Off to Berlin: taxi, train, tube and flight. T5, home from home. There were surprisingly few people in the security queue, none in fact. Late morning and a walk through, far swifter than the bloody fast track route. On the other hand I am now sitting on an uncomfortable seat in a shopping mall amidst many people. Nasty.

Finn collected us at the airport and shuffled us off to Angelika’s apartment in Nithackstr. Charming. Delightful. Tall. We chatted, watered plants and then I hit the super market. Baffled by the many sorts of milk, so had to guess. Sitting on the balcony in the balmy heat eating gherkins, large, very red tomatoes, bitter rye bread and a German cheese and drinking green tea. Heaven. We are neighbours of Charlottenburg Schloss, a refined area quite at odds with the very public display of tattooing across the road from the palace...


It is a bijou flat for sure, but we fitted in and have know far smaller in our time. Up early having slept solidly, clearly my way of coping with jetlag, now breakfasting, watering plants and planning (unambitiously) for the day. Rear Window watching is the order of the day; we look out onto a quadrangle of many blocks of flats and a squeezed view of Charlottennburg Palace lodge, now the Surrealist Museum and our destination today. The Dubuffet, Lunatic Cow, 1954, enviously complete, confident and with a commanding \240title.

Culture 1: Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, known to me, rather ignorantly/lazily, as the surrealist museum. Bloody brilliant, rooms packed tight with all the main surrealists, some one might not have guessed, and several of their possible influences. There’s also a massive ancient Egyptian gateway, donated at the time of the Aswan Dam building project, the gateway an oddly surrealist juxtaposition. I imagine that removing it when the Egyptian collection was moved to Museum Island, was just too expensive. The museum is so close we went back to the flat for lunch before embarking on Culture 2.

The museum is so close we went back to the flat for lunch before embarking on Culture 2, en route we passed a shop window that might easily claim a degree of surrealism de nos jours.

This odd image matched anything to be seen in the Surrealist Museum. Grotesque. I put the Goya in as its title is Up to His Grandfather 1797. I felt a distinct rapport with abuelo...Piranesi I have always, even when they were relatively cheap and I neglected to buy a set, admires without reservation. The rude, tall tin picture is a Max Klinger, 1880 - The Devil’s Pen...just the thing to keep chatter going if hung in the kitchen.

Man Ray’s strong photograph with its plume of armpit hairiness, a sharp reminder of how subtle eroticism once was. As a counterbalace an André Masson, Massacre, where the lines vigorously contradict the idea that drawing is a static, two dimensional medium. Glance up into the dome of either of the twin museums and a giants eye greets you, an architectural tease, almost certainly unintentional.

Sue descends, evidently can’t wait to join the giant Giacometti in the hall. The Picasso readymade of a bird leaves me bowlegged with envy and disbelief. So simple. So Picasso, as is the depressed, starving, old-before-his-years Harliquin.

It’s a truly marvellous collection, Benin bronzes side by side with best of the decade Picasso/Matisse/Cezanne/Klee. Picasso wins, I would especially love a copy of his huge Lino print. Galling that it was his first attempt in the medium.

Every time I’ve been here I have admired this car and puzzled about it...what is it? Fiat, I suppose. Whatever, I’d like to own it. In the meantime it sits by the kerb outside my apartment. Galling.

Today is a blistering day with skies that make every photograph I’ve taken look heavily filtered. Such blues, and no bleaching out, despite the solar mega wattage. Culture day 2 resumé: Architecture and breakfast on/up the Reichstag. Charlottenburg palace is very long and low and sits alongside the cigarette papers I bought at the local supermarket, Thomas Shüte’s monster castings at the Brohan are below them.

The subway is similar to the Japanese/Delhi one, a continuous corridor down the centre of the carriages. \240Unter den Linden and a very expensive, minute fresh orange juice, though worth it balanced against free access to Frank Ghery bank building fantasy: a fish? A beehive? Jolly expensive whatever. The Memorial for Murdered Jews was, as ever, a cautionary experience - dour and unsettling; the light was startlingly bright casting darkest shadows of utmost clarity, grey concrete with the odd geometry of shadows. Look upwards and the brightness of the sky fills the jagged negative space left by the field of stelae. Even tourists can’t spoil the experience (that’s me, I suppose).

