From the beginning Berlin felt comfortable and inviting. It’s tangled and broken streets, the prevalence of difference, of alternative cultures and art had a strong feeling of community. After the whirlwind of our arting madness through western Europe we decided to utilize our time in Berlin to unwind. To catch up on the blog (somewhat) and to take it a bit easier in preparation for the next hectic phase of our trip. We wanted to soak up the culture more than to see all the sights. This was helped by the fact that we were staying in someones house while they were away and the apartment felt like home.
We spent quite a bit of time just exploring the neighbourhood, called Friedrichshain in which we were staying. It was a cool area with quirky shops and bars and we were finally able to go out for a proper breakfast at a great cafe run by Australians. We were surprised by the big swell of vegetarianism and veganism in Berlin as Germany is known for its meatiness. In fact, Sausage was used as legal tender in East Germany until 1990. We found a great butcher just down the road which served an array of textile carcass.
Dotahn had been doing a lot of thinking and research into his heritage for our Eastern Europe leg of our journey and wanted to visit the Jewish museum. A gorgeous architectural structure, the museum had a lot of European Jewish history as well as some great art installations about the holocaust. The architect Daniel Lebiskind had built large voids slicing through the building to represent the absence of Jews caused by the Holocaust. The towering angular concrete spaces rise up into a void, only broken by a shard of light. Giving off an intense feeling of isolation and hopelessness. Built into one of the voids is an installation by Menashe Kadishman’s entitled ‘Fallen Leaves’ filled with thousands of metal faces. As you walked through the space across the faces they made an intense sound as they clanked together and echoed up through the space. It was poignant and moving.
The permanent collection featured remnants, stories and history of Jewish culture and was a little hard to follow, but we grabbed snippets and stories as we went. A particularly amazing set of works was Via Lewandowsky’s ‘Gallery of the missing’. Large black glass monoliths jut out of the gallery intersecting with negative spaces in the architecture. You put on headphones and walk around the glass object tuning in to ghostly voices telling stories, as if broadcasting from a trapped space within the structures.
There was an immensely impressive temporary exhibition about the biblical story Abraham. Saskia Boddeke and renowned director Peter Greenaway had collaborated on an installation work ‘Obediance’ which spanned fifteen unique rooms. Questions of ethics, history and the nature of obedience in religion and society the piece was rich, impeccably installed and endlessly fascinating.
For a long time now people have been telling us we need to go to Berlin to witness the arts culture there. Galleries and Art events are popping up all over the place we were told. So after trying to find some on the internet we decided to visit the ultra hip neighborhood of Kreuzberg to cruise the streets and explore the arts scene. Unfortunately we had trouble finding the few blue dots on our map and the few we did find were closed in preparation for a new show. The street art however was not disappointing.
We did come across a little shop/gallery/studio with very familiar art work and a magnificent name. The Cheese Mountain Tragedy was home to three artists Josh Bauman, Johan Potma & Wolfgang Reimers. We have a couple of Johan Potma’s pictures at home, gifts from Mercedes’ travels round these parts a few years back. Dotahn took a shine to one of Josh Bauman’s comic strips and bought himself a souvenir.
A visit to Berlin would not be complete without visiting the remnants of the Berlin wall. Where the wall once stood there is a gallery of street art stretching as far as the eye can see. Given the amount of street art we had been seeing we were a little disappointed, particularly as the most of the wall was covered in crappy tags. However, there were some good and even iconic pieces.
Plus we saw a pedal bar! Woo Beer power!
Walking back home from the wall Emm thought it would be fun to have a go a geocaching. An international hide and seek were people use GPS to find containers or caches hidden all over the world by other peeps. It was a fantastic way to explore as we made our way through tangled backstreets and industrial bridges, coming across an amazing area of broken down warehouses which was used as art spaces, bars and clubs. Rough, covered in graffiti and the essence of what makes Berlin such a great city.
Although not riveting blog material some of our favorite times in Berlin were just hanging out in the apartment drawing, writing, playing video games and piking on going out to night clubs.
(That is a mini bust of Darwin that we got in Venice, best souvenir ever)
Feeling the need to try and get out of the house and see more of Berlins art scene we headed out to Mitte. We were fairly unlucky in this endeavour as we soon realised most of the galleries were in the midst of installing new shows and would all be opening in the following week on the last day we were to be in Berlin. We did find one, yes, just one, which had an interesting show with a room filled with sand!
We also saw in Mitte another of Berlins wall history and tourist hot spots, Checkpoint Charlie. The nickname was given to the best known crossing point between the East and West by the Western Allies. It was also the point that American and Russian tanks faced off during the Cold War in 1961
Here are some more iconic Berliny things we saw.
And here is the square on the wall outside our door