A sharp change in the weather reminded us that it’s still not full summer here. I had begun to see people sporting shorts and belly tops, and I’d got to the point of discarding a few layers myself. Though my ears still haven’t gone back to normal quite yet (almost unblocked), the blazing sun was fantastic enough to jump on the bike and explore a bit of Berlin. Just at the bottom of the road, there’s one of the many canals running out towards what I always think is the sea, but it’s just a wider bit of the river. I followed cycle paths along the side of the water, with apartment blocks, little expanses of allotments, industrial buildings and remote shops until I got to the junction of four canals, or the crossing of two. From here, it would be a short hop up to Treptower Park, where the tremendous Soviet War Memorial is located, and beyond that, Spreepark, an abandoned amusement park which used to be situated on the east side of the Wall. It ran after the Wall came down, but the owner went bust, took the choicest amusement rides (and the whole family) to Peru on the pretext of having them fixed, and in 2002 it was closed. People sneak in over the fence to hear the creak of the Ferris wheel, see the sad-looking rusted attractions, and run the risk of guard dogs. I found a website devoted to abandoned placed in Berlin http://www.abandonedberlin.com/ some of which I’d noticed myself without realising they were sort of landmarks.

I realised last Thursday was going to be 20 degrees, so I arranged to go for a cycle round Templehof with one of my friends from Uni. This is where you feel you are in the Berlin movie – we had been too disorganised to bring a picnic, so we just pedalled up to Schillerpromenade in search of a decent coffee, and found an outdoor café on Herrfurthplatz, where we sprawled in the sun. On Saturday, I crossed Templehof in the other direction, and headed up to Schoeneberg, past Paradestrasse, an enclave of houses straight out of the Home Counties, unlike almost all of the apartment-block accommodation in Berlin. I ended up in a vast café full of chattering people, all ensconced on old couches and armchairs, Café BilderBuch, surrounded by walls of books, board games, pens, paper, and art on every wall.

There’s a strange feeling of being in limbo for me at the moment. I’ve really never had such freedom before in my life. The only pressure is to see Berlin while I have no classes. They resume next week, so I have been trying to catch some sights while I have spare time. On Sunday morning, I wanted to either go to Berghain – the legendary Berlin nightclub that stays open from Friday evening until Monday morning, best time to get in for a good dance is Sunday morning – or go to the Berliner Dom, the Protestant Cathedral facing the Lustgarten, just off Unter der Linden. Going to Berghain requires getting up early, so the Dom won out. I had wanted to see it in action, both to save the very expensive entrance fee, and also to see what the service was like. The service was very like a Catholic mass, with plenty of hymn-singing, but interminable. The sermon went on for hours, totally bland material, all spoken in a sort of “church” voice. Incredible to think that priests or pastors could be totally political radicals, could change people’s minds, turn heads, push moral choices, but instead, they choose the safe path every time, and present a hypnotic drone to a congregation already thinking about their morning coffee. No wonder they would, I left at the communion and it was already an hour and a quarter. The Dom itself is very impressive, vast, gold everywhere, one whole wall the organ, with statues of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, just in case you didn’t know which lot you were with.

After this, I headed up to Kurfurstendamm, which used to be the fashionable, cool place to go in West Berlin in the 1960’s and 1970’s (when the Wall was in place). The street is dominated by the ruins of Kaiser-Wilhelm Church. It was bombed in 1943, as a reprisal for the bombing of Coventry Cathedral, and the ruined steeple was going to be removed, but was left as a reminder of the war, an anti-war memorial. A new, utterly spacey church was built right beside it, which is interesting in itself. The pastor here during the rise and rule of the National Socialists was one Gerhard Jacobi, who initially stood up to the SS to object to baptised Christians (who happened to be of Jewish origin) being lifted and sent to concentration camps. Then he realised what was happening with Jews, and used his pulpit to fulminate against the regime, risking being sent to a concentration camp himself. He organised resistance, founded the Pastors Emergency League in 1933, which eventually became the “Confessing Church”.  They split from the German Evangelical Church, which was subject to Nazification, and had accepted the “Aryan Paragraph”, which forbad the inclusion in their congregation of Jews, Poles, Russians, Slavs and Mischlinge (Mixed race). The German Church saw an opportunity to clean up its own image after the liberalisation of the previous 20 years, and a return to the strong, moral, masculine force to defeat Bolshevism, calling themselves Deutsche Christen (German Christians). Jacobi and his colleague Boenhoeffer called for the church to do its moral duty and protect all people against a corrupt government, and named itself the “Confessing Church” as a reference to the church being in statu confessionis, meaning that during this crisis they should confess out loud the gospels, to defend them, and point out their message to all men. There’s really not an awful lot of highlighting of these kind of heroes, people who preached what they really believed in opposition to the majority. It sounds like the kind of sermon I could have really listened to.