BACK TO BERLIN FOR THE HOLIDAY SEASON

This holiday season it was to be, “this year in Jerusalem,”

However, our embarrassment of an impolitic president made an impolitic statement, touching off demonstrations in the Middle East, and prompting us to postpone our planned trip there to Israel and Jordan.

So dutifully reassigning our air miles, we move on to the second leg of our planned trip, to another city where I have a history, Berlin; there to celebrate a gala upcoming New Year’s and an awesome music scene there, as I comment this weekend on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere.

Berlin, of course, also has a history, a tumultuous one, which frankly engrosses me, and also stirs memories. The city is now thriving, but arguably it is the nexus of the last century, cursed by two disastrous world wars, and a crippling cold war,

It was that war that divided the city with a hateful wall I remember some 40 years ago when I crossed it on a dubious assignment for the U.S. government, haunted as a Jew by the horrors of the holocaust and as a liberal humanist by a cruel Communist autocracy. Our family did not fare well under either.

Crossing it then for me was like walking on egg shells, taking each step carefully while looking over my shoulder, whether above ground at Checkpoint Charley or underground by the subway through the security maze of the Fredrichstrasse Station.

At least it was warm in the then drab U Bahn station, not piercing cold as the streets of Berlin can be in the winter, and which makes me all the more happier to live now in Malibu.

I returned to Berlin several years later, in 1982, on a urban affairs junket as design critic for the L.A. Times. Though circumstances were more congenial, the city was still divided and edgy as ever. Journalists never seem to be welcomed in paranoid regimes, then in German, and now in the United States. (My concerns about a demagogic Trump have a veritable basis.)

Then the wall came down with a crash and cheers in 1989; Germany was united, and a decade later I was back in Berlin, this time for FOX TV News doing a documentary series on a city reborn. The redevelopment and design was impressive, and made for good visuals, and for me another Emmy nomination.

But it is the spirit of a city that most interests me. So, now, nearly 20 years later I’m back in Berlin, for a full schedule of cultural diversions, to celebrate the New Year.

For nostalgia I’m staying at the welcoming Melia hotel, on a now bright, buzzing Fredrichstrasse, steps away from the station where I was once uncomfortably interrogated before being allowed to return to West Berlin.

As sort of a celebration of freedom, among the concerts I will be hearing is Beethoven’s Ninth, the ode to joy, being performed in a refurbished hall in what was the former, joyless, East Berlin.

And then it is The One Grand Show at the restored glistening Palace, also on the Fredrichstrasse, for a lavish review in the tradition of Berlin’s sultry cabaret scene.

Prost! Beer there is as good as I remember, but definitely more expensive.

12.30.17

 

 

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hallkaplan

Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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