The column below appears in this week's INM Irish regional newspapers.
Michael CommaneAt the beginning of June I spent a week on holidays in Berlin. In so many ways it was a-once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I went with a family - mum, dad and three school-going children. They kindly invited me along. I had lived in Berlin before the Wall came down, so they thought that I might be able to show them around and maybe even do some interpreting for them if it were ever necessary.
I’m sure I was more of a nuisance than a help. But it turned out a great week, one of the best holidays I can remember.
We did all the touristy things, a jaunt on the river Spree, took the ever-so-fast lift to the top of the television tower at Alexander Platz. We spent over three hours at the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, which was a shocking experience.
We saw Angela Merkel’s office and a fine building it is too.
Train anorak that I am I took great delight in showing them around the architectural delight, which is the central rail station right in the heart of Berlin. It’s on the site of old Lehrter Station and is a magnificent structure with its glass panes. Spotting the Warsaw Express I thought of Patrick Kavanagh taking great delight in seeing barges on the Grand Canal coming from far off places. We took a day trip to Frankfurt-an-der Oder and walked into Poland.
It so happened that we were in the city the day of the Champions League final and were under strict instructions from one of the family members to travel out to the Olympic Stadium to get a feel of the atmosphere. In my innocence I made some enquiries about buying tickets for the game. On the day they were selling tickets on the street for €900. But we did get to see a ticket and indeed, the footballer in the party managed to hold one in his hands.
The new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport has not yet been opened. It’s been dogged with all sorts of problems, design issues, political cock-ups and simple inefficiencies. When flying in and out of Schönefeld passengers can see the new unopened airport. In the meantime Aer Lingus and Ryanair have been using the grotty Schönefeld, though it seems Aer Lingus is moving, on a temporary basis, to the posher airport at Tegel later in the year.
I’m home now, back at work. I’ve been thinking about the holiday, wishing I were back clowning about, maybe even showing off, in the German capital.
Something has struck me about the week’s experience. I know one can never generalise, it’s always dangerous to come up with universal principles based on short experiences.
All during the week, living in close quarters with three young children and a mum and dad, I was simply struck with their native goodness. Just good kindly people.
It set me thinking about the Ireland I inhabit. It set me thinking about the doom and gloom merchants, who might lead one to believe that we are on the road to perdition. It stopped me in my step when I began to think about the whole notion of priests ‘preaching’ to people. It confirmed for me the nonsense of priests doling out lists of dos and don’ts on how people should live their lives.
A priest has a greater chance of becoming selfish than a man living with his children, supporting and loving them.
Marlene Dietrich sings a song about leaving a bag in Berlin – it means she has to go back to the great city. “Ich hab’ noch einen Koffer in Berlin”.