Sunday 20 May 2012

Checking out of Berlin and into Prague

First things first: never stay at the Marriott in Berlin (or in any other city, probably). They charge six euros  for one hour of internet! Outrageous! Plus they only have a two-slice toaster on the breakfast buffet. And the concierge is useless. Stay at the Melia instead: just as central, free wifi, and excellent staff.

Now, Dresden: full of surprises on a relaxed and sunny Sunday, with students busking everywhere (clarinet under the arches! recorder! flute! My personal woodwind trio!), lovely hairy-fetlocked draught horses pulling carriages round the cobbled streets, a paddle-steamer on the Elbe and a curry Wurst on the street. For a city that was 75% destroyed on 13 February 1945 (bad, bad Brits this time) it's looking good, the buildings restored and the city's triumph, the Frauenkirche, finally finished in 2005 after languishing in a dismal heap of rubble for 50-plus years. The world's biggest jigsaw puzzle, the bits were labelled and painstakingly fitted together again, plus replacement stones of course, and the church has risen again, topped with a gold cross given by Britain, the master craftsman in charge of its recreation amazingly the son of one of the bomber pilots who flattened the city that night.

And tonight we're in Prague, in the Czech Republic, and are going to bed after a lovely trip along the river admiring the reflections in the water of the spotlit buildings that are, for once, all authentically old and totally undamaged during the war. The locals are staying up, drowning their sorrows after losing to Russia in the ice-hockey. Shame.

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