A new and barely occupied building from an architect with super yachts on his mind. This building will look disgracefully grubby within a couple of years. Brandenburger Tor, on the other hand, looks as fresh as it did in 1791 (I’m hazarding a guess here).

Norman Forster’s Reichstag dome...it works, the glass is clean and access is precisely and systematically handled. It’s a marvel with a 360’ view and a panoramic photograph to help place the major buildings. It’s also the only (sort of) selfie I’ve ever taken...

Lunch was at the Culture Forum where salads are priced by weight. It was so quiet eating there was a pleasure, art we reserve for another day.

The Sony Centre, 1990s Helmut Jhan. Fab views from, and travelling to, the ninth floor. The lifts are erratic, therefore slightly worrying.


Gentle start to the day, a little packing, chargers, loudspeaker, all the vitals for a short trip to Dresden. Getting to the station, just how long ought I to allow? Another brilliant, clear blue day. Caerulean, if that’s how it’s written. Cheesecake and green tea, the latter not quite offsetting the damage done by the former.the rest are local photographs, the Schloss and the school buildings opposite (what were they for originally I wonder? Signs of the zodiac, black heads, the seasons etc., slightly cabalistic).

Enormous station on, perhaps, four levels. Our train leaves from the Hell level and is on time. They seem to have removed a carriage so we sat in random seats which I indeed defending unto death (first class and reserved).

Berlin’s main station, on four levels, rather resembles a Piranesi prison with views through stairways, escalators and trains ( not that he had many of the last two). The train was a glorious shambles - we felt quite at home. Met Nicole and went to the Green Cabinet for a glorious show of museum magic, the enfilade of variously themed rooms - amber, nacre, nautilus, silver gilt and, most reducing of all, the jewellery room with its huge emeralds, dead pearls and electrifying diamonds. The jewels finished me off for anything else but a gentle saunter followed by a salad and collapse.

Hotel Hyperion, perfectly place for a lazy gallery goer. Dresden, around here, is a glorious showcase of splendid architecture, some original, some rebuilt, some a bit of both.

The carillon below is made from Meissen porcelain and strikes at quarter past the hour.

I chose the hotel because it is within v close walking distance of all the major galleries and sights. Collapsed and slept well in the lightproof room. Breakfasted so fully that all I feel fit for now is bed. Nicole arrives at 10:00 ish so will read myself to sleep for a while. Or not. Weather looks dull. Culture 3/4 - totally exhausted and off to a concert v soon so pictures and no words yet. Excellent drive around and out of the city. Schlosses galore, vineyards and ancient hostelries and houses. Night fell. Lovely driving around with amber street lights colouring buildings, all strange and new.

What a superb Raphael (1512), despite those annoyingly ubiquitous putti. The green drapes and St Barbara’s slightly different green stole, heavenly. Adam and Eve featured massively in this gallery, Cranach’s especially with their small breasts and large, curved hips. I’d be very happy with any of the many Tower of Babel pictures - 1595, Valckenborch here, it’ll do.

What a wonderful use of marble: a flayed Jesus gruesomely represented using red speckled marble - 1728, Balthasar Permoser.

Very early morning view from our hotel room through triple double glazing. Gloriously excessive with many lions and a swan. Recovered from yesterday’s cultural extravaganza and ready to launch today’s with a bunch of more modern art and some churches for contrast.

Hans Grundig, 1935/38 - The Thousand Year Empire

Caspar Friedrich David, 1832 - The Large Enclosure Near Dresden

Arnold Böcklin, 1891 - \240Summer Day

Henri Toulouse Lautrec

Arnold Böcklin, 1896 - The War

Niki de Saint-Phalle, 1966 - Model for Lysistrata (an art gallery?)

Van Gogh, 1887 - Still Life with Quinces

Gerhard Richter, 1983 - Skull, oil on canvas

I am pursuing this installation (below) of thousands of gold foil wrapped sweets (delicious), first seen in the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. A three year old toddled over to the piece, attracted to the glitter; it took her a very little time to realise the full implication of these little parcels of sweetness. I ate/sucked on one. So many delightful and / wonderful pieces: Van Gogh, Monet, Richter, Gaugin, Lautrec, Tony Cragg, Casper David Friedrich, Ensor...

