Berlin continued

By Julie Myerson, Daily Mail

Last updated at 16:41 17 February 2003

Lunch is on my mind, and savoury phrases from German A-level are floating unbidden into my mind: Spiegelei mit Bratkartoffeln... Schweinbraten... Burstefrisur - or is that a haircut?

So we stride off into the heart of Mitte. We walk along the Spree River and turn on to the blowy cold of Unter den Linden. The Brandenburg Gate stands distantly at the far end, once rendered invisible by the Wall.

This chunk of 'East' Berlin is nothing but grand old museums and opera houses, being furiously renovated. It seems almost oppressively grand, but oddly soulless - similar to a glossy backdrop for something that hasn't yet happened.

We edge into proper old Berlin. The Zur Nolle on Georgenstrasse is a perfect recreation of a high-ceilinged, semi-decadent, candle-lit restaurant café. I get my fried eggs and sauté potatoes, washed down with a glass of Sekt. But the place is disappointingly full of portly Berliners talking business.

'The black polo necks don't eat lunch,' I tell Jonathan, who is looking up the German for 'my soul is aching' in his Collins Gem.

That evening we ask the taxi - the metro is swift but expensive - to take us to Oranienburgerstrasse, the heart of the old Jewish district, the new funky zone. And there we find Silberstein: chic, but hardly angst-ridden. The waitress may have blue glitter on her fingernails, but Sally Bowles is nowhere in sight.

This, though, is the new face of Berlin - more super-cool than decadent. When the Wall came down and there were grants to be won and profits to be made renovating the old heart of Berlin, the scene moved East. The old heart of West Berlin, Charlottenburg, now seems totally last week.

So OK, if the cafés and bars aren't going to reveal our junior Wittgensteins, maybe the museums will. Deciding to breakfast in Kreuzberg, we stumble into Bergmannstrasse - and here they are. At each table, a cluster of serious talkers - smoking in what feels like organised shifts.

Leather-jacketed young men frown at the morning paper, and a plum-lipsticked mother feeds bread to her toddler, cigarette in the other hand. At the table next to us a Quentin Crisp-lookalike rolls his eyes at the whole room, blowing slow smoke rings.

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