I’m in Vienna for a few days, covering the extraordinary evolution of cocktail robotics. Roboexotica is an art show and technologist’s playpen, where towers of tubes and slides can make a decent mojito, a little blowtorch attached to a bottle can make what is by reports a truly awful (but fiery!) Spanish Coffee, and the debate over what really constitutes a robot goes on fueled by flowing booze. As all debates should be.
Vienna reminds me how much Berlin has lost. It is a city on a grand scale, spared from destruction. Baroque architecture everywhere, streets and facades that demand horse-drawn carriages (which, tourists fear not, are in ample supply), palaces and statuary and gardens and all the accoutrements of empire. I had a coffee in the Central Cafe today, a room that should be in a palace somewhere, and perhaps once was: arching ceilings, marble pillars, full-length portraits of the emperor and his wife. Some emperor. Some wife.
Berlin has none of this grandeur. What was there once was smashed, thanks to P.F. Hitler’s insistency on staying the course. But it was never a city like Vienna, or Paris, or Rome; Germany’s rulers generally despised it as too free-thinking, not military enough. They preferred nearby Potsdam. What Berlin has is spirit, then and now, and that comes out today in the ubiquitous graffiti and vacant-lot Biergartens, rather than monumental architecture. I like that; but I like wandering baroque streets, too. We’ll have to return here.