Mr. Mann Goes to Europe: The G's
Although it was a long yet comfortable trip on British Air business class to London, we were amazed that once in Europe, a few hours flight time could bring you to an entirely different culture. Yes, Los Angeles is different from New York in just six hours, but what a difference Berlin was from Athens in just 2 hours!
London from the air was spectacular, watching the River Thames wind around the city. Heathrow was not so spectacular, winding through its maze and uncomfortable design. There are a LOT of people and very few seats. The multicultural display was comforting to see, with different people going about their business calmly and respectfully. I noticed a big Eastern European/Polish community, who were pre-Brexit immigrants to GB. There seems to be big focus on Asian or Muslim immigrants, but not much on the Caucus side of humanity.
Berlin was fascinating. We entered through Tegel airport, which is sort of like a Brutalist monument to the Communist era. It was surprisingly small and provincial for a world capital. All around Berlin are reminders of a haunted past. The city was essentially destroyed in WWII and decayed further during the cold war. There is much re-building going on. The new buildings are either a replica of the destroyed ones, or cutting edge designs, or a combination of both. The Reichstag is an example of the old and the new.
The Germans do not hide their terrible past. They remind themselves of the horrors of Hitler. Visiting old sites such as the ruble of the SS headquarters or Hitler’s bunker is a stark contrast to the Confederate monuments of the United States.
Interestingly, we stayed at a chic and fashionable hotel at the edge of the Tiergarten in the former West. It was called Das Stue, which roughly means in Danish ‘living room.’ The interiors, by Spaniard Patricia Uriquiola, were very witty and ironic, such as leather stuffed elephants which referenced the Berlin Zoo next door. This was in great contrast to the stark and somber gray exterior. The building was the former Danish Embassy which Hitler had built for his friends.
The best part of Berlin was the gay Schoeneberg. We took a ‘Queer Berlin’ tour and learned about the fast-paced days of the Weimar Republic, and the setting for ‘Cabaret’. The day was complete when we went to a bar called ‘Sally Bowles’ which was an intimate bar and performance space. It turns out, a friend of a friend happened to be performing there on our last night in Berlin. At first, we couldn’t tell if the headline singer was an act, but she was a genuine mess, much like the fictional Sally Bowles. And she was an English expat! It was a Berlin experience we’ll never forget.
The first thing we noticed about the Greeks, on our flight from Berlin to Athens, was how good looking they were. Wow the flight crew were spectacular. Impeccably groomed, young and gorgeous. The dole make flight attendant looked like a Greek God in an airline uniform. The women had very chic tunics and pulled back jet black hair.
Athens was a bit of a mess. Being an ancient city, there is decay and wisdom everywhere. Our hotel, the Electra Metropolis, was in a section called the Plaka. It was sort of like Madrid, except dirtier and more chaotic. Our suite was called Acropolis, and had a stunning view of that ancient rock. There was so much to see an experience, and we had a great day at the Acropolis itself. We hired a tour guide named Kouli all to ourselves. She must have been in her 80’s and I worried she might trip on the slippery rock, but she was bedrock of knowledge, and I learned so much.
After Athens, we took a trip to the Peloponnese. There was a modern highway at first that then exited to a windy mountain road. I asked the driver why there were so many little altars and shrines on the sides of the road. He said they were memorials to deaths of car. Keep your eye on the road!
The countryside of Greece reminded me of Monterey in California, semi-arid with dramatic vistas and the sea. We were headed to the Amanzoe resort in Kranidi. Wow is all I can say. It felt like we were on Mt. Olympus. We spent a day on an island called Hydra where they do not allow cars. It was somewhat touristy, but I could wander through rocky streets by myself and imagine a pastoral Greece.
On our way back home, we overnighted in Philadelphia, where I lived during college and residency. It was still a beautiful city, but very muggy. We stayed at an over-designed hotel Kimpton but it was right across from Independence Park so we snuck in some sightseeing. The Second Bank of the United States was across the street, and you could mistake it for being taken in Greece (hence another G reference even in the United States!)
From our trip, we got perspectives from different countries and experiences which we will incorporate into Mr. Mann’s Design. We are already looking to put on a Berlin Cabaret show in Palm Springs and have contacted the wonderful emcee at Sally Bowles to appear!