23 December 2005

Berlin Friedrichstraße

So, I did it. I took my life in my hands and went shopping in Friedrichstraße, one of Berlin's busiest shopping streets, the day before Christmas. It was quite fun, actually. I luxuriated in the experience of shopping for myself on a day when everyone else was frantically trying to find those last few presents for others. Not that I bought much: just a couple of books and new inserts for my filofax, but I took a sort of perverse pleasure in being under no pressure at all while those around me had the pressure of finding that little something for Aunt Helga written all over their faces.

It was pretty grey and dark - even at 2pm - also rainy, but not really especially cold. But the rain and the fog meant that the Fernsehturm was struggling to make itself seen.

My retail outlet of choice today was Dussmann, a big four-storey bookshop. They'd made quite an effort in front of the store with their Christmas decorations.

Inside, though, it was another story. Every Berliner and his or her dog was there, shopping for Aunt Helga. It was madness.

While I was in Friedrichstraße, I took the opportunity to check out the Christmas lights and decorations there and around the corner in Unter den Linden. Just as I had heard, some of them were quite spectacular.

But those efforts were nothing compared with what they've done with Unter den Linden! Unter den Linden's most striking feature is the four rows of Linden trees which line the entire length of the avenue, leading right up to the Brandenburg Gate. And as you can see from the pictures which follow, every single one has been decked out with Christmas lights. Up close, they look like this:

But it's when you stand back and look at the whole picture, up or down the avenue, that it becomes really impressive.

Judging by the conspicuously placed advertising, also in Christmas lights, I'd say it wasn't financed by the City of Berlin, nor the State of Berlin, but rather Vodafone and Vattenfall (an energy company), wouldn't you?

And at the end of Unter den Linden, of course, is the Brandenburger Tor, which was, I must say, looking truly splendid this evening, despite the less than ideal weather.

And after all that, I'm feeling well and truly Christmassy. Exactly as planned.