Living the dream – Berlin 2022

Mon 20 – Sun 26 June 2022

The week gone has been all about me and my partner Dave living the dream on holiday in Berlin. We had deliberately planned this week away after I went down to just 2 working days each week. It’s linked to what I have written about previously on being semi-retired and learning to let go. Read my most recent previous blog here.

Berlin is a city we love. And we have been here on the longest day of the year in incredibly hot weather (global warming!). It was hitting around 33-35 degrees every day with very little rain apart from one short and intense thundery shower. Mid-20s even during the night. It felt like being in the Middle East rather than near the Baltic.

hot hot hot

Thus long days spent sitting in the sun with no real incentive to do much. But this was living my dream in so many ways. I have always said my ideal life would be living in a hotel, reading books, going to the gym each day, and eating out each night. That is exactly what I have been doing.

And Berlin (the capital of Europe?) is an easy, liberal and cosmopolitan city to have coffee, drink alcohol, people watch, plus there’s a great gay scene. What more could I want in life?

“To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”

Bertrand Russell

The worldwide rise of neo-fascism

Well I could want two spectacular by-election defeats for the current right wing and corrupt British government. But that is over-shadowed by the ongoing success of false-Christian neo-fascism in the USA. No right to abortion in the US constitution. Duh, intellectual primitivism – it was written nearly 250 years ago and so lots of things weren’t in it.

And let’s not forget the connectionof abortion, women’s rights, access to contraception, lesbian / gay rights, and trans rights. They are all the same and fair game for neo-Nazis around the world in whatever country be it Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, or the USA.

The myth of modern travel

Many people call themselves travellers these days. But much ‘travel’ consists of flying in and out of somewhere for a short period of time. And ticking off as many places from a bucket list as soon as possible. Indeed, is there anything less like real travel (and bad for the environment) than weekend city breaks?

For me, real travel is about getting to know a select few places. And spending long periods of time there, ideally in a single trip or over numerous ones. Our dream break in Berlin was only a week long and ideally I think you need to spend a fortnight somewhere to experience the place and get a real break from normal life.

However, we have been to Berlin numerous times. Frequently for the fetish Folsom festival in September. But we have decided to not bother with that from now on. The dream that it was has receded as it has got more busier with crowds of people such that you can’t get into bars, cafes, clubs, and restaurants. We come now to Berlin only when life is normal so that you can experience the city as it really is.

And as you get to know somewhere (and especially if you can try to use some of the language) so you can let go of being just a tourist and really try to know the place. We have done many of the tourist things over the years. Now it is just the dream-like existence of relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere.

“I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.”

Lech Walesa

Health and Efficiency

Gym and walking

Did a sneaky visit to my gym in London on Mon morning before we headed off to stay overnight at Gatwick and so avoid the chaos of the rail strike on Tuesday. Our Berlin hotel had a gym which had some good equipment though was quite small and with a strong focus on aerobic exercise. Basically managed to get there everyday. And I was the only person most times which enabled me to put my radio on and try out different machines and exercises as I wanted.

Also used the holiday to get some good walking done. Berlin is a dream city to walk around. There are plenty of cars and bikes as well as great public transport. But it is fantastic just to wander around noting the varied architecture that represents the different aspects of Berlin’s amazing history. From becoming the capital of Germany in 1871 to the present day.

walking feet

Eating

The hot weather and the lack of stress enabled me to have a new good format in eating. Basically we filled up at breakfast without going crazy. Then ensured hydration through the day before having an afternoon snooze and exercise session. A shower was followed by our evening out for dinner and drinks. Thus I was enjoying my food and drink without being excessive.

Sleep

One of my definite pleasures in life is having a mid-afternoon nap. Perhaps it’s an age thing but my body definitely peaks after I awake in the morning but then declines. So that sleep in the afternoon sets me up beautifully for the evening. Yep some weird dreams but I take no notice of them. Probably related to the alcohol and unwinding from normal life.

Books and Reading

In my dream life, books and reading have a very central role. And that is one of the things I love about holidays – that I can really focus on spending time reading and not feel guilty about it.

‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ by TJ Klune

Got round to read this much acclaimed book (including by friends at the Velvet Page Book Club) and what an absolute treat it is. To say it is a modern fairy tale really underplays its achievement. It is the lovely story of a middle aged gay man discovering himself. It’s also about the need to embrace diversity and the importance of found family / family of choice.

There’s a clear nod in the direction of JK Rowling (who I have so many mixed feelings about now). And it is very much an ideal book for Young Adults. But it’s funny, engaging, and thoughtful. I really can’t recommend a book more that will make you feel happy when things around you are pretty shit.

LGBT rainbow flag

‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear

This is the book I am reading on my kindle now Cerulean Sea is finished. And it’s a big change of direction in that it’s about management and self-development. Sub-title is ‘An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones’ which gives the game away.

Early days but I am very taken by the message that you need to identify who you are and then build your actions on that. For example, if i.e. if you describe yourself as a runner and healthy person then you are more likely to go running and think about what you eat.

‘Revelation Space’ by Alastair Reynolds

This is the ‘real’ book (paperback) I am reading for my holiday. The first full-length (600 pages) novel by this sci-fi writer. The book won much acclaim and launched him as one of the pre-eminent contemporary British sci-fi writers. It’s big, complex, and dream-like. But you can see how it made a mark when published in 2000. More details on the author and his bibliography here.

