The internet is hugely helpful when travelling though it does mean sorting oneself out well ahead of the trip, or missing out. I’ve got all the tickets for concerts/operas that I wanted, though not necessarily in the seats I would have chosen had I had enough warning.


One case and a pile of stuff - not many clothes just books, maps, presents, chargers, machinery, umbrella, small bottles of liquids and a Roger & Gallet, Œillet Mignardise soap, dished up. Check in, six hours...

Civilised start on the uncrowded 07:44 to King’s Cross. Drawing on this tablet doesn’t get any easier, more friction between stylus and glassy surface would help, also faces that looked less than dead.

I’m overdressed, half way between silver(I hope) and L’Oreal Mucky Blond, sweaty and far too old to have a sintilla of vanity left. The stern bright redhead has removed her sweater revealing her to be a heavily illustrated woman...

Night bus - something I would hesitate before tackling in London, here I’m used to the M45 to Zoo then the 100/200 along Unter der Linden. Interesting mix of people; I can chart the ethnicity of the areas we pass through by their comings and goings. Charlottenburg is rather grand, I’m the only one getting off the bus.

“I’m joined on the flight deck by x to help keep me out of trouble. We’ve got a crackin’ crew in the cabins today.’ My confidence fades, I long for old-fashioned silence from the two pilots keeping each other company.

Rushing around stocking up with food, all shops are closed tomorrow and I’m out this evening. Finn delivered the keys and we’ve arranged to meet tomorrow. It’s comfortable being somewhere so v familiar. The apartment is so compact that nothing can go wrong - I can see it all at once.

Night bus - something I would hesitate before tackling in London, here I’m used to the M45 to Zoo then the 100/200 along Unter der Linden. Interesting mix of people; I can chart the ethnicity of the areas we pass through by their comings and goings. Charlottenburg is rather grand, I’m the only one getting off the bus.

Much admired design - the Stop and Go man. I do wonder about this: my inclination, I suspect like most other \240 \240 \240 \240 \240UK-ers, is to cross a road when there’s nothing pressingly dangerous. Nope, not here - a totally empty road and a red light commands obedience; I submit reluctantly, unless it’s dark enough to get away with it, in which case I scuttle across cloaked with an invisibility that only I can see ( if you see what I mean).

Prime Minister’s house (I think)[checked and find that it’s the Federal President’s place - am unsure who he is or what he does] - Schloss Bellevue - the lighting winks at Magritte.

Zoo - \240where spies arranged to meet, at least in the novels I’ve read. The Elephany Gateway was built in 1899 but bombed during WW2, odd because it looks quite Art Deco.

Brandenburg Gate (1791 with Quadriga on top) there were several marriage parties dancing, singing, posing, selfie-ing and not a policeman in sight, the only uniforms were those worn by the myriad chauffeurs.

Fernsehturm, 1969 and the Berliner Dom, 1905

Dom and Fernsehturm

Staatsoper - pre performance.

It was a starry cast - Waltraud Meier and a large cast of women. I felt that Strauss would have willingly done without males however René Pape was wonderful as Orestes though quite how he was persuaded to sing such a small rôle...

During the applause I noticed the band disbanding the moment the curtain lowered. Most odd - an early night? Then they appeared on stage for a full couple of curtain calls. I have never seen this before. Daniel Barenboim was in the pit so I suppose that he insisted. Good idea, wonder if they like all that shuffling about?

Back on the night bus and rather more prosaic sights - CurryWurst stand with blue-haired server was hugely popular - I v briefly felt envious of the queueing carnivores.

An hour ahead so not too tired. Watched The Umbrella Academy, Netflix - loved it so another series to obsess on.

Frederick the Great watches over Unter der Linden

And what a good way to start the day. I’ve never been v interested in cars, but this Bugatti is so beautiful that I’m conquered. I believe that they are quite expensive and I don’t suppose the insurance is all that cheap for an old man. I subsequently checked them out and find that an oil change costs between $20,000-$25,000. Gracious...

