Saturday 13 July 2019

Croissants and a Friendly Grave

Yesterday Benedict Ambrose and I decided to take it easier. We went back to Kreuzberg for coffee and croissants at Chapter One, and then we walked through the market hall to Bergmannstrasse to look for the Dreifaltigheitsfriedhof (cemetery). It was marked on the map only as a green space, but we found it easily--in fact, it was just down the street from Felix Austria, where we all ate on Monday night.

The Dreifaltigheitsfriedhof is a delightful and typical Central European cemetery with lots of trees and impressive monuments--statues and Grecian temples, for example. Some of the gravestones had the profile of the deceased cast in bronze. Thanks to this feature, we easily found the grave we were looking for--that of Woldemar Bargiel, a composer and great-great-uncle of a good friend. Bargiel's grave is in the middle of the Friedhof under an oak tree and to the left of a great domed monument with a mosaic ceiling. A new pine bench right beside it doesn't add anything, but there is a proper dark bench at a distance, which serves for contemplation of Bargiel's profile.

We were very pleased that we had found Bargiel, for whom we prayed, and then we went back onto Bergmannstrasse for a relaxed ramble, being careful not to be hit by the bicycles flying down their special lane on the pavement. Bicycles are king in Berlin.

We got on the U-Bahn at Mehringdamm and went to Friedrichstrasse and Dussmann Das KulturKaufhous, a  splendid multi-story bookshop, to buy presents for Peanut and Popcorn. Peanut got a kids' English-language comic book of the Odyssey  and Popcorn got a Semikolon notebook as a journal. (I love, love, love Semikolon stuff, which I can't find anywhere now except Amazon and Germany.)

I was mildly offended that Dussmann's English and International section did not have any Polish books. They had French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, and Chinese books, but nothing in Polish. To put this in perspective, there are over 100,000 Poles living in Berlin. However, I see that there is Buch Bund to fill the book gap.

We went back to Alt Tempelhof and bought some groceries. Back at the flat, we had a rest from all that shopping and then researched local Saturday Vigil masses. Tomorrow morning I leave for Wrocław and B.A. returns to Scotland for an academic conference. We found a local church with a vigil mass a 15 minute walk away and walked to it. It seems to have been built in the 1880s and was completely whitewashed at some point. It has really super Gothic altarpieces and statues, which B.A. thinks are excellent 19th century copies. There was also an elderly lady sitting in a pew reading  the newspaper: presumably she was keeping an eye on the place. When we went in there was a large man  in casual clothing and sporting a big beard smoking outside the parish house. We greeted him with "Guten Abend" and assumed he was the priest.

Back at the flat, we saved concert tickets onto a data stick and took Nulli with us to a print shop on Georgenstrasse and then the Berliner Dom to hear the concert. Berliner Dom had the biggest pipe organ in the world when it was first installed, and the concert featured Felix Hell playing it.  He played pieces by Reger, Von Rheinberger, and Healey Willan.

After the first piece by Reger, B.A. came a cropper by pulling his usual claque stunt. In Edinburgh, you can assume that a cathedral concert is filled with musical know-nothings (like me) who don't know when to applaud. B.A., therefore, cocks his head, raises his hands, and then hits them together to produce the sound of a gunshot. Sadly, it did not occur to me to warn him that Berlin is probably not like this and that even a cathedral concert in Germany is likely to be stuffed with Hochschule music teachers, not bored tourists. Anyway, after the first piece, B.A. made his gunshot noise, and there was a polite patter of applause, but not before a woman in a brown wig turned around, attempted to kill B.A. with her eyes and hissed something in German which none, and yet all, of us understood.

"We applaud each piece in Britain," B.A. loudly whispered to me, and later gave me the green light to blog that he said that. It cannot be too widely known (e.g. in Berlin) that we applaud each piece in Britain. But not in Germany, peoples.

After that there was no more applause for Felix Hell until the last note of Healey Willan died away.  Benedict Ambrose and Nulli enjoyed the concert in their knowledgable way--Nulli rather more knowledgeable than B.A. as he is an organist himself--and I put up with it and looked at the golden ornaments around and the statues of the Major Protestant Reformers and wondered if the Vatican was really as corrupt in Calvin's day as it appears to be in ours, etc. Your humble correspondent can appreciate "The World of the Organ" recorded by Simon Preston, but that's about it.

Afterwards B.A. and Nulli said things like "He made me like that "Adagio" until the last note" and "He really swooped into the Willan at the end." We made our way back over the Frederich Bruecke (bridge), on which a bearded man was still creating large flocks of bubbles with a long stick and children were still dancing among them.  Nulli then hurried home to his family, and B.A. and I attempted to eat sushi, but no waiter came to take our order so we went to a late-night grocery shop back on Bergmannstrasse, and went home to eat pasta and "grave lachs", which most readers will know better as grave lox.

I had dreams about Pope Benedict and then about spies.

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