Sunday, May 25, 2008

Berliner Signs

We stayed in Kreuzberg. Someone said this is the Stoke Newington equivalent of Berlin, but it's greener, cheaper and altogether more chilled.

There are people. You can't see them here, or the (mostly Turkish) cafes where they sit for hours at a stretch. Remember that this is the centre of Berlin, and this photo is just of one pavement. The road is on the left. There is space.

In the local park by the river, people come and give impromptu concerts and have barbeques.This is outside the Berliner Ensemble theatre which used to be in the East.
I visited the place where I lived for nearly three years. The road from my house goes down to the waters of the Havel. Going back was not an altogether comfortable experience. The old sweetshop was there, but empty. A ghost sweetshop. And me a ghost also.

Here is a path through the Holocaust Memorial. You could get lost here.

This is the view out back from where we stayed - the courtyard. People don't really have gardens. It's very flat in Berlin and everyone rides a bike. Someone has drawn a heart on the wall opposite, and written "Ich liebe dich".

And here is our bed. There is a book of short stories by Miranda July (I recommend) and another of German expressionist poetry which I found on the shelves there.

"Da plötzlich erblüht
mitten ins herz hinein
brennend sitzt du in mir Baum."

I have come back with another throat infection. Not too bad, but you know. So this is all for now.


Kahless said...

Ooooh, looks wonderful. Not what I expected,

We are going to Berlin in the autumn. Thanks for the taster. Nearer the time I will tell you where we are staying and hopefully you can recommend some places to visit.

Anna MR said...

Schöne Berliner, es ist zu wunderbar dass Sie zurück sind. Ich habe Sie sehr viel gemisst. (Yes, okay, I cheated a little bit and used an online translator. Alright then, a big bit.)

Hello. What a gorgeous selection of photos, a collection that speaks. One of the things it says, to me, is "Europe". Do you know what I mean? The scene out of the window, looking at the other windows - unmistakably Europe (and why is it that whenever I think of old European cities, I think of windows?), and do please click on the street scene and see the trees in large, oh under der Linden, tandaradei (yes okay, you maybe don't need to click and see, given you were there yourself, but still). My only Berlin experience, shame on my untraveledness, is from (over) two decades ago when there still was an East, and that's where I travelled through, once, and what struck me so much was the huge width (and emptiness!) of the streets.

And the Holocaust Memorial, and the ghost of the sweetshop, and of you. Oh Signs, I've missed you a lot.

Um, hum. I've been here forever, taking the dog for a walk in the meantime, and rather made this comment redundant because I more or less said the gist of it for you elsewhere, but I'll hit send on it in a moment anyway, I think, because it really is good to see you. And surely the signs were very auspicious for you there in the Old Country, even if not always altogether comfortable, what with the expressionists waiting for you there, and the Ich liebe dich's and everything.

Mwah and twice mwah.

Anna MR said...

(Kahless - you seemed to have turned into a frog (hello, by the way). Who kissed you then?)

Reading the Signs said...

Kahless I'll spout away like a real authority. One thing I'd like to have done is swim on one of the city beaches - there are many. It might still be warm enough in the autumn.

Reading the Signs said...

Ach danke, liebe Schwestah!.

I'm sorry you can't click on all of them to enlarge - and I don't know why that should be. I could have taken so many more that would have positively shouted Europe at you. What really dawned on me, being there this time, was how quite mad the whole idea of the wall must have been, the west of Berlin being quite surrounded by the wall of the east, slicing through the city.

And the other thing that dawned on me is that you couldn't get a plate of Sauerkraut anywhere, and I really used to love the stuff. It's gone the way that bangers and mash has in England - the only places you can get that now is pretentious yuppified retro places. Lovely Turkish food, though, which obviously wasn't available way back when.

The signs were indeed auspicious. I do not know, however, if I will be going there again this incarnation. On the other hand, the idea of renting a high-windowed apartment (cheap compared to here!) and sitting in cafes all day with notebook is appealing.

The Ich liebe dich I decided to take personally.


cusp said...

Glad you had an interesting time. It looks lovely though never been myself. I wish there was a picture of the ghosty sweetie shop.

Have a good rest now and then let rip with more tales if you have a mind.

I love the apartment. Reminds me of one I stayed in in Vienna as a child. I love those big old windows too

Reading the Signs said...

Hey Cuspchen, I too wish there were photos of that and many other places and things. Trouble is it was a camcorder camera which usually managed to get left behind or in the car.

The Gummi Bär song is a current favourite with my inner DJ, by the way. I don't quite know the significance of this, but my quest to find real gummibärchen was not a success - Haribo have cornered the market and they are not the same. I think I must write a whole post about sweets some time.

Collin said...

These are wonderful photos! I still hope to make it to Berlin in the autumn, but it's looking less and less likely because of the weak dollar.

Reading the Signs said...

I hope you make it, Collin. Compared with England, everything actually seemed quite cheap.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

Welcome back and thanks for the lovely travelogue



Reading the Signs said...

You're welcome, Pants x

Nicola said...