An 1885 silver watering can by Christopher Dresser;Archibald Knox for Liberty’s and an 1875 C Dresser teapot

Open at 06:00 until late my v local coffee shop Back Time (?) where I use WiFi and drink way too many espressos. It’s far better now than during our last visit when flies had set up home on the cakes and wasps buzzed freely: Sue and I were the only ones bothered about this unpalatable invasion.

In U.K. why do we remove old lampposts and replace them with horrid modern, easily damageable, designs? I noticed last evening that there were rows and rows of beautiful lamps throughout the Tiergarten; most streets have retained the old, but modified, gas lights. The lights in the Tiergarten looked extremely vulnerable, designed like Chinese lanterns, sort of fat ovals, two street lights high up and one low down to light the way for bicycles and walkers. They all, many hundreds, were working and unvandalised. Maybe giving people design continuity, beautiful design, rather than cost-related non-design from visually illiterate councillors \240would work. Worth a try.

Sorry, preaching...

My street in Berlin, one I know v v well having stayed here for a decade on and off. The Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik Berlin (plastercast museum, see below) is in Nithackstr. and is great if you like broken nosed statues, coy Venuses or willyless strongmen.

Nithackstr in the v early morning. On the left is a school, I’m on the right and at the end of the road is a well looked after park, at the other end the extremely long façade of Schloss Charlottenburg. Hard to get lost...

The Brohan Museum occupies me for several hours longer than I had expected. Wonderful and equally horrendous examples of Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts/Ar Deco with an occasional nod to the ‘40s-‘70s. Sat in the sun on the Schlossstr (really, three) mucking around with photographs. Here goes...

Homage à Abi - Sussex chair, 1865 - Ford Maddox Brown (

Unusual - a child’s wheelbarrow by Reitveld, 1920

...and an unclouded version of his famous zigzag chair

Marcel Breuer ‘assembly’ chair - not called that. I wonder if he, like the man who invented cats’ eyes and chose to be paid per eye, was paid by the chair. I do know the huge sense of being in the presence of the very best of designers: when I see his work I exhale with pleasure.

An 1885 silver watering can by Christopher Dresser;

Danish silver: Karl Gustav Hanson, 1968 silver/jade bracelet and ring; Henning Kopel, silver bracelet; Bjarne Welmer, 1944 silver figurative brooches.

Theo Schmuz-Baudiss, 1906 porcelain lamp for Dresden

Excellent concert in beautiful new Frank Gehry concert hall shaped within and old factory. Gehry has floated a couple of wooden, wobbly donut shapes above an oval performance area. It’s a very restrained, clearly expensive interior. The windows, each one, are mini masterpieces of deception and form driven by function. I’ll shut up...

Wagner, Siegfried Idyll - blissful, teary, explosive, immersive. Schönberg Symphony for 15 soloists, which had more than a whiff of Hollywood to it - the mists of Mandalay swirled, trains, newly-kindled romance and every now and then all the fifteen soloists met at a crossroads, in the same key and playing the same tune. Occasionally.

At halftime the men came in and switched round the orchestra, I was now in the back row of the brass and what a riveting experience. Four feet away there were two valveless French horns with curls of bass pipes that were added to change key (I think). To my right I had a couple of valveless trumpet players, they had two instruments each, and so on through the orchestra. An Old Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, long overdue; if I had seen this when young I would have demanded French horn lessons...

They played Beethoven’s Fourth, I might easily say we played etc. as the first few rows were buried beneath sound: a new section of the band - woodwind; strings; senior citizens. Gosh, it was a fresh performance from musicians who were maybe \240thirty years old, though some were clearly far younger. Their playing was very physical, bodies responding to Beethoven, close-dancing with their instruments.

