In a sunny corner of Berlin our eight-year-old son Maus is building a sandcastle. Behind him, beyond the O2 World stadium, ICE trains slide away towards hundreds of destinations across Europe. Over a thousand express, regional and rapid transit trains fan out from the fourteen platforms of the Hauptbahnhof, Europe’s largest and most magnificent modern station. Railways did for Germany what sea lanes did for Britain; the web of lines galvanising trade and putting its capital at the centre of its world.
I’m thinking about links today as Maus builds his sandcastle. Around him a dozen other children – speaking half-a-dozen different languages – are packing and shaping sand to make their individual towers. Here’s a medieval fortress topped by jagged crenulations. Next to it is a graceful mosque. Beside them are a Maori-faced turret and a fairy-tale palace, as well as sculpted snakes, elephants and cats. This vast sandpit on the Friedrichshainer Spreeufer is the site of Sandsation, Berlin’s annual sand sculpture festival. For the 10th year running adult sculptors have come here from around the world to built ephemeral monuments in the sand. Beach loungers line the riverbank. Palm trees sway in the breeze. Open-air salsa parties swing into the night. It’s a crazy idea, like finding a bit of Bondi in Berlin, but no greater a cultural shock than any of the many international events in this city.
Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, or because I grew up basking in Sixties idealism, but I’ve always been excited by the multicultural mélange. The dissolution of old enmities, the breaking down of borders, the building of bridges between peoples, moves me like little else.
At home in our apartment for example I’ve set on a window ledge some of our black-and-white family photographs: my father on the bridge of a Royal Navy corvette during the Second World War, my godmother in the uniform of Hitler’s Landarmee, Mrs. Cat’s Scottish grandfather standing in a Royal Flying Corps flying suit next to his Sopwith Camel and her German grandfather in a Luftwaffe uniform. Sixty years ago these people were mortal enemies. Now in this city which for a brief moment in modern history was the hub of intolerance, members of the same family try to learn from history.
The newsagent around the corner from our apartment is owned by a Jewish family. I was in there yesterday, chatting to the owner, who asked me about my background. ‘I’m a quarter Scottish, a quarter Irish, half English – and wholly Canadian,’ I told him.
He looked over his glasses and replied, ‘A long time ago those distinctions used to matter. They don’t any longer. Today we are all citizens of the world.’
It’s not difficult to see where he’s coming from, and I want to be first in the queue when they hand outside the world citizen passports, but I don’t believe that multiculturalism necessitates a denial of origins. As Canada has learnt, it’s by embracing our differences that life and society is enriched and enlivened.
In the midst of these pondering at the Sandsation, as I write these words, I realise that I am watching a barefoot boy, playing in the sand near to Maus. He’s not building a tower or palace, instead he’s running his hand over the sand, clearing winding lanes between the towers, linking Buddhas and towers, snakes and medieval castles, building bridges in the sand.
Donnerstag, 29. Juli 2010
(Seite 1 von 1, insgesamt 1 Einträge)