This is a very subjective essay. It’s unorthodox, unscientific, literary. It’s based on observation and not on scholarship. It’s about perceptions, which could as well be misperceptions. It connects things that shouldn’t necessarily be connected. Therefore, it makes conclusions that could be false. It definitely makes generalizations, which are never true.


Here the definitions of a few words by Ambrose Bierce (1842–1914), as published in his “Devil’s Dictionary” (1911):

PICTURE, n.: A representation in two dimensions of something wearisome in three.

PREJUDICE, n.: A vagrant opinion without visible means of support.

RATIONAL, adj.:  Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.

IMPARTIAL, adj.: Unable to perceive any promise of personal advantage from espousing either side of a controversy or adopting either of two conflicting opinions.

Finally, the essay:

The Lace Curtains of Berlin
Once, back in the golden twenties of the last century, Berlin was a great city to live: cosmopolitan, vibrant, exciting, avant-garde. Then came the thirties with the brown shirts, followed by the forties with destruction and death. Berlin was never to recover its glamour again.

The sixties brought the wall, transforming this city into something unique. Living on a capitalist island right in the middle of a communist country, surrounded by a wall; knowing that, if the third world war ever happened, it would start here; trying to live a normal life despite all that: these feelings cannot be described. They had to be experienced. But now that’s also gone forever, with the wall torn down to the last piece.

The nineties brought the reconstruction, the manic desire to make Berlin a “normal” city again, to clean it up and make it nice and tidy, robbing it of its last charms: its past, its history, its scars, its ruins, its decadence. 

The reconstruction is practically finished and almost all these goals have been achieved. Berlin is becoming more and more just like any other German city. The only difference is that it’s big. Try to imagine an oversized Wuppertal.

There’s not much to say about Berlin’s new architecture, the so-called historical reconstruction. The fear of diversity, the irrational urge to control chaos, the aversion to experiments, the lack of vision, and last but not least, the nostalgic flight back to an idealized past: all this has left its mark. There are a few exceptions, but one needs only two words to categorize these new, uninspiring, well-behaved, boring, look-alike buildings: rearranging rectangles. One day, people will look back at this missed opportunity and they will regret.

But forget the boring architecture! If you for any reason happen to find yourself in Berlin, there’s something much better to check out: the lace curtains! Don’t look at the facades but at what’s hanging behind the windows. You will be awed!

You will need time to educate your eye. At first glance the curtains do not look beautiful. They seem ugly, tacky, sometimes even barbaric, the textile equivalent to sauerkraut with bratwurst. But take your time. Just walk around. It’s a wonderful experience. With time you will learn to differentiate between them, to delight on the “variations on the same theme.” You will rejoice when you discover a new type. Sometimes you will laugh out loud. Other times you will want to cry even louder.

Slowly your feelings toward the curtains will change. And here comes the scariest part: someday you will lose all your inhibitions and will start to love them. Because they transcend their tackiness! The lace curtains of Berlin are the proof that tackiness, when taken to extremes, can acquire a poetic dimension.