loud, dirty and grey…just the way we like it

a bit of green in the courtyard
a bit of green in the courtyard

“Die Berliner sind unfreundlich und rücksichtslos, ruppig und rechthaberisch, Berlin ist abstoßend, laut, dreckig und grau, Baustellen und verstopfte Straßen, wo man geht und steht – aber mir tun alle Menschen leid, die nicht hier leben können!” (“The Berliners are unfriendly and inconsiderate, gruff and self-opinionated, Berlin is repulsive, loud, dirty and grey, construction works and blocked streets where you stop and go. But I feel sorry for those people who can not live here!”)
(Anneliese Bödecker, Berlin philanthropist and social worker, born in 1932)

There were people that were gruff and there was plenty that was loud, dirty and grey in Berlin last week, but this was the view that greeted us as we left the flat every morning. Gorgeous, eh?

The dogs had the time of their lives. There’s plenty to sniff on that stinky pavement. Unlike in Munich, where there are plenty of places for a dog to run free, there’s a leash law in Berlin. This means if you’re in the city proper, you’ve got to go to a Hundeauslaufgebiet (Dog Going Out Area) if your hounds are going to get any room to roam.

There are plenty of beautiful places in the German capital, but dog parks there are definitely not a tourist destination. Oo-whee. Talk about dystopian. If you want a set location for that apocalyptic film you’ve been working on, you should really consider the desolation row that is the Hundewiese (Dog Field) at the Mauerpark in the Prenzlauerberg district of what was formerly East Berlin.

Here’s a photo I found:

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your local dystopian dog park

That almost looks nice. Looks are deceiving.

Not that Ella and Louis were complaining. How many Bavarian dogs get to go holidaying in big, bad Berlin for a whole week? Not many, I can assure you.

blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin
blurry photo of two Bavarian dogs in Berlin

Here they are waiting outside the Döner Kebab shop. Did they get a few scraps of that sweet succulent meat that comes from the Dönertier? Indeed, they did.

I should probably explain what a Dönertier is, but that’ll have to wait for another time.

Hanging out in my temporary Wohnzimmer

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As Joni sings in my thoughts, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone…’, I’ve spent this week in Berlin without wifi. It’s been more difficult than I imagined. Originally, I assumed I could make it work by just frequenting cafés that were wifi friendly. It hasn’t worked out that way exactly. Although there are plenty of places where you can connect, there are just as many that used to but haven’t altered their websites.

One place I’ve found myself going to again and again is Wohnzimmer in Prenzlauerberg. I could praise its virtues – it’s much more than just the wifi – but regular readers can look at the photo above and assume I feel right at home here. Art Deco entrance ways and comfy design couches. Weird and mismatched as some of the decor is, it’s definitely a great space.

Well, now my battery’s almost dead. Such is connectivity for me at the moment.

Bound to be adventures in Berlin

 

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Berlin Berlin…wir fahren nach Berlin

Going to Berlin tomorrow, and although there’s no wifi in the flat we’re staying in, the city is purportedly all wired up. You can connect anywhere there, or so I’ve been told.

I’ve written about the capital of Germany on this blog before. What, you don’t believe me? Check out these links:

Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin

Willkommen in Berlin

and some of my favourite photos are here:

another day in Berlin

Some of you who badger me with requests for more photos of my dogs Ella and Louis will be happy to know that they’ll be making their first trip to Berlin

There are bound to be adventures and there just might be hijinks involved. If you’d like to know more, watch this space.

has it really been eighty years?

Die Neue Synagoge
Die Neue Synagoge

There’s been a lot in the German media this week about the 80th anniversary of the Nazis taking power in Berlin. Actually, there was much more written about a ridiculous story involving a politician allegedly making sexist remarks to a relatively young journalist more than a year ago, but that’s gotten more than enough coverage. I’m certainly not going to add to it.

The anniversary wasn’t exactly forgotten, but was arguably overshadowed by what seemed to me to be a non-story. Overshadowed maybe but certainly not forgotten.

I took the above photo of Die Neue Synagoge when I was in Berlin last year, and going to that city often makes me think of the plight of the German Jews. Not a pretty story, but important to remember what happened there. Also read something in the Guardian this week that I found compelling. Take a look at Hitler came to power 80 years ago. I remember it like yesterday by Fritz Lustig.

It sounds so cliché to say that we should stay aware of the past to avoid its repetition, but it’s times like these that we need to remember. This generation of people who were actually there are slowly disappearing.

Maybe because I enjoy living in Germany so much, I find myself particularly vigilant about keeping these topics fresh. That’s not to say that I think this country should be forever shunned and cowed by its past.

