Blend out what you dislike, that would be my general advice in life, and in particular when visiting Potsdam. The city is over a thousand years old, but mostly known for its glorious ornaments ever since it became a royal seat, the palaces and follies of the Prussian kings, prestigious buildings, carefully designed for entertainment, pleasure and recreation, to praise God, too, of course, the Protestant way, a little less pompous than Roman Catholics, but really just a little, Luther’s influence stopped when architecture was concerned, and guys like Karl Friedrich Schinkel took over, and there are plenty more of fine buildings to house soldiers, horses and plants. It’s all still there, at least most of it, but something else survived, too: the architectural crimes of the GDR, some newly invented iconoclasm, instead of destructing the monuments of Germany’s royal past, they just surrounded them with their derefined vision of socialist housing, let’s get rid of that stylish nonsense, let’s disparage all architectural styles, let’s baste Potsdam with concrete and glass and show them what it means to be equal, pardon my temper, but this is what you have to blend out when visiting Potsdam – unless you care for historically correct polar opposites, of course.
We’re open, it said, in plain English. A stairway, more than a hundred years old, was obviously leading into Berlin cathedral’s vaults, not to the part where all these dead kings and queens are resting in their sarcophagi, I was hoping, that’ll be all too gloomy, especially on this foggy November morning, so I lingered, indecisively, sat down at one of the tables outside, I was the only one of course, had a cigarette, watched some school kids with their teacher on their excursion day, they looked all so very French and reminded me of Louis Malle’s “Au revoir, les enfants”, just until my hands had frozen, leaving me unable to light another cigarette, my feet, however, were still working, I reached the cathedral’s downstairs café before turning into a pillar of ice, I didn’t want to end up like Mrs Lot, salt or ice, where’s the difference, and ordered caffè latte, medium, and American cheesecake, in a slightly overheated agony, this was the worst interior ever, how could they do this to such a beautiful spot, Berlin’s cathedral is such a splendid sight, I had just taken dozens of pictures, but this looked like a gas station’s espresso bar, on some lesser frequented route nationale, somewhere northwest of Lyon, I think the children from that French school had put me into a French catalogue of reception, anyway, the cake was really great, the coffee not so much but drinkable, and I left as soon as my body temperature allowed. If you like American cheesecake, I can really recommend the place.