I’ve recently returned from Berlin where I was researching my new novel. It’s an incredible place, though to the visitor the effects of the wartime devastation and the subsequent division of the city are still shocking. It’s a surprise to come across great tracts of land that are still rubble strewn and thick with weeds. The remnants of momentous events are all around you and it’s hard not to be constantly aware of the history beneath your feet. Sitting in the Adlon hotel, once the epicentre of Berlin high society, and looking out at the Brandenburg Gate was an weird sensation. But it’s also a place that feels hopeful and forward focused. The absolute highlight was visiting Prenzlauer Berg, to the north east of the city, which was a revelation, much younger, more relaxed than the staid Mitte, with lovely old buildings full of bars and restaurants, street markets and children’s playgrounds.
Here I’m standing outside the restored Neue Synagoge in Orienburgerstrasse, which was the largest in Berlin and was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938.