Yes - windows and light and love and wide leafy boulevards (what is the German for?) - all this is somehow necessary. Thank you for bringing it here.
When you say one could get 'lost' in the holocaust memorial, do you mean physically/geographically or emotionally? I have never been there, but it looks a little maze-like so I would be anxious. Three years ago I went to the British memorial in Arras in northern France. It wasn't planned (a missed ferry led to a stay in an attic room above a dove cote, looking down on window boxes and the market square) and I had no expectations. The memorial garden was soft and peaceful and one felt souls were cared for.
Very good to have you back.

Reading the Signs said...

Hello Nicola, re the Holocaust memorial, I meant physically, emotionally, mentally. It is built as a concrete maze and is appropriate, I reckon. But yes, I guess it would make a number of people anxious.

fluttertongue said...

Did you go to Sonnenallee? There's a wonderful film of the same name set in the 70s about the divided street. Nowadays it's in the Turkish quarter and wonderfully bustling.

Thanks for the pictures - takes me back!

Reading the Signs said...

Flutter, we went through Sonnenallee several times en route to places, and where we stayed was very near there. Yes, definitely the Turkish quartier. Where we were was slightly less bustling, which suited me fine.

Anna MR said...

Hmmm. "...the idea of renting a high-windowed apartment ... and sitting in cafes all day with notebook is appealing..."

Although I'm a little surprised you only mention the notebook, we're clearly back to the idea - nay, the plan of the commune of artistico intellectual types here. I am reading the signs and the signs seem to say we need to get it together, in this incarnation or the next, virtual or non.

As I recall, some of my wild punky friends went to live in wild punky squats in Kreuzberg, in the 80s. Can't remember what Stoke Newington's like, though.

I'm off to google Miranda July. Späters, Schwestah!, and mwah right backatcha.

Reading the Signs said...

Liebe Schwes - I'm there! In spirit, at any rate. With or without notebook, but definitely with coffee, chocolate and (though I may only be able to have these passively) - cigs. And (I am feeling expansive), Noddy can come too, hell we are not going to be one of those exclusive Bloomsbury type sets. European though - definitely.

Noddy said...

Esteemed Madame Signs,

I am profoundly grateful (as is my red and yellow car - parp! parp!) to learn You have finally accepted my membership to the Selective Commune of Artistico Café Intellectuals (SCACI). Please find enclosed some further proof of my Europeanism, to dispel all doubt from Your mind.

I remain Yours most faithfully,

o Pequeno Homem no Carro Vermelho e Amarelo

Reading the Signs said...

Noddy!, how accursedly nice of you to drop in. And not to bear any grudges neither for the way I treated you way back when (well I was only three) I tried to bury you and Looby Lou in the garden. As for your European credentials, yes - er - though I must confess I see that more as a kind of attitude thing. Not that I'm suggesting you don't have the right attitude. No. I mean you must have been doing something right to have been breakfasting with the Englishman in Portugal. And I don't hold it against you that the general ambience of your environment smacks a little of - how can I put it - well, it's suburbia really, isn't it, but look - as I said, we'll take anyone, well not anyone but you know -

Anna. Anna - pssst! not meaning to throw a spanner in the works just as we're getting started but can you perhaps do something about his taste in music and try to encourage him to adopt more of a european cafe-style demeanour? Some Finnish poetry perhaps, also ?

Anna tries, but no cigar said...

Christ, Signs, I'm trying but you know he's the Englishman's friend more than mine (although the firstborn adored him). Anyway, I've managed something regarding the taste in music but I don't know whether this is strictly speaking café culture.

He did have a Finnish identity but I cannot remember it if my life depended on it, at the moment. Not to worry, it'll come to me at approximately 5:05AM. Most things do.

Reading the Signs said...

Now that is more like it, culchah or no. And I reckon that what we say goes, innit, and just about anything that the fabulous Ian D (gawd rest him) puts out hits some spot or other, and I ain't never heard this one. (Not sure if it's quite Noddy's thing though).

But where is that occasional Englishman? For as you say, the blue-hatted one is his special friend. Can't think what they talk about though.

Anna MR said...

Hmmm. I rather suspect the Occasional Horse of Albion has a perverse fascination with suburbia, and the blue-hatted one may, unlikely as this may seem to the uninitiated eye, have hidden aspects, too. Perhaps when he's out of the limelight and Big-Ears has gone to bed, he is a right raconteur, a master of dirty tales?

(Donning my blue-peaked cap of equine secretarial duties, I reckon the OHA has suffered from misfiring connections. Either that, or he's jumped planet. Inshallah he'll be back soon. Here's hoping.)

Reading the Signs said...

Well then, I really think we ought to hear more about this from the Horse's mouth. Not that I personally take an interest in dirty stories but, you know - finger on the pulse and all that, one has a duty. Misfiring connections sounds serious, but he has survived this before, as I recall. Pray, sees, convey my regards

trousers said...

My word, I love Berlin - thanks for posting these photos. I've stayed in Mitte both times I've been, and have lots and lots of photographs and heartwarming memories.

Posts like this just make me want to go back again.

Reading the Signs said...

hey trousers, hope you put a few of those photos up on your blog some time.

trousers said...

I've posted a few up here and there on my I hope that this link works, to give you one such example (very touristy, atop the Reichstag)

trousers said...

And now I've posted a number of photos here.

You're entirely to blame :)

(the word verification for this post, incidentally, is "hoaxb")