Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular
column about her recommendations for a good read and life as
she sees it ...
There's obviously some sort of plot to get me as homesick as
possible and it's working perfectly.
Thanks to everyone who's sent me photos of beards and miners
and goldpans and the beautiful Earnslaw and the new cycleway
opening ... they have made me sick as a dog to have missed it
We've spent the last week in Berlin where it isn't possible
to be bored.
It's been heavenly autumn weather and it is hard to make
ourselves make the most of Berlin's hundreds of museums and
Instead, we have been hiring bikes and sucking up the history
that just won't leave you alone.
Opposite the apartment we are in is the graveyard where the
brothers Grimm are buried.
Honestly, how those brothers can sleep after all the
sleepless nights they caused to children around the world ...
they are still my heroes, though.
And the train station near us is where all the Jews were
herded and packed off.
There's one of the best museums I've ever been to there
called "The Topography of Terror" - mostly outdoors along a
remaining stretch of the wall and it tracks the history of
the Nazis and their rise to power.
The Brothers Grimm could never have invented a fairy tale as
gruesome as the Holocaust.
But history keeps repeating itself, and in one of the many
exquisite squares in Berlin where all the books were burnt,
there is a plaque with a bit of Heinrich Heide's poem from
1820, "where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn
people". Eerie foresight.
Everywhere in Berlin there is evidence of the great and
ghastly things that have coloured the history of this city
and our world.
When we biked through the Tiergarten, the huge park in the
middle of Berlin, it was hard to reconcile these glorious
green spaces and all the enormous trees turning every autumn
colour imaginable with the poverty and deprivation after the
war. All the trees were chopped down for firewood as it was
such a cold winter.
We took the train to Potsdam and cycled through impossibly
beautiful parks, looking at the ridiculously lavish palaces
built by the Prussians. In contrast, the plantings are simple
I felt like royalty biking up great avenues of golden trees
with gold-topped garden houses popping up here and there.
One king built a colossal terraced vineyard and fig orchard -
every fig tree lives in its own little copper-doored niche -
you have to see it to believe it.
I think there are more than 100 niches - I want a niche like
that for my fig tree, although my darling pointed out I could
have fresh figs flown in every week of the year for the cost
of a pair of the huge copper doors with all those windows.
A 10-minute cycle away is the former KGB prison and
Christchurch has just been named as one of the world's top
"must visit" cities for 2013 and its council should
definitely visit Berlin.
They should see how they have turned total devastation and
tragedy into an energetic, efficient and happy place.
I interviewed Sarah Quigley, a Christchurch-born author who
has lived in Berlin for 12 years. She's mad about the place
and loves the fact that everyone's lifestyle is tolerated
Even smokers aren't the pariahs they are in NZ. Her favourite
bar in former East Berlin had obeyed the no smoking laws for
a while but now they have a rule - no smoking till after 9pm
when they finish serving food. So sensible!The Berlin mayor
is gay and coined the phrase "poor but sexy" - sex plays a
huge part in their lives here if the number of sex shops and
posters are anything to go by. Berlin alone has managed to
clock up over 60 billionin debt. No-one seems worried.
When I was in Frankfurt, I went to a reading at the
International Club by A. D.
Miller,who was once The Economist's correspondent in
His novel Snowdrops was longlisted for the Booker
Prize last year.
It's not autobiographical but came about from the scary
things he saw about living in a city where you have to make
dubious moral calls about all sorts of things to keep
yourself out of trouble, and in favour with people who can
make things run easily for you.
Snowdrops is a Russian term for bodies that appear in the
spring, having been covered by the snow during winter. He
called his book this because there are many things in
people's lives they hope are hidden, but most bad things
surface again at some time.
It's a frightening story and more frightening in that he says
it is just how life is for the people there. Fantastic read.