St-Hedwigs-Kathedrale, 1773

Ready for my second breakfast this time at Back Time café so I can piggyback on their WiFi. Postcard writing, plans for the day and rest: I no longer have inexhaustible energy dammit; at least I’m recovering a scintilla of my much faded joie de vie - the bluest of blue skies and warming sun help massively.

There are morning mists hanging about as I move towards Kurfürstendamm for shopping in Berlin’s smartest of smart shops, KaDeWe (largest department store in Europe, they say), ‘arrods on ‘ormones, well steroids but it doesn’t fit as well. It’s theme, window displays and odd spots around the store, appears to be the Fashion Weeks happening at the moment. Designers du jour are showcased on red carpets, behind velvet ropes. I’m guessing that it’s all meant to suggest exclusivity, though mostly I was minded of the ruddier side of Amsterdam.

Well before lunchtime the imbis/cafés are heaving: curry wurst, anything with wurst, glüwein, coffee and cakes - most here are a foot taller than me, so I’ll throw a few sour grapes into the mix.

WW2 victim. I think the damaged spire, the wrecked spire, is thought provoking with an admixture of guilt. Nothing simple about the elephant in Kurfürstendamm, it often crops up in chats.

I once knew what these wriggly shapes were meant to symbolise but have forgotten. I think that I’d rather have something there without symbolic meaning, just something that is. These are fine if you enjoy large, expensive extrusions, heavy with symbol. I can take them or leave them, on Saturday the latter obtains.

Inside is a photograph-free zone. It’s a relief...

The architecture continues to amaze, though without WiFi i am unable to do adequate research into the architects represented. I could guess but fear being wrong.

Post supper green tea/WiFi at my local. When I say supper I really mean a roll, a bap, a filled stunted loaf. It’s not too pathetic as there’s another in the refridgerator, which may constitute my breakfast, and they were from KaDeWe, so in fast food terms I’m close to Die beste aller möglichen Welten.

This evening it’s The Umbrella Academy (Netflix/excellent) until I pass out.

I’m drawing the blinds, gazing aimlessly, thinking of Rear Window, though I’m a sad substitute for J Stewart. The apartment opposite has terrific lights, I find myself suffering from lightshade envy.

Street ‘furniture’ - bitte füttern? With what? The cigarette tray was emitting clouds of smoke, quite a fire building up - I snapped it and walked on.

Lawrence Weiner, 1976 9

I haven’t been into the zoo, but it is the transport hub of West Berlin so I \240visit it every day, several times. Faux Oriental suggests 20s/‘30s, though this was way earlier.

Wonderfully odd architecture - I think that the 2D meeting 3D is a way of concealing, an interim measure. Fascinating...

Off to the Hamburger Bhanhof, a museum of ideas expressed through (mainly) twentieth century art. I’m very impressed at the frequent rehanging they do, all the American Pop artists have shifted in favour of Marc Quinn’s Shit Head, Beuys, Flavin etc.

The massive, main platform area, of this museum is given over to this video installation - The Demon’s Brain, Agnieszka Polska. It works for me - I could sit down, my eyes and brain were separately and jointly engaged - my choice. There was more than pointing a camera and having grand ideas. A Polska had used animation/distortions/dialogue all powering this experience.

Lee Bontecou - untitled, 1960

Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Donald Judd

George Segal - Man Installing Pepsi Sign, 1973

Marc Quinn - Shithead, 1997\\98 \240 Roman Signer - Ventilaroren, 1998 (two fans, one plugged in)

Richard Jackson - Untitled (Wall Painting), 1988\\2006

Lawrence Weiner, 1976

Joseph Beuys - The Capital Room, 1970-1977, 1980

Anselm Kiefer - Lilith by the Red Sea, 1990

Dan Flavin - Untitled (to you Leo in long respect and affection) 3, 1978

Otto Mueller - self portrait, 1924

Otto Mueller - Zigeunerin im Profil, 1927

Rirkrit Tiravanija - untitled 2010 (All The Day’s On The Autobhan)

Jason Rhoades - Fucking Picabia Cars With Ejection Seat, 1997\\2000

Jason Rhoades - Inner Light, 1998

Carl André - 07515 Karlsplatz, 1992

Bruce Nauman - Raw War, 1970

Sigmar Polke - Dublin, 1968

Bruce Nauman - Corridor Installation (Nick Wilder Installation), 1970

Café for green tea...