Family and Friends

Mum and my plants back in London

Mum is OK back in London, my brother has stepped up to keep an eye on her. Plus I phone her intermittently whilst away to check-in. Together, she and my brother did a big water of my plants so they should survive till I get back. Though thankfully it is milder and wetter back in the UK compared to Berlin.

My partner the party animal

Dave is fine and loving our holiday. He’s more outgoing than I am on holiday. He’s the one who wants to do stuff whereas I am very happy just chilling and reading. So on many nights, I will have a late night drink and watch the world go by from a bar or cafe with my book / kindle. But Dave will be getting ready to go out and travelling on public transport (there and back) to far flung clubs and events.

At the moment, there is an offer by the government for a ticket enabling you to travel on any local public transport for just 9 Euros per month during June, July, and August. Dave has bought one and is taking full advantage of it. Often means he’s asleep when I’m awake especially in the mornings. But this gives me the chance to get on with things like reading.

Shopping at KaDeWe and swimming at the 1936 Olympic Stadium

Dave also took a trip to his favourite shop, the beautiful old-fashioned department store that is KaDeWe. Keeps him quiet for ages though I do worry that will end up spending too much money. It’s an interesting place but I just see an expensive shop full of stuff no-one needs.

And he went off to go swimming on Friday morning. He had been before to visit the 1936 Olympic Stadium which is now used by the football club Hertha Berlin. And he had discovered there a fantastic public pool – the one used in the infamous Nazi Olympics. So he went on Friday morning to cool off. But it was being used as part of the Special Olympics taking part in the city so he didn’t get his exercise.

swimming pool lanes

Personal Development

Learning a language in country

My Duolingo daily practice went to pieces a bit with my time away. And I quickly realised that I should not focus on Spanish as I was in Germany. I often get my Spanish and German confused remembering the word in one language but unable to recall it in the other. So when I did Duo, I focused just on German.

But I also tried to concentrate on simply ‘absorbing’ the language as I was surrounded by it. Not totally true as English is widely spoken. And you don’t just absorb a language even when surrounded by it, you need to listen and try to speak it. Funny incident when Dave got the German for two (zwei) and three (drei) mixed up (how?) so we ended up with 3 coffees to drink between the two of us.

berlin bear representing Folsom

Sustainability

A green city in many ways

Berlin is a dream city in that it is not only a very relaxed and cosmopolitan compared to other major cities especially those in America (probably why so many Americans are here) but it is also wonderfully green. People seem to care more for the environment than London with a greater commitment to cycling (but without helmets which seems nuts) and recycling.

Plus there are loads of lovely trees, plants, and birds. One of the most beautiful things is the way residents and businesses plant up the grounds outside them where trees are planted. And there are some beautiful open spaces.

Tiergarten

Me and Dave spent time in Tiergarten. A huge park / woodland in the centre of the city. It is so big and so easy to dreamily wander around. The experience is akin to being in a forest. I do love urban woods and forests – the perfect blend of human ingenuity and nature.

Monument of Prussian victories

Viktoria Luise Platz

We also rediscovered a lovely little square. I say rediscovered as Dave had found it on a previous lone visit to Berlin. Viktoria Luise Platz was built in the first years of the twentieth century and named after the Kaiser’s daughter. I oozes the time of the Kaiserreich / German Empire with its central fountain (switched on at 10am), lawns, flower beds, and mini-colonnades. A great place to chill with an ice cream shop nearby.

The curse of air conditioning

Only big down side was that we were on the top (17th) floor of the hotel – I think the receptionist thought she was being nice to us. And the views were great – main photo for this blog is sunrise around 4.30am from our room. But the downside was that our windows could not be opened. Thus we were reliant on running the air conditioning even during the night as it was still so warm.

Art and Culture

No pressure

I had big plans to go to lots of cultural places during my vacation. But the holiday really was about chilling somewhere I know well. Indeed, I have visited many of the main galleries and museums before. So there was no real pressure to see them in real time again though many cultural places gain by repeated viewings. However, that can wait for another time when we are back in this wonderful city.

Glastonbury

Would be churlish to ignore Glastonbury. I do think it is losing its way a bit – becoming too large. Indeed, it was fascinating to see a TV interview with Michael Eavis who admitted the best thing that Glastonbury could do in environmental terms is not to happen. Though that is true of most events these days. How do we do big cultural events without fucking the environment? But I guiltily enjoy watching it on the TV and I enjoyed hearing it on the radio whilst I was in Berlin often laying in bed at night or whilst working out.

tunes in darkness

The Week Ahead:

  • July begins. So we really are halfway through the year and over halfway to Christmas!
  • Flight back on Tuesday and the dream is sort of over. But I am only working 2 days next week – Wed and Fri so that’s not too bad
  • Should manage to get to the gym on my day off on Thurs. The irony is that I did more gym whilst on holiday compared to normal life but that’s why I can say that I was living my dream
  • Got a hospital appointment on Friday lunchtime. Basically I need an Anoscopy to take sample from my back passage to check for anal cancer as I am at high risk. Should be able to fit it in around work stuff.
  • Continuing with the health theme – dental and eye check-ups. INR may be due again soon but I wait for them to chase me on that.
  • A cultural experience on Wed evening in that me and Dave are attending another event at the St Martin in the Fields Crypt. Previously it was to see musical theatre, this time it’s a country music evening. I do like country even though it is so melodramatic and maudlin.
  • Must arrange to see Fang Fang and Daisy. And Phyllis is in London for 3 weeks so time to catch up with him/her/it.
  • Back to regular daily Duolingo in Spanish and German
  • Carry on reading both Atomic Habits and Revelation Space

And Finally…

In America, guns have more rights than girls

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