Thursday, April 11, 2013

Deutsche Oper

Ever since we moved to Berlin, I have been wanting to go to the opera. At the time, there are two opera houses at the Bismarckstrasse, just a few hundred meters from our home. (Actually, there are no less than three opera houses in Berlin: the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Charlottenburg, the Staatsoper Unter der Linden in Mitte and the Komische Oper in .... .) The Staatsoper venue is currently undergoing major reconstruction and therefore it is now temporarily residing in the beautiful Schiller Theater, also in the Bismarckstrasse. The theater is just a few minutes walking from the consideringly uglier Deutsche Oper. But since I had tickets for the latter one, I went there first.

The Deutsche Oper is the biggest opera house in Berlin with 1859 seats. It is also the second largest concert hall in Germany. The building was designed in 1957 (and opened in 1961) by Fritz Bornemann as the replacement for the old classicist building from 1912, which was destroyed during a bomb raid in 1943. The architect envisioned a massive windowless outer wall along the broad and noisy Bismarckstrasse (one of the most busy streets in Charlottenburg), so that the theater hall is completely shielded off from the street noises. It does make the building look like a massive concrete brick, until you walk to the side walls which are almost completely made of glass. 

A minor but annoying design flaw (in my opinion) is visible on the corner of the building: on opera days, two flags are hung outside, showing the title of the opera that is playing that night. But, because the wind is mostly blowing in from the east, the text is always shown mirror wise... 

On the inside, the building is very symmetric and transparent. The spacious foyers are suited for multifunctional use and are often used for film shootings and commercials. Installed in the main foyer is a most fascinating motorized bronze wall sculpture - Alunos Discus by George Baker (1978). It is nicknamed 'der Wolkenskulptur' for the swirling, silent motion and the billowing forms, which had a quite mesmerizing effect on me. Measuring 10.6 meters in width and 4.2 meters in height it dominates the foyer with its slow movements: 

After wandering around in the building for about an hour, I had almost forgotten that I was actually there to watch and listen to an opera: The Love for Three Oranges by Sergei Prokofiev. It was all very Russian, very absurdist and very funny (it's an opera buffo). The singers were excellent, especially the Prince (Thomas Blondelle) and Truffaldino (Paul Kaufmann) and the lovely, very young Princesse Ninette (Hila Fahima). Alas, filming and photography was strictly prohibited, so I can only show you my illegal footing of a closed curtain, people looking for their seats and the orchestra members doing some last minute practice... 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Please don't send mail

That is, please don't use DPD to send me a package... Deutsche Post/DHL do find us most of the time, though they don't seem to like post cards. We have estimated that out of the 7 post cards we know were heading our way, only 3 actually made it to our mail box. Comparative analysis of the date stamps learned that a post card with priority sticker will take about 2 days, whereas a post card without priority sticker might easily stroll over here by itself in about 5 weeks. Packages sent with TNT have all arrived (as far as we know). The Dutch newspaper we receive here usually is 2 days late, but sometimes it does not arrive at all or they arrive in throngs at the end of the week. The only mail that is always on time and arriving in abundance, is the official Dutch authorities mail. You know, tax papers, social security services stuff, municipial taxes... 

But now back to the DPD package service. About a month ago, my dear friend Ilse ordered a gift for my son's birthday at a Belgian webshop. The package was sent using DPD. At his birthday, we got a lovely birthday message from Ilse and family, asking whether their package had arrived. Well, alas, it had not. A few days later, I got an e-mail from Ilse asking me if our address was correct, because DPD claimed that there was an error. I confirmed to her that, yes, the address was correct but it might be that DPD still has the old address of this building on record, for after renovation the building was assigned to a different street. So I also gave her the data of the former address and the package was sent to Berlin after all. All this took about a week. Several days after this, I got a phone call from the DPD distribution center in Berlin, asking whether the address was right, because they did not know it and were confused by my extra information including the former address. I told them that yes, the address was right, but please use the entrance at the site of the old address. I realize this might all sound a bit puzzling to you, so I made a small map to explain our situation:

See? It's actually quite simple. But not so for the DPD guy. Last week on Tuesday - I was not at home - I got a call from the delivery man, trying to explain to me where he was waiting for me with the package:
DPD: "Hello? This is DPD, I am standing at Fraunhoferstrasse near the orange container."
me: "Orange container?"
DPD: "Yes, the orange container at the building site. Can you come down here to receive your package?"
me: "Eh, well, no, I am not at home right now." (Meanwhile I was racking my brain about the location of the orange container)
DPD: "When will you be home? I can come back in about half an hour."
me: "I will not be back in half an hour, can you deliver it at one of my neighbors? You will have to walk to the Otto Suhr side, though."
DPD: "All right, I will try". (Big sigh)
A few minutes later he calls back:
DPD: "Yes, DPD again; there is nobody there to accept your package. I will take it back to the distribution center."
me: "OK, will you bring it tomorrow, then?"
DPD: "No, you will have to make a new appointment."
me: "Yes, and how do I do that?"
DPD: "Well, you call this number ... and then I will come once more on Thursday"
So I call the number, which is a call center and costs €1,49 per call(?!) and try to explain to the lady that the delivery should be done at the Otto Suhr Allee building site, not at the Fraunhoferstrasse. She obviously doesn't understand what I mean, but agrees to print out the explicatory note and schedules the second delivery for Thursday.

On Thursday, no DPD and nobody answers the phone. On Friday, same procedure (but it's Good Friday, so they probably don't work today). On Tuesday, after the long Easter weekend, DPD calls again:
DPD: "Hello? This is DPD, I am standing at Fraunhoferstrasse, can you come down to collect your package?" (No orange container this time)
me: "Fraunhoferstrasse? That will be difficult, for I cannot reach the other side of the building site. I am at the Otto Suhr side and the access to the Fraunhoferstrasse is blocked."
DPD: "OK, I see what you mean; I will give the package to my colleague on the Otto Suhr route."
me: "But can't you just make a detour, it's only two corners to Otto Suhr from where you are now"
DPD: "Sorry madam, that's not possible, it's a different route. I will give to my colleague and you will have it tomorrow." (Argh?!)

And today, hurray! I finally got the package (as well as two more packages for neighbors). And to top it off, a post card arrived from grandma O. - without priority sticker - after 3 weeks.

In short: should you decide to send me mail, please put a priority sticker on it and don't use DPD...