I saved this from yesterday - Bruce Nauman, 1984-2010 - Room with My Soul Left Out, Room That Does Not Care. Astounding piece of work in a cold, cold place (presumably intentional/refridgerated/the result of the room on me?). Walking into the gaping maw takes a hint of will - this room is right at the end of the Hamburger Bhanhof world and is frequently/mostly empty - people tend not to hang around. Dante might have appreciated its power...

So my day starts here with strong coffees at the café and bus rides to Brandenburg Platz.i had time to spare so drifted over to the DB by Frank Gehry. Drifted? No, not really, I was pulled towards it: once seen twice bitten, an appropriate saw in view of the fish-like architecture. From the outside it’s not a great deal, expensive materials for sure but it has a curiously amputated appearance. Inside is spectacular, sculptural and not at all bank-like unless you factor in its obvious expense: there’s nothing shy about it.

The nose-like shape in the middle is a meeting room; beneath the glass canopy is a social area with bunches of odd melted white tubes that are the lighting. Viewed from the top of the Reichstag the banks roof is easily mistaken for a dead (urban) salmon.

I met Maris and had to explain how I managed to leave my passport at home. Damn embarrassing...of course they managed with bits of identity I had in my wallet - I probably didn’t present as being much of a threat to world peace. Walked around beneath all the buildings, the river (Spree) and into a few rooms, walls covered with the very best of German art. The vast central courtyard had several Gormley rusty willy sculptures where you might least expect to see them, i.e. protruding horizontally from walls. I didn’t take photographs though I probably could have done.

I left Maris and wandered around the dome along with hundreds of tourists, school parties and tour guides with brightly colours umbrellas. It really is an extraordinary, complex piece of engineering.

Ballet in the lift...

100 bus to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum which, after a couple of floors of Death Struggles with a Woman for her Child, left me in need of strong tea, lunch and a rest. Her work is powerful, eloquent and must have changed many people’s attitude towards war and poverty, as well as ramping up the profile of women artists. Her way of capturing inner grief and representing it as a body-changing experience is second to none, as is her drawing of hands (with mentioning as some artists struggle with hands, frequently avoiding them altogether). The house that is now the museum couldn’t be more different from the place she lived with her socialist, doctor husband and son (one son was killed in WW1).

Bellevue - The Federal President’s Palace

Zoo - waiting for a bus...

Yup, works for me every time, was bawling quietly from the overture to There’s a Place for Us, quiet finale. Feeling more than usually vulnerable to emotional depth charges - ran into a lamppost having made the mistake of listening to Maria Callas singing Vissi d’arte on my headphones. West Side \240Story with super energetic cast of thousands (fifty singer/dancers and a Verdi-sized orchestra) was always going to demolish me. They spoke in German and sang in English, fine after a while. Big, big stage, running up to the back wall, with a huge turntable which enabled quick changing props, running and walking on the spot. Loved every moment.

Breakfast, my second one of the day. Greed, but then I do need the energy.

Excluding Zopiclones, which are at the bottom of my case, this constitutes my travelling medical kit. Arthbloodyritis in my hands, which doesn’t hurt except \240occasionally, but when it does it’s \240sharply painful enough to make me yell (usually quietly).

Slow start today as the sky is grey, the pavements charcoal with fallen rain. I am deciding where to go, I’m thinking of change my plans which involved lots of travel, centering myself instead at the kultureforum - their lunchtime salads, sold by weight of plateful, are delicious.

