Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Since I disconnected from facebook, I got lots of nice emails, and a postcard, and I am answering each email, as well as a few skype and phone calls. I don’t miss FB – and I am feeling my digital self slowly fading away, putting up the occasional little fight - like a stubborn ghost who hasn’t quite realized that she is dead.

So according to Thees Winkler, blogging is the future (at least for this week), and facebook is so 2008. The blog is indeed a better, deeper medium for me – I am interested in putting out meaningful, high quality content that will entertain but also will make people think. Or even act. And I am not interested in putting it out every single day. Gotta have some time for thinking, seeing, listening, talking and walking around. You won’t find digests or links to many other blogs here, because I do not spend all that much time reading them. Blogging is not my life. Otherwise I wouldn’t have a life to blog about.

After quitting facebook the blog did not take too big of a hit in terms of visits. Actually, the “Goodbye facebook” post was the second most visited in the short life of the blog. Many people subscribed, and those on google+ get a share. But I imagine I won’t be able to keep the numbers growing without sending emails – which I don’t want to do. So when I get around to it, I will set up a facebook page for this blog, for marketing purposes. Enough social media talk now. One of the annoying things about the internet is how much it talks about itself.

Meanwhile, the real self in Berlin: 

I continue to smile pretty much at everyone who makes eye contact on the street. Most smile recipients obviously think I am demented. But yesterday, an old man sitting in the park on the way to the U-Bahn thanked me for smiling at him. Making a dent!

I have been reading local history books I checked out at the library, mostly about the history of Steglitz, the district we live in, and its people. A good friend astutely noted that this is my way of making this my home. My big discovery this week is a slim volume published in 2000 about the houses and people of our specific neighborhood, the Fichtenberg. The author, an actor by the name of Andreas Grothusen, grew up and still lives on Schmidt-Ott-Str. 6, right next door. The book accompanies you on a walk through the small hood, telling the history of each villa, and the people who built them and lived here. And it tells the how the neighborhood was forever changed - first by war, then by profit-oriented development and today by neglect.

Schmidt-Ott- Str. 5a, the house we live in, today is a fairly faceless big box, housing ten parties, with a back yard shrunk by the later addition of an even uglier second house, 5b. Looking at the main house, you’d have no idea about its age or architectural period. Grothusen’s book reproduces a painting of what it looked like in 1882 – a dreamy, small Neo-Renaissance villa with a little tower, situated in a park-like garden with tall trees, nestled in a neighborhood of the rich, educated and cultured. My neighbor is furious about what was done to our house 100 years later- a floor was added, swallowing the tower, the house was built onto at the back (that's were our apartment is), a big pine was felled, and 5b was built.

The vestibule of the Villa in the 1880s featured the first big commission work of young artist Max Klinger, who was later considered a very influential trailblazer of Surrealism, Naturalism, Symbolism, Jugendstil- in other words, modern art. His work done for our house was reassembled in a 2007 exhibition at the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Some of it can be seen today at the Altes Museum in Berlin. Here are some links to the paintings. They feature awesome naked people and gods and horses playing in water.

Max Klinger, Meerfries der Albers Villa, Berlin Nationalgalerie

I wouldn’t know any of this without my neighbor’s book! I might ask my him if I can post a picture of the picture of the painting of the house from his book here. Shortly I will dedicate a separate post (with my original pictures) to the amazing history of this very special neighborhood, after I stumble around some more, book in hand. My history research reminded me that books give so much more depth of information than the internet (although I do have to thank the Wikipedia entry on the Fichtenberg for the reference my neighbor’s book. )

If you had adventures in local history,  or are inspired to venture out for depth now - please share in the comments.


Benny: Do we get NPR here? I miss NPR. (There is actually an NPR station in Berlin. It has a bunch more programs than KRWG –as I write this I am listening to On Point, NPR's great talk show hosted by Tom Ashbrook, covering how the US tries to still look good after the Russians, of all people, saved us from “having to” go to war right away.)

Benny: I shiver whenever Germans speak English. (Thankfully, his school released him from participating in English lessons.)

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