What a wonderful, calm final day in Dresden. Nicole made it inestimable better by looking after us, showing us things we would never have found for ourselves. Today we went to the two huge churches, the ones that lend their profiles to Dresden’s distinctive skyline. In both we were lucky to hear organs blasting out. The cathedral especially, where the organist played Bach and we had quiet time to look and think. Afterwards we went back to brennNessel, the vegetarian restaurant. Great food. Ten minutes on the station then off back to Berlin. First class was (again) a shambles with people arguing and stumbling around with heavy cases. We got in quickly, sat down and prepared to defend out position, which was fortunately unnecessary. We got off at the right stop, thus avoiding a detour via Kiel.

...and meanwhile, on Berlin’s main railway station, the tango with sexy lighting. Odd.

Sunday in Berlin and a slightly later start than usual, though in the café, which is usual. Off via Charlottenburg gardens to the Boros Collection. Young blackbirds fed on berries in the window box this morning, I ate some ripened tomatoes.

Wandered around the gardens then set out for the Boros Collection in the WW2 bunker. Fascinating stuff with charming, erudite, beautifully dressed docent. No photographs allowed...


Off to Potsdam today, an overland trip to see Sans Souci and the newish Barbarini Museum. It will be a gentle day, preparing us for tomorrow’s final burst of cultural energy. Not very cultural, but probably great fun and undoubtedly dangerous, were the tiny go-carts we saw zipping around wide, traffic-filled streets. But first coffee for Sue and green tea for me in the café with WiFi just round the corner. I need my Daily Telegraph fix, if only for the crossword. I forgot yesterday and had to creep by on the pavement for a surreptitious download.

Kandinsky - Above and Left, 1925 and highly desirable; less so, our reflections in a Richter.

Emil Nolde - Blue Mood, 1905 and another Kandinsky - Murnau, Landscape \240with Green House, 1909

The massive Gerhard Richter show knocked the rest of the Barberini collection off the walls damn it. However, mustn’t complain as getting this exhibition together was a major opportunity to admire a large body of his work (and look at some v informative videos of him working on the development of a set of paintings with squeegees, brushes, Perspex etc.).

The Barberini Museum, Potsdam. A group of ticket inspectors got on the train and gave me a thorough going over as I hadn’t got the correct level of ticket (as well as it being Angelika’s season ticket). I got away with it, though not too sure how this happened. Worth remembering that getting away with it saves €60. Ate PanAsian food at a fast food outlet-delicious, mine was chilli and Sue’s was peanut, loads of noodles, big prawns and vegetables. Bliss. Finn came round in the evening bringing us a mug with the Berlin Transport system on it. Very useful indeed and also a very kind gesture. We chatted, English words, synonyms, various nuances, shades of meaning; of course it isn’t always easy for us to explain the finer points of grammar, e.g. what are the differences between in and at. All we can offer, apart from a marked disunity, are examples of usage.

A quandary, do we spend a day at the Hamburger Bahnhof or at the Culture Forum? I like both equally and both have excellent restaurants. In the meantime there’s breakfast, though not including the alarmingly vivid eggs which must have dropped from fluorescent chickens. The window of a woodcarver had rods of 2”x2” with characters carved on their tops acting as particularly dense curtains for his studio window. His lathes were on tables behind. We travel on long bendy buses to Zoo, then change to the metro. Public transport in Berlin is exemplary and cheap.

Off to find a café without wasps. Huh! The Old Masters won so we spent hours wrecking our feet but had a brief half an hour eating the superb salads they sell (by weight) there.

Ghirlandaio - Portrait of a Young Man, 1490

Pieter de Hooch - The Gold Weigher, 1644

Rembrandt - Gold Weigher, 1627

Finish with a super-sexy Leda and the (very happy) Swan, Correggio, 1532.


The road we live in, indeed have visited and stayed in for many years now, Nithackstr. The school shown was built in 1913/14, the palace is at the far end of the road, the apartment is on the far left. All over, apartment cleaned up and off to Tegel via the coffee shop with brilliant WiFi.