Postcard from Berlin

I had a brief visit to Berlin at the end of last week, to take part in a conference about experiential learning.  Having blogged about Pecha Kucha last year, this was the first time that I’d actually been asked to deliver one of these fast-paced, 20 slides of 20 seconds each, presentations.  Pecha Kucha goes against my own preferred style of using PowerPoint for presentations, which is to keep the number of slides down, to talk for some time on each slide, and where possible to invite discussion from the audience.  But it’s an interesting discipline, and surprisingly effective: if you have 20 seconds to talk over a slide relating to the aptitudes typically characterised as left brained and right brained, you don’t have time to digress into a discussion of the seminal papers from the literature on management learning which discuss rational and intuitive approaches.  And you don’t have to keep an eye open for somebody else who is timekeeping, as is usually the case with conferences.

Germans use the word ostalgie to refer to the process of remembering the former East Germany.  It’s associated for example with the wonderful 2003 film Good Bye Lenin.  The conference venue was strong on ostalgie, having been originally constructed for the East German national council in 1964 but now converted into a business school.  Among the building’s original features were stained glass windows depicting heroic workers, a tiled frieze with similar decorations in the large auditorium where the presentations took place, and, most strangely, part of the former Berlin Palace built into the frontage, complete with rather grumpy-looking statues holding up the lintel above the main entrance.

Stained glass

Otherwise, ostalgie was hard to find, at least in the centre of Berlin.  Coming in from the airport, I took a train to Friedrichstrasse, where the station, now a busy commuter hub, had been the frontier stop until 1989.  Further down Friedrichstrasse is the site of Checkpoint Charlie.  But within the central area there is no tangible difference now between the former eastern and western parts of the city, little trace of where the wall ran, and plenty of extremely expensive-looking shops in the eastern portion, which at the time of reunification would have been the less prosperous side of the city.

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