Ich Bin Ein Berliner!

Ich Bin Ein Berliner!*

I got back on Wednesday afternoon from my first trip to Berlin, Germany’s once divided capital city.  I flew out with my girlfriend on Friday 11th, two days after my MA graduation, and spent five (and a bit) good days there.

We stayed in Mitte, very close to Alexanderplatz, one of the city’s many commerical hubs.

Strange thing: first day we met up with my younger brother, who I’ve not seen for months. He was at the end of a couple of weeks of travelling (mostly hitch-hiking and fare-dodging) through Europe. He’d started in Bratislava, where he’s studying for a bit, and made it through Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany to Poland (with three friends), before returning to Berlin on his own to meet me and H. It was so good to see him. After a very good Thai meal, we spent the evening talking in a bar named after the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, part of an enclave called the Tachelles.

The rest of the trip… Why travel? What are you meant to do? I’m not sure. But, we enjoyed spending a lot of time walking, despite the freezing temperatures, and seeing art. We glimpsed the Tachelles, caught the BilderTräume exhibition, spotted Graff, and spent some time walking around the Hamburger Bahnhof – where they had a lot of Joseph Beuys (a highlight for me, but not for H who plans to create much better work of her own in the near future). We also visited the Pergamon after mistaking the location of the Neue Nationalgalerie for that of the Neue Museum, and ending up in the middle of Museum Insel on a freezing and steadily darkening evening. And on a recommendation we quick marched (again, it was freezing) back and forth along the East Side Gallery – a long series of murals on a remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall (pictured above and below). Throughout the 5 days a constant thought was: “Is it just us, or do we have no where near this much art in England?” We were particularly jealous of an arts book shop  just off the  Hackescher Markt (massive – art and critical theory; period, movement and artist specifics; mags, journals and periodicals – about five or six rooms), if not jealous of the expensive protected and regulated book prices. Oh, and I almost forgot! We walked into the opening night of the Don McCullin retrospective photography exhibition ‘An Impossible Peace’, at C|O Berlin Aktuell Gallery, in Mitte. Definitely someone to be admired. H got busy doing her journo thing and had a chat with the man himself, earning his autograph and a promise to meet up at some point soon :D

We also spent quite a lot of time in cafés, talking, warming up, drinking coffee and Glühwein and beer. We noted two particular varieties: the overly formal types, where the waiters seemed to act as though they were being constantly watched, took visible pleasure in placing a menu precisely, and reacted in a pavalovian manner to mere eye contact, offering bills and menus when all you intended was to acknowledge their fellow existence.  Second, the casual places that seem almost futuristic in being carved into and out of the drek and wreckage of the city. A good place for this is Kreuzberg. If you walk from the Warschauer train station down into town there’s a particularly nice example that should catch your eyes. They are uniformly covered from head to foot in graffiti, especially in the toiletten. These places can look intimidating, but the place we found was very nice. I wish I could remember its name.  The Zapata is a Mitte example. Here is a photo from inside the one in Kreuzberg:

What else did we do? We certainly spent a lot of time enjoying eating good food. On the first night we ate at Thai Inside,  on a street between Alex and Hackscher Markt. It was very good, and a bit different from Thai food in England. On the second night we ate at Monsieur Vuong Vietnamese restaurant, on Neue Schönhauser Straße, which is a very cool and popular noodle and soup bar that does good cocktails. Third night we ate at a Turkish restaurant on Planufer Straße, in Kreuzberg, called Defne which was my favourite meal of the whole trip. I shared a meze to start, with H, then had the tastiest Imam Bayaldi with a particularly nice bottle of Chianti. Fourth night we had Indian food in Kreuzberg in a restaurant near the café mentioned above. It was nice and very good value. On the last night we went all out and had sushi at a Japanese restaurant near the Hackscher Markt. It was very tasty, but after eating miso soup, a bowl of edamame, a whole platter of ‘Winter’ sushi, and a sweet rice cake, I was still hungry – but too broke to go on. All in all, the only German food I ate, then, was a Schaumküsse from the Weihnachtsmärkte.

On the last night, after the Japanese food, we walked once more toward Oranienburger Straße and ducked down into a cellar bar with paper lanterns everywhere, making it glow. We drank and chatted and played the “tell me three things I don’t know about you game”. After a while we reversed it and played “tell me three things I don’t know about myself”. It was a nice way to spend the evening. A lot of laughter (some of it through my nose, apparently – this was one of the many revelations). The two people staffing it were nice too, and we had a bit of a laugh with them.

What else?! Observations about the people? They don’t seem to cross streets until the crossing lights change to green.  They all skip the fares on trains and trams. The city? It offers chance perspectives in parts, and is overdetermined in others. The Künstschule? It seemed a bit run down, but alive. Like Zapata or Kruezberg. The star-flyer? It wasn’t so bad, but I thought H was going to hate it (and possibly vomit), which did make me scared. The bier? So cheap in the supermarkets, so expensive in bars (50c – E1 and E3, respectively). What did I miss? No, I didn’t see Checkpoint Charlie. I’m sorry. The Holocaust memorial? Yes, it was very well realised. The…? Enough! Go there and find out for yourself. Go on. Get out of here. Get lost, scram!

Oh, go on then, have two more photos:

Love,

Wit

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~ by Wit on December 21, 2009.

One Response to “Ich Bin Ein Berliner!”

  1. Hehe, very good. That Starflyer is something which will continue to frequent my nightmares for years. But I love how I am pulling novelty poses on nearly 50% of your photos.

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