Yesterday we caught the lift to the top of the radio tower that was once the pride of East Germany. From the top there is a 360 degree view over the city. Thieu had his binoculars with him and we took it in turns to use them.
I found myself looking at a large red weather balloon that seemed to be gradually rising and then lowering again over a street. At first there appeared to be someone clinging to the bottom of it, their feet dangling in the air, but when we looked more carefully we realised that it was a dummy. We followed the cord tied to the balloon down and saw two people standing on the top of one of the roofs, letting the balloon float off over the street, then pulling it back in after a few minutes.
I had a German art teacher who used to talk about the anti-monuments that had appeared in Germany since the second world war. The one I remember the best, although I can´t remember where it is, was a column that is being sunk, gradually, into the ground, lowered slighty deeper each year. Eventually it won´t be visible at all.
Now that I´m here I can see what he meant. Berlin seems to be a city of traces, remnants and reconstructions. The colums of the public buildings are pock-marked with bullet holes, or patched with mismatched concrete. Statues have had prosthetic limbs attached, or are missing their noses.
We went looking for one anti-monument that marks the site of a book-burning in the city. It´s a room under the ground that you can only see into via a small window in the pavement. Unfortunately, we couldn´t see into it, as the square where the moment is located is being excavated. The concrete room is the only thing left, a column sticking up in the middle of the square surrounded by air, so the anti-monument has become a monument afterall.
In the new glitzy Sony centre in the city two interior walls of an old hotel are preserved behind glass and form part of a new bar that backs onto the remains. It´s odd to see something that used to be inside made to appear outside - like it´s been folded inside out.
There are a few old buildings that have survived, but not many, and often the survivors have a vacant lot beside them. On some of these squares of silver paper traces out the edges of missing rooms and flutter when the wind starts to blow.