an interesting history and basically survived the war largely unscathed structurally because it was used by the Nazis for various purposes (stables, organizing the transport of Jews, etc.). It was also the centre of the ghetto and holds a mass grave of those that died there during the brief period of the Budapest ghetto (the Jewish cemetaries were outside its walls).
After wandering around the Jewish quarter for a while, I decided to play up my new status as that girl and decided to take a boat tour (it seemed silly to miss up a chance to sail along the Danube). It was a great way to see the city, with the hills of Buda rising up over the river. Plus, there were two drinks included with the price of the ticket, how could I resist?!
I then walked across the Chain Bridge to Buda (very difficult for me... the Charles Bridge in Prague was easy because there was no traffic and was so solid I was almost unaware that I was walking across a bridge... I'm not so much afraid of heights as I am falling off of things or dropping things over ledges... it's a weird phobia and hard to describe. I have tried and cannot walk across the Brooklyn Bridge) and took the Funicular Railway (not as big as the one in Prague unfortunately) up Castle Hill. I wasn't as impressed with this Castle Hill as the one in Prague and it seemed like a lot of buildings were recently or in the process of being renovated and therefore they looked strangely new even though they are hundreds of years old, but the view of Pest from the hill was spectacular.
I spent the evening wandering around the centre of the city. There were lots of tourists from all over the place (i.e. not just German) and it seemed the one area that they have really spent the time and money to clean up is the shopping district. Lots of cafes and open air dining everywhere and again, little trouble as a vegetarian which is always nice. And then off to bed because I was leaving for Krakow at 6:50 the next morning. Or was I?......
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 3:30 PM
Sunday, August 06, 2006
In all the fun of my journey from London to Berlin, I managed to lose my list of everyones addresses. So, if you were expecting to receive a postcard from me, but haven't, it's not personal (I also failed to mail some of my London postcards in the rush and so there's a stack I'll send out next Saturday when I get back to England... at least I have addresses for people whose London cards didn't get sent). If you would like to start receiving postcards, just send me an e-mail with your address and you can get the contents of my blog sent to you by post! With pretty pictures! And illegible handwriting!
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 4:02 PM
It’s not that I would say Central Europeans are unfriendly, but the first (non-American) person who smiled at me in a week was a little mentally disabled girl in the park at Terezin and her mother literally snatched her away by her face in response.
From my afternoon in Budapest, it seems that people don’t necessarily share quite the same loathe-thy-neighbour attitude as people in Berlin and Prague. I thought I sensed a change when I stepped off the train and was immediately descended upon by people asking me for money, offering to convert my money, and trying to get me to take their cab. Sure they’re not being friendly, but it does require that they acknowledge your presence. In Prague the beggars sit in a prayer position, forehead on ground, cap in front of them… no need to talk. Don’t get me wrong, no one has smiled, but someone did help me carry my luggage onto the tram and the security guard at the museum told me that I would need to hurry up if I wanted to see the whole exhibit (and he meant it in a nice way, he legitimately seemed concerned that I wouldn’t get through everything).
My first outing in Budapest was to the Terror House, located in the former headquarters of the Hungarian secret police, under both the Nazis and the Communists. It was one of the stranger museums that I have been in. Visually, it is quite appealing (perhaps the wrong term, but they do create an powerful effect). You go through a series of themed rooms that reflect the various eras of repression in 20th century Hungarian history (but largely centered around the 1940s and 50s). The rooms are quite bare, and there is very little text as a formal part of the exhibit. To supplement the lack of description, they have added a fully automated audio tour. The only problem is that the audio is linked to the room that you are standing in and the segments are anywhere up to 15 minutes each (with no option to fast forward). If you step over the line (sometimes the rooms aren't clearly delineated) it starts again from scratch. Because of that, I did learn quite a bit about Hungarian history (and I knew a reasonable amount to start with), but it did lead to me wandering around the same room again and again waiting for the segment to end. They have also recreated the prison cells of the victims of state torture and that part of the exhibit in particular was quite chilling.
Since I was only settled in at my hotel at four o'clock, that exhibit took up most of my first day in Budapest. I did wander around a bit, and there are some beautiful buildings, but I haven't been able to form too much of an impression yet. I have a packed day ahead of me tomorrow as it is my only full day here. I'll let you know how it goes.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 3:45 PM
Friday, August 04, 2006
(The title of this post will be funny to one person on earth... the rest of you will assume I'm just being my usual pretentious self).
