Friday, October 10, 2008


We took a short trip east this week, stopping for a while in Frankfurt an der Oder and Berlin. Frankfurt Oder is a small city in the former East Germany, right on the Polish border. As a point of reference, there is a series of documentary films about a group of people from the town of Golzow (1) that might ring a bell with some readers. Golzow is not far from Frankfurt an der Oder. Of course, if you haven’t seen the films, this won’t help much. You can google it or it could be there is still an atlas laying around somewhere.

Anyhow, Frankfurt an der Oder is a nice city and a little time capsule of the German Democratic Republic. The renovations began in a lot of the former eastern cities before the ink was dry on the reunification documents, but some are not progressing as fast as others. Frankfurt is a little behind and it’s still possible to see some not-yet-renovated pre-war architecture, as well as some good examples of the soviet era stuff. When I was growing up, we were told that these people were the among the most evil on the planet. Now I find they’ve mostly got little teddy bears collecting East German dust on almost every free square centimeter of their homes, many with little signs around their necks that say, “Ich liebe dich!”

And unlike John Kerry, we didn’t forget Poland. We walked across the short bridge and spent a day there. It turns out that you can still buy a decent apple in a store these days, and you only need go as far as Poland. We got a bag of crisp, tart, juicy apples for 2 or 300 zloty. We also stopped for lunch. My Polish isn’t as good as my Czech, and I don’t speak any Czech. So instead of ginger ale, we wound up with two very large Polish beers. 0,5 liters, to be exact. We made the best of it and got ourselves across the bridge again to Germany without incident.

Berlin was fabulous. We saw The Great Dictator at the Babylon, Berlin’s last great silent film era movie theater. Also paid our respects at Senefelder Platz to the discoverer of the lithographic process, walked by the site of Käthe Kollwitz’s home and managed to avoid going into any museums for over three days. Still, it’s nice to be home in Essen again.
(1) Named, in fact, The Children of Golzow; it’s very much like the amazing group of films by Michael Apted often called the “Up Series.”

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