Berlin: Cognitive Dissonance

Back to my summer of running and holiday snaps.

I’m trying to use a fancy title to this post to dress up some mundane stories about holidays/running.

Just so you can stop reading now and still learn something Cognitive Dissonance is the mental state of believing one thing and experiencing another. For example, if you were a child of the Cold War you would believe that all eastern European women were meaty shot-putters with a sideline in facial hair, pickled vegetables and crushing you to death with their tree-trunk like legs. The expansion of the European Union and the free movement of goods and services in the last 15 years has made me realise that I might have been a victim of propaganda as I now experience cognitive dissonance.

They knew the Cronins were coming

They knew the Cronins were coming

Now, if you’re Irish and you think of Germany and in particular Berlin you might create a list of things you’d associate with it: A stern love for austerity, cripplingly bad fashion choices (salmon coloured anything only works on fish – not on shirts, jackets or blouses), clean and efficient infrastructure and  public services, horrendous brutalist architecture courtesy of Bomber Harris and Soviet architects and a Borg-like acceptance of the utterances of the Queen of Europe. The reality is completely different – you are confronted with cognitive dissonance.

The real Berlin is an Irishman’s dream – cheap beer, pretty women and a subversive air of defiance to authority. The sort of subversion that makes governing part of Irish society an job you wouldn’t give to Sisyphus.

Berlin

Berlin

It’s a collection of individual villages that have their own unique character like parts of San Francisco but with the benefit of not sitting on a bunch of hills on a tectonic plate fault line. The bombs missed most of the city and they seem to have had the sense to not rebuild it in the style of the Gorbals in Glasgow so everything is nice and human scaled with trees, cycle lanes and pocket parks everywhere (by everywhere I mean everywhere we’d slap a shop, an extra house or a few extra car parking spaces). If I was to borrow some words from my day job (I do have one, I swear) I’d say they have the ecosystem perfected.

Blowing bubbles in your underpants

Blowing bubbles in your underpants

We were in Berlin on our grand tour and to meet family. That basically involved 4 adults sipping a bit too much alcohol while assuming that one of the other adults was minding your (and their) children. Modern parenting.

Bubblegum wall

Bubblegum wall

 

I managed to slot a run in that took me 10 miles out and about into the Grunewald (the woods). This place has been here for a long time and despite it being in the city it seems so calm and peaceful. Apart from dodging dog shit the running was uneventful if sweaty.

As you might expect there are several layers to Berlin below the one you can see in front of you. You can chose to ignore these layers (as my kids did) or study them and view the city as a living record of the history of the 20th century.

Stumble stones tell a story of their own

Stumble stones tell a story of their own

It’s the sort of place you could visit over and over again and experience cognitive dissonance again and again.

In the end we had to pack up and head out on the longest leg of our journey – 24 hours and 5 trains to reach Brisighella. This would include our over night sleeper through the Brenner Pass – something I would recommend to anyone who has even the tiniest shred or either romance or adventure in their bones –

Even the brutalism has a beauty

Even the brutalism has a beauty

That’s the next instalment of Richard trying to keep this as a running blog.

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