The highlight of my final day in Berlin was going up to the domed roof of the Reichstag building. If the Canadian parliament was anywhere near as attractive, I might actually make the trip to Ottawa (might!).
The train to Prague was rather uneventful except for having to get up at 5:30 to catch the early train. We travelled through some rather beautiful country, and also some awful post-communist towns.
After getting settled in my hotel, I walked over to Wenceslas Sqaure... which is a complete and utter lie.... If I'm being generous it's a rectangle... in reality it is part of a street that happens to have a statue at the top of it. It is very touristy, full of fast food and places to change money (think the Yonge Street strip only with older buildings and alleyways). I began to grow concerned that Prague wasn't going to be as good as everyone had told me. I then walked up to Prague Castle and my fears dissipated. The view from the castle -- to say nothing of the castle grounds themselves -- is absolutely phenomenal. Unfortunately, as I was taking in the view, the torrential rains started. Despite having an umbrella, I was getting absolutely soaked. It was too late in the day to go to any museums, so I thought that my first day in Prague would be a wash. I started to head back to the centre of town from where I planned to return to my hotel and then figure out somewhere to go for dinner. Luckily, just as I was coming out of the subway, I saw an ad for Don Giovanni which is playing at its original theatre as part of Prague's celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. I'm not a huge opera fan (I have a problem with that whole suspension of disbelief thing), and Don Giovanni wouldn't necessarily be my choice, but this seemed like an opportunity that likely wasn't going to come up again. It was a great evening, the theatre alone made it worth the while (if you've seen Amadeus, it's that theatre), but the performance was very good as well.
This morning I walked across the Charles Bridge, which was absolutely packed with tourists (and understandably so) and then wandered through Mala Strana (the "Little Quarter") which is all windy streets and centuries old buildings (the odd church or fifty thrown in for good measure). I ended up back at the castle and went into the gardens (if you are looking for a new location for your workout the castle grounds might be something to consider... it takes a lot of steep steps to get views that good).
I then joined a tour group for a walk through the Old Jewish Quarter. It was largely demolished at the end of the 19th century, but there are still a number of old synagogues, the jewish cemetery (which is high above street level as it is many layers deep with bodies buried on top of bodies) and the Jewish city hall with a Hebrew clock that runs counter clockwise. Much of the rest of the day was spent walking around the streets of the old city. I had planned to take the furnicular railway up to Petrin, because it apparently offers yet another fantastic view of the city (and has a tower modelled on the Eiffel Tower, but at one fifth the size), but it is currently closed for repairs.
Tomorrow I'm taking a trip about an hour north to Terezin (known to the Germans, and thus the world, as Theresienstadt) to view the Nazi concentration camp which served as a transit camp for Central European Jews en route to Auschwitz and other death camps (and which they dressed up for visitors, leading to the rave reviews from the Red Cross).
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 3:25 PM
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I feel the need to report on what I have found in Berlin. It isn't pretty, and you may not want to hear it, but I feel it is important to be completely honest with you.
Men in Berlin.... they wear manpris. Not just the occasional wannabe hipster, but everyone. Young and old, rich and poor, white.... okay, just white people. For example, your dad? If he was German he'd have a pair of manpris. "Oh, please, as if!" I hear you scream. No really. He would. And worse than that, he'd wear them with socks. And sandals.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 7:01 AM
When I said that the Neue Nationalgallerie was guaranteed to please, I assumed that they hadn't taken all the art out. When I arrived yesterday, I discovered that they had removed the regular collection to make way for a Berlin/Tokyo exhibit. Now called me paranoid, but when the Germans start taking art from the Wiemar period out of the galleries and instead start celebrating their relationship with Japan, I get worried. I gave the exhibit a miss (although I did briefly consider it, if only to discover how creepy guys in Berlin who claim to be fascinated with Japanese culture because they find the women hot differ from creepy guys in Toronto who claim to be fascinated with Japanese culture because they find the women hot).
I ended up taking a bus tour of the city, because I have now officially become that girl. It confirmed what I had already been thinking about the city: although there is a lot of beautiful architecture in Berlin, both old and new, it doesn't result in a beautiful city because everything is so spread out. You never really get a sense of neigbhourhood.
Although it gave me an opportunity to see the city, it seems riding around on an open topped bus all afternoon without a hat gave me a mild case of sunstroke. I was back in my hotel room by around 7 o'clock. Oh well, at least I got a good night's rest.
Posted by Bitter Lemon at 6:47 AM