In his CŒUR À CŒUR column, Guido Brancher of GUID-O-BERLIN talks about Berlin places and happenings, in the process trying to understand and put them into a historical and time-critical context. As for the subject matter, we have given him carte blanche as we like his eclectic taste and the breath of his understanding.
Yet even Berlin is only great if you can regularly get away, so Guido will also be reporting on some of his trips.
Come along, Life is a journey!
In times like these, when alone in our homes we ponder the future , we more often than not fall into longing – a longing for better places and better times. But we also think of utopias, because such a social reset as at present inspires us to concentrate on essentials to ensure we do better – or at least try to – when this crisis is over.
One of my places of longing is Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, outside Berlin, especially the corner with Schloss Charlottenhof, the Roman Baths and the surrounding gardens. This Neo-classical synthesis of Schinkel’s architecture and Lenné’s garden designs with their perfect proportions and vistas always awaken in me a longing for Arcadia.
Arcadia, this humanistic vision of the Garden of Eden.
The Arcadians were the Ancients of the ancient Greeks. A shepherd people where everything somehow worked out perfectly. They had enough to eat, dealt with their social conflicts without the use of violence, and just seemed happy.
It was clear that this much harmony could not go on for long and so our happy people were soon wiped out by the neighboring war faring city-states. That was it, party over.
What remained was the idea of Arcadia as a social utopia in which man and nature coexist in harmony.
It was an idea that became relevant again during the Enlightenment, especially for Rousseau, thus providing the basis of our modern society.
For the Prussians, Arcadia was a refuge from rigid militarism and this pastoral ideology, which defines the ruler of the state as the shepherd (or first servant) of his people, was essential to Frederick the Great’s understanding of government.
If only the Prussians had stuck to it and not become megalomaniac, it would have saved us a lot of bloodshed and their state might actually still exist and not have perished like the Arcadian one.
Yet, the idea of Arcadia is more relevant today than ever!
In an era in which governments are increasingly losing sense of responsibility for their peoples by overexploiting nature and making a mess for generations to come, we have to remind ourselves of our humanistic values.
And isn’t that exactly what Greta is all about?
As Joni Mitchell sang: “We are stardust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”.
Photos from Venice showing clean water in the canals and dolphins romping in the port of Cagliari show us how thankful nature is for our deceleration and how quickly she can regenerate herself. We can still save our planet. It is in our hands to use this forced reset to conceive a sustainable future for humanity.
By the way, you can still experience Arcadia, even in times of lockdown. Go for a walk, get on a bike, of course alone or at most within the family nucleus, and experience how perfect nature is. Spring gives us the certainty that life goes on and that after the grey of winter there will be green!
For Berliners, Sanssouci is worth a good bike ride. It’ll get some oxygen in your lungs and help reduce the Corona-bloat.
In this sense: Eκτός από την Αρκαδία (Off to Arcadia!)
The Header Photo is by the Chilean, Berlin-based Photographer Gabriela Souza
„I always try to portray places as people in a raw way and without make-up. I just immortalize that moment as it is. I love walking down the street and capturing what’s going on. I love the street as a scenario.“
*GUID-O-BERLIN creates memories. We offer a selection of personalised tours and encounters in and around Berlin, thereby helping you go off the beaten tourist track and explore other European cities too.