Several lorries loaded with rusty metal pieces and square cut timber poles gather near Zoo. There are overalled men plus a trio of pea coated, bespectacled, clip-board clutching, finger-pointing organisers. I deduced from this scene that there was to be an installation, another piece of Public Art: cultural droppings. I’ll look later has turned out to be a cute wooden church which is sinking at the same angle that boats sink in movies.

Drifted out fully water-proofed and antifreezed - a Zara wrapped Michelin man. Unpredictably it is now cerulean skied and very warm in my arctic wear. For once I am pleased that museums have lockers.

I walked across the Tiergarten, hardly another person in sight yet I felt safe. Rather beautiful, I admire countryside when it’s within spitting distance of city shops.

The Egyptian Embassy In Berlin - there was a protest going on, men waving placards, singing playing over loudspeakers(excellent sound), I resisted the temptation to photograph them...

Ball Gown with Stripes, French/English, 1865

Woman’s dress with mutton sleeves, 1830

White summer ensemble, English/French, 1866

An Informal(don’t you just love that word - how could one sit down in it?) House Frock, Worth, 1882/83

Thompson’s Favourite for the Empress, 1860-63 and Thompson’s Double Duplex bustle, 1879

Miriam Haskell, 1940-1950; William de Lillo, 1968-1969

Callot Soeurs, 1900-1905; Summer dress, French, 1885

Lab in, 1927\\28; Paul Poiret, 1921\\22

Fortuny, Delphos, 1920

Madeleine Vionnet, 1932

Yves St Laurent, 1968

Madame Grés, 1973

Yves St Laurent (for Dior), 1958 and on the right 1955

Christian Dior, 1948

Lanvin, 1939

Boots, England, 1900

I would travel the world, pay any amount for a seat to hear any composer Daniil Trifonov decides to play. Play ain’t the mot juste, he inhabits his playing in a way I have never before heard. He starts off sitting upright, I felt him ease into each piece, the slow burn, the reaching of each crescendo, his disappearing into the music, chin on middle C. His posture varied from something close to Reitveldt’s zigzag chair, leaping at the massive Bosendorfer, muscling the chords out of it and for the pppianissimos he resembled a tortoise, head retracted into his open necked shirt. Bloody brilliant. Totally exhausting. Three encores, the auditorium rose as one at the end of the Prokovief 8th piano sonata. He looked gaunt, tired,undernourished.

The perfect ending to a perfect evening, chips. These were twice fried chips made from unpeeled potatoes, very crisp and very hot. I ate them wandering around Zoo waiting for the M45.

Planning for the last day. Last days make me want to go back to bed, I’m not keen on endings. Still, clearing up is fun so all is not gloom...except that when I drew the blinds I was greeted with the above, a slate grey sky. Very Dramatic.

Berlin would be a very easy to place to live in, just wandering around this huge double city gives me immense pleasure.

Balenciaga, 1955 and Balenciaga, 1954

Christian Dior, 1955

Pierre Cardin, 1969 and Madame Grés, 1979

Gianni Versace, 1994

Paco Rabanne, 1970

Last day, last hours - dreary thought/s. Fifteen minutes by v once every ten minutes bus service to Tegel airport means I can go out for a couple of hours. I’ve cleared up already and will sweep up a little later. Sad. Bought Amaryllis/Hippeastrum for the apartment and won’t see them in full glory. Vietnamese with Finn last evening then early to bed with the last episode of the compelling Umbrella Academy. Woke up at 04:30, felt compelled to get up.

I wonder what persuaded them to name their tea after the emperor’s farts?

Given time I would learn German, it sits well in my tongue, unlike French which demands an accent my mouth is incapable of replicating (to the satisfaction of native speakers).

Inventive parking which appears to be acceptable to the police/traffic people. It’s fine I suppose...

...from yesterday:

A Gentleman’s necessaire - Paris, 1807 - would love to bowl up to a Ryanair flight with this piece of kit.