Berlin

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The quadriga on the Brandenburg Gate from Unter den Linden

Berlin seems busier than ever, and on a hot day like today I was glad to keep away from the most crowded places.

Along Karl-Marx-Allee to the Stasi Museum at Normannenstraße. The faint whiff of totalitarianism that you get with places like Broadcasting House or the Northampton civic buildings becomes an overpowering stench on the former Stalinallee. It is tremendous – wonderfully spacious and using the neoclassical architecture of the historically powerful and mixing it with the Soviet wedding cake style – but, to my mind, we know too much about the DDR and Stalin’s Soviet Union to admire it unreservedly now.

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From Frankfurter Allee

Statues of women are real rather than allegorical – and clad in dungarees rather than wisps of fabric:

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and even the shops are monumental:

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The old Stasi HQ was just part of a whole group of government administrative buildings spread out over two blocks. It’s both terrible and banal: the building’s entrance looks like an ordinary apartment block:

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but with a lacey modesty board:

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Rather frivolous of me, but I was excited to see a paternoster lift inside. Other things that stick with me are the echoes of Luther’s “Hier stehe ich und kann nicht anders” in the catchy 1967 Oktoberklub song “Sag mir, wo du stehst” – which did make me think about the logical consequences of eschewing wishy-washiness and nailing your colours to the mast; the fact that the casino (!) contained a women’s room in the 1960s, but it was later converted into a kitchen when it became clear that – pace the statues above – women weren’t going to make it to the top of the Stasi hierarchy; and the unshowiness of the rooms used by Erich Mielke:

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although apparently he was very fussy about the layout of his breakfast tray.

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