Notes from Europe 1

The sun shone during our four days in Berlin, a fairly unusual event—as the city’s total sunshine for the year is around 1625 hours. Yet the thing I noticed most from my airplane window as we were landing, was the large number if solar panels and windmills. I’ve little doubt that if the USA had as many per capita solar panels and windmills as Germany, we could easily reduce our carbon emissions to 1990 levels or better. But, Germany seems to be free of climate change deniers. Of course the people who get their news from FOX might be under the impression that the reason solar energy has been more successful in Germany than in America, is because Germany has so much more sun.

The last time we were in Berlin was in 2001. It’s changed. In 2001 the “official bird” of Berlin was the construction crane. There were still a few cranes dotting the skyline, but nothing like the forest we saw when East Berlin was referred to as the “Wild East”. And, the Germans have made a concession to American traditions–hotels now regularly provide washcloths. This, when I have finally remembered to pack one!

On Wednesday we walked from our hotel near Museum Island to the Gemaldeglalerie along Unter den Lindon, through the Brandenburg Gate, by the Holocaust Monument, and through a corner of Berlin’s great park, the Tiergarten. In 2001, the Brandenburg and surrounding buildings were closed for reconstruction. On the way there, just before we reached the Brandenburg, we walked by small demonstrations on two corners. From our very limited German, we made out that they were demonstrating against or for the present regime in Egypt. By the time we were on our way back, the demonstration had grown considerably, and the police had blocked off the surrounding streets, causing a catastrophic traffic jam. We had attempted to take a taxi back, but gave up after forty-five minutes, and walked. We seemed to be walking about one block ahead of the marching demonstrators, the police were setting up barricades immediately behind us as we walked. Turns out, Egyptian President Fattah Al-Sisi was visiting Germany, and some folks wanted Chancellor Angela Merkel to know how they felt.

The Berliners were hosting the Champions League Soccer finals between Turin and Barcelona on Saturday, the day we left for Dresden. On Friday night, we sat at a table next to a table of what were obviously soccer fans. We asked them who would win the game. Barcelona, was the reply. A man, who had flown over with his teenage son from Brooklyn just for the game, explained that it would be bad luck to actually say that Turin, where he was from originally, would win. Barcelona won. I don’t really think our conversation had anything to do with Turin’s loss, but…

Although Dresden was devastated in 1945, its reconstruction makes it hard to believe that it’s changed much in the last three or four hundred years. Yesterday, Saturday, was truly an exceptionally hot, sunny day for Germany, up to 90 degrees F. We ate at a Michelin one-star restaurant. It was so uncomfortably warm in the restaurant, that it was difficult to enjoy the meal. One of our delightful waitresses said the air conditioning had “given up”. Today is cloudy, with occasional showers—much nicer for viewing the magnificent Zwinger and its museums. The Old Master Gallery has a wonderful collection, including Vermeer’s “Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window”, my favorite. The porcelain collection has an exquisite array of Chinese (including Ming), Japanese Imari, and Meissen. The Zwinger (meaning intermural) is a wonderful Baroque structure built around courtyard large enough to hold tournaments.

And so our first week in Europe comes to a close—we left on Monday and arrived on Tuesday. So: (the Germans seem to start many of their sentences with “so” when speaking English,) number of days in Germany, six; number of homeless people observed, zero.


3 thoughts on “Notes from Europe 1

  1. Alex Maclachlan

    Renewable energy in Germany isn’t necessarily “successful”, it’s government mandated and subsidized by the rest of rate payers. Germany’s electricity is some of the most expensive in the World and currently 150% more expensive than the USA. German industry is mostly investing outside its own country now, because of this skyrocketing energy price component, which is a killer for jobs and competitiveness. Spain was as singularly focused as Germany in the 2000’s and almost bankrupted their country. Ideology over practicality usually ends this way


    1. mmliles Post author

      Yes, but perhaps the Germans are paying a truer cost–we don’t begin to pay for what our energy use does to the environment. Germany is very prosperous, they give their children an excellent education, one that doesn’t include the ideological concept that all children should go to college, but all are prepared to earn a living. German business interests seem to be investing a lot in new construction–if what’s happening in Berlin and Dresden is any indication.


  2. Karen Nelson

    Thank you for a wonderful essay on Berlin. Have a wonderful time and please keep us enlightened. I so enjoy your posts.



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