40 years of Memorable Moments: Reichstag, Berlin

I’m continuing with my series of Memorable Moments to celebrate our 40 years of marriage – where did the time go? Looking back with my beloved, it’s amazing how many of our special moments were spent with my late parents. Of course, now that they’re no longer with us, we’re glad we spent so much quality time with them.  Here’s another “moment” featuring them.

I had the pleasure of working with Foster & Partners on the Erotic Gherkin, now an iconic part of the City of London skyline. On behalf of the client, Swiss Re, I recruited and managed the team who dealt with the project on a day-to-day basis. It was a role initially well outside my comfort zone, and one that was combined with my existing job, but it was nonetheless very enjoyable.

I happened to mention to one of the architectural practice’s partners that I was going to Berlin with my parents and he suggested a guided tour around the Reichstag which was one of their in progress projects. Everyone was game and arrangements were made to view and tour the building on Saturday afternoon.

My parents enjoyed spending long week-ends with us in Germany, largely I think because I made all the arrangements and both my beloved and I speak the language well. We’d already enjoyed trips with them to both Hamburg and Munich. I’d booked a hotel in what used to be West Berlin just a short stroll from the Ku’damm.

We arrived early on Friday afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to explore the neighbourhood on foot. One of our favourite spots is the food department on the top two floors of Kaufhaus des Westerns, known locally as KaDeWe; the largest European department store after Harrods. The sixth floor is famous for its enormous variety of food and beverages all laid out around numerous gourmet counters. The seventh floor (added in the early 1990s) includes a winter garden with a very large restaurant with a magnificent view over Wittenbergplatz.

Saturday morning, we walked over and around East Berlin much of which, like the Reichstag, was under reconstruction. However, the recently opened and newly constructed Adlon Hotel, located on Under den Linden, directly opposite the Brandenburg Gate, beckoned us in for lunch. Our visit must have been around this time of year, because I distinctly remember we all ate white asparagus.

The afternoon was given over to touring the Reichstag. In particular my parents were keen to walk up the metal ramp (now inside a glass cupola) to get a real sense of the city. I recall the views were magnificent even though I felt somewhat queasy – I suffer from fear of heights. The architect leading the tour was keen to stress the building’s green credentials and what the practice was doing to conserve the building’s sense of history.

During reconstruction, the building had been almost completely gutted, removing everything except the outer walls. However, as mentioned-above, Foster & Partners had been keen to respect historic elements of the building and retain them in a visible state, such as the graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the final battle for Berlin in April–May 1945. However, the reconstruction’s crowning glory is undoubtedly its glass cupola which has a 360-degree view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape.

The following year, at a similar time, Foster & Partners invited us back to Berlin for the official opening of the building. My beloved was unable to go with me, so my father came instead. He was much intrigued to see the finished article and we enjoyed a splendid reception among the Berlin glitterati. 

My father and I stayed in the same hotel as before and had a very pleasant week-end sightseeing, which naturally included another trip to KaDeWe. Walking around the former East-Berlin, it was particularly interesting for us to see how much progress had been made in the previous 12 months on the reconstruction and renovations. A boat trip on the Spree gave us yet another perspective on the renovations.

My beloved and I last visited Berlin in 2006 to watch a couple of World Cup matches. Shocking to realise that was 12 years ago. I think it’s time for another! What do you recommend we should visit this time?

Everything and nothing

A combination of my recurring chest infection, the heat and a whole load of work has meant that I’ve probably spent more time than I would have liked indoors over the past week or so. On the plus side, this has allowed me to watch the Eneco Tour, Tour du Limousin, Tour of Ireland, GP de Plouay and some of the action from the athletics in Berlin.

Specifically, I had to check out how Romain Mesnil fared in the pole vault. You may recall this was the gentleman who ran around Paris naked, with only his pole for company, in order to attract a new sponsor. Apparently, it had the desired effect plus, according to L’Equipe, he now has a large female fan club. There were three Frenchman in the pole vault final, with Mesnil finishing second. This was sufficient for him to get his kit off yet again though his modesty, in the photos I saw, was safeguarded by the French flag.

The live racing I watched was notable for a couple of things: Boonen back to winning ways as the Eneco Tour went through his home turf; Cavendish notching up his 21st win of the season in Ireland; Russell Downing holding off a stellar bunch of names to clinch the overall in the Tour of Ireland and Simon Gerrans coming nicely into form with a win at GP de Plouay.

I am of course now looking forward to seeing Messrs Valverde, Sanchez and Vinokourov duking it out in the Vuelta. I already have an hors category mountain of ironing to keep me occupied during the first few days, while the Vuelta is in N Europe.

Cycling, even at a gentle pace, in this heat is tiring: doubly so with my cough. Last Friday, I rode up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup and had there been no one around I could have quite happily dived fully clothed into the village fountain. Instead, I had to be content with dousing myself with several bidons worth of cooling water.

It’s also been very humid which has a disastrous effect on my hair, when it’s not confined under my helmet. Do you remember that episode in Friends where Monica plays table tennis in the Bahamas and her hair looks as if she’d stuck her finger in an electric socket. Yes, well mine’s not quite that bad but you get the general idea.

A girlfriend has likened the effect of the current weather conditions as one big, long, hot flush. Since I’ve never had one of those, nor do I want one, I’m prepared to take her word for it.