I need not have had any reluctance--the trip was wonderful, both for the academic aspect--the symposium on Wednesday was invigorating and I felt on the same page which much of what the other people, both the two other principal speakers and the colleagues and graduate students in attendance had to say--and for the city itself. Berlin is not exactly the hip, edgy boomtown the media often present it as--the city is effectively broke, not so much from the aftermath of reunification or the current economic crisis but from earlier bad real-estate speculation--but it is very congenial and highly affordable--half the cost of living of NYC, I would imagine. I went to sundry museums, including the Pergamon (a deeply moving experience, especially for the Near Eastern material), the Bode, the Altes Museum, several having to do with the relatively recent history of Berlin (the Wall, the German Democratic Republic, the Holocaust), as well as my personal favorite, the Dom or Cathedral--the Lutheran cathedral, naturally, where I ascended to the top of the cupola, a kind of ecclesiastical Empire State Building. And not only did I encounter wonderful collegiality at the Freie Universitat and have dinner with an old literary friend but I ran into a former graduate school colleague at the Alexanderplatz U-bahn station!
Here is a picture of me with the remnants of the Wall on Bernauerstrasse.