With or Without You on the hotel bar radio. What a timeless classic that is. Some Chinese man just walked in and asked me for a Berliner (beer) please. This is how much I appear to belong here. The barman greeted me by name and “You are well known now!” With typical stupidity I saved the Alte National Gallery for today (Monday) as I did not want to go on the weekend when it will be too busy; only as I picked my bag up to leave my room just now I suddenly realised it is probably closed on Monday, and sure enough it is! Haha, the one cultural thing I wanted to do on this holiday and it is now impossible. I will head for the Rosa Luxemburg Strasse sex kino instead, and maybe look for the site of Hitler’s bunker. Raining gently again today, third day in a row. I have been very lucky in that regard. It was raining as I returned from Zoo last night. I walked all the way back from Stuttgarter Platz to Zoo along Kantstrasse, so desperate was I for some food, a 3am McDonald’s (the one by Stuttgarter Platz typically having already closed its doors by the time I got there), then walked back along Ku’Damm in the rain. It was beautiful, raining quite hard, but I was not really getting wet. It was just that big slow splattering rain that barely seems to make my clothes wet at all, just bounces off my head.
Some little 10-year-old kid came up to me while waiting for my bus at Zoo and started talking to me in German; I stopped him and asked him sprechen sie Englisch? And, of course, he did; he hesitated for a moment then repeated his question to me in Absolutely. Perfect. English. Did I know where Zoo Palast was. I thought it was in that direction but advised him to check with someone else; pleasingly, I was right, as after asking a German he then ran off in the direction I had thought. But seriously how wonderful are Germans, that even their kids can speak. Perfect. English.
A long journey from Brussels to Berlin (changing at Koln) on crowded ICEs, with someone sitting next to me every step of the way. The transfer from the Central Railway Station to Zoo, however, was as quick and simple as it has ever been. I think I have over-complicated it in the past. Down the escalator from platform 12, up the escalator to platform 16, 1 minute wait for the S-Bahn back to Zoo. I didn’t bother trying to buy a ticket from the machine because I read an ICE ticket allows you one journey on an S-Bahn train in the central zone when you arrive, so I took advantage of that and hoped it is true. Beautiful big, curvy, brown-bobbed receptionist when I checked in. I tried to keep my eyes from straying to her cleavage at the same time as trying to steal as many looks at her cleavage as I could.
How unbelievably bland the new (post 1945) Westbahnhof station is; it is basically just a roof. A flat roof. And beneath that are the platforms and the trains. What a comedown from the former glorious massive structure that existed before; where Hitler used to hang around to carry passengers’ bags for a few pfennigs. And it was only ruined in the very very very last months of the second world war. And I say this not as a hater of Westbahnhof, but as an absolute lover. Westbahnhof means so much to me. When I die I want part of my body to be buried at Wien Westbahnhof, part in Berlin Zoo station, and part in Munich Hauptbahnhof. I want nothing of me to remain in London or England (except my life insurance for my wife). My heart and my mind exist so totally in Mitteleuropa that I want to remain here after my death.
So even Milena’s apartment can be reached from Westbahnhof—U6 to Niederhofstraße. Tram No.6 to Zentralfriedhof and U6 to Milena. Westbahnhof really is the centre of Vienna, even if the map suggests otherwise. The new ‘so-called’ Vienna Central Railway Station is a piece of —-. It is in the middle of precisely nowhere. Centre of Nowhere Station they should call it—Berlin Hauptbahnhof the same. I have never been to Vienna’s CENTRAL railway station and doubt I will ever have cause to. It looks like a petrol garage. Austerity, we all have to respect, but for god’s sake you could do more with a Central Railway Station than this? Berlin Hauptbahnhof at least has a certain architectural glory, despite being in the middle of nowhere. Vienna’s new Hauptbahnhof is in the middle of nowhere but has no architectural merit whatsoever. That is why they call them Central? Because they are in the middle of nowhere. For me, Berlin Zoo is always the centre of Berlin. Westbahnhof is always the centre of Vienna. Lesson to first-time visitors to Europe: Berlin Central Railway Station is in the middle of nowhere. Vienna Central Railway Station is in the middle of nowhere.