7 days in Berlin. Burrrlin. Cold weather front came in about the same time I did.
In these days of global climate change where April heat waves bring May freezings,
don't expect anything to be as before.
I came to Berlin to check out the music scene, the art collectives & venue spaces, the history, & to visit my friend Ian (same guy that stayed with me & Michael for 6 weeks in Krakow) & his wife Sonja. I got to Berlin just in time to see one of my favorite musicians Deadbeat play a solo set at Club 103. I got in on the guestlist just for asking Scott, aka Deadbeat, before the show. His set was good but sounded the same as when I saw him 2 years ago so I was not as impressed. Great to hear on a big soundsystem like the club had though!
The next day was none other than May Day & Berlin has one of the biggest celebrations in the world every May 1st for this day of workers rights! Only, the original meaning of May 1st I believe was more about lowering the work hours to 8 a day, 40 a week, women receiving fair equal wages, & children not working too young. In Berlin, I saw signs that said "Make Capitalism History" & "Revolution..." that seemed to suggest bringing communism back. Not sure if the movement here is now scattered into multiple directions or what but...Berliners sure know how to have fun & celebrate! It was a blockparty in Kruezberg central area that must have spanned 20 blocks & 3 big parks! Maybe 15 stages of music featuring bands such as Nomad Soundsystem (my favorite of the day...Turkish-Indian global beats), beat-boxing & mc battles (in German of course) for the hip-hops stages, a live reggae band & all day reggae djs with mcs (Germaican style yo!), and traditional Turkish
music all day at the Turk stage. Berlin has many Turkish immigrants so there is no shortage of places to buy Kebabs & Falafels! They own half of the stores! They even have a little-Turk town or too where you feel like a minority walking around their stores & neighborhoods.
Oh and...Berlin has an African population, unlike white Poland & those Slavic countries, and most of Canada as well! Felt good to be back in a diverse community. And diverse is an understatement for Berlin!
Berlin is known for it's cheap rent, which attracts many artists, musicians, & other
lovers of free time & working less. Unfortunately there is a 20-25% unemployment rate in the area. The music scene here, of which i have a particular interest,
is strong & vibrant, attracting many international performers. There are tons of cool warehouse or art loft venues for shows, of them I only visited a few. One place was incredible (i didnt get the name) which was half of a huge building where a few different artist collectives have taken over the floors & have a bar, small cinema room, another bar outside with beach sand they brought in. The whole place was
covered with various art & lots of graffiti. Oh yeah, Berlin has some of the best
graffitti in the world...hands down! Also, the 'squatting' movement has been huge
here throughout the decades. For those that don't know (grandpa? ever been to a squat?) it is where people take over a building that is not being used & turn it into
a free living space or artist collective space. The owners of the buildings have to
maintain something or have a building being lived in for so many months, otherwise
"squatters rights" rule. Some get kicked out eventually, others stay for years, & a few become legal venues for music shows, bars, art galleries, etc...
More about this in Amsterdam blog as it has been popular there too.
My friend Ian lives in former East Berlin so I got to see the communist 'bloc' style
buildings that define these streets in the name of Lenin. One street was haunting me...very wide & the same style of white marble 'blocs' going for blocks! It was
uniform, conforming to the communist norm. Nothing original, for this movement was not about independence & originality, but making all equals, including the
homes! I don't know how people can stand living on a busy street where the same apartments go for almost a mile. No character. Bland. Eery even! Just because communism is dead here, doesn't mean all signs of it have disappeared. Another thing I saw was this park that the Russians built after WWII & during their occupation
here. It had massive statues of their Russian heroes...built right here on German
land. I hear these 'gifts' to countries Russia liberated were common! Very ugly
park in my opinion. Lots of cement, huge statues, & everything very contained &
not wild like nature. Like a park should be.
Unlike most tourists, I did not go on any guided tours or even to the museums.
I am interested in the history, but really not so into the museums now that i'm here.
Too dry, expensive, & i'd much rather get the history from meeting locals or
reading a good book. (know of any good German books i should read?)
So, I found myself seeing Berlin by riding around almost everyday on bicycles with
Ian. As for historic buildings, there are not more than a few big ones left after
the immense bombing toward the end of WWII. This city was annihilated &
you can easily see that compared to places like Krakow that were not bombed.
Another thing that stood out for about Berlin was that it is LEGAL to drink alcohol
in public. I think it is & always has been that way here, and many many people
celebrate this freedom. On the trains, trams, buses & walking around you will see people carrying big beers (the most common) & other drinks. Of course Germany
is famous for it's good quality & large selection of beers, some brands dating back more than 400 years! Octoberfest is not the only time Germans celebrate drinking beer...everyday seemed that way! The stores are stocked with a wide assortment
& the prices are cheap (1euro for big bottle, in Amsterdam they were 3euro & not
many choices). I'm not a huge drinker, but I like good quality beer here & there.
In Germany, I found myself drinking a little bit more than usual. But nothing too debaucherous. I'll save that for Amsterdam!