Nevertheless, most Germans I know have been raised in a particularly pacifistic society that, as a rule, goes out of its way to distance itself from the National Socialists. It’s a difficult balancing act that I think the modern German state does a decent job of walking.

If the German media this week is any indication, this society’s not in danger of forgetting anything. Not remotely.

walking into history

This was an exciting day for me. My friend Nick was in Berlin when The Wall came down, and I’ve always been envious of that experience. I’ve been near historical events, but I’m not sure I want to be anywhere near the tanks or the stress that seem to be involved in real historical moments.

However, today was the twenty-second anniversary of that event. The Reunification of Germany. One of the most momentous things that’s happened in our lifetime. I don’t care how old you are.

Each year, the celebration for the event goes to a different capital of a German federal state and this year? Horst Seehofer, the Minister President of Bavaria, is the head of the Bundesrat, which is one house of the federal government, and his state’s capital is my adopted hometown.

Munich – that’s right.

So, I got up early. Walked my dogs to the event and spent nearly the whole day there. With a few healthy breaks, I might add. Here’s my walk toward the festivities with a bit about said festivities.

Elvira Straße round the corner from where I live

Then I turned the corner into Nymphenburger Straße, which is the old King’s Road that the royals took to their summer castle. What might that castle be called? Nymphenburger Schloß, of course.

 

 

 

 

 

colours in the trees and the Bianchi shop up the street

Ella and Louis love every day equally, but I like to kid myself that they were sensitive to my excitement.

‘Can you smell that?’ Ella asks her brother. ‘It’s the whiff of Reunification.’

Something I didn’t see nearly as often here as I do today – the German flag. Thanks to football and some sort of national healing, the co-perpetrators of the Second World War can finally say they’re proud of their country without being accused of being Fascists.

The Black, Red and Gold of the flag of the Federal Republic of Germany

Please don’t ask me what this building was originally used for, but now it’s part of the Technische Üniversität.

reminds me of Hamburg, not Munich

Love ivy on a wall, and while these green and then later red leaves aren’t actually ivy, they crawl up the wall in the same way. It’s one of my favourite sights in autumn.

nice, eh?

Now, we’ve finally arrived at the party. Here’s the Theatinerkirche on the Odeonsplatz:

beautiful day, eh?

Every party in Bavaria demands at least one Dachshund. This one had two.

‘A Hund ist er scho…’

There’s so much more to tell you about this day, but it’s late. It’ll have to wait for another day.

Next year’s festivities? Up the road in Stuttgart.

3 October 2013? Wanna go?

 

 

a broken church in Hamburg

Always travel somewhere in mid October, and this year it’s going to be Hamburg again. In case you don’t know this already, Hamburg is my favourite Germany city. I love my adopted home, and Berlin has a fantastic bustling energy that makes me feel more creative.

 

But Hamburg? It’s is a dream. An unfulfilled one, but a dream nonetheless. One day I’ll live there. I just know it. Who cares where you live, right? It’s all the same damned thing.

 

Well, I’m not going to give into that sort of fatalism. Not me, baby.

 

There’s a church in Berlin that was bombed during WWII, and they left it as it was as a symbol to remind everyone of the horrors of war. That church is world famous, because it’s on Berlin’s Ku’damm, which was the Flaneur Mile of West Berlin during the Cold War, and you see it on the way to your upscale shops and such.

 

The one in Hamburg? Well, I suppose if you’re a local you know of it. Not like it’s hidden or anything. It’s right there in the middle of town, but the tourists are flocking to the harbour or the World’s Largest Model Train (Miniatur Wunderland). Who has time to go look at a broken church? Well, I do and I will.

 

More on this in October.

Broken Church in Hamburg

A whole Party of Pirates? Aye, matey.

they start Pirates early in Northern Europe (photo source: tommyimages).

I’ll quickly deal with the Pirate Party. Easy answer: they’re sort of nuts, but not totally nuts. They are very much into net neutrality and free wifi for everyone. They’re in the regional government in Berlin and the traditional politicians are very irritated and not amused with them.

That should be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. There’s a German word for that: ‘jein‘…ja and nein combined makes ‘jein‘. Cool, huh?

Other things the Pirates want: free trains for everyone. In Berlin, they want all public transport to be free. Period. Berlin’s a curious place by the way. Compared to the German average, the unemployment rate is astronomical. I’m pretty sure Bremen is higher and the rural areas of Eastern Germany, but Berlin is a major metropolitan/cultural centre…and there are a tonne of young people just hanging out. Nominally employed if not outright begging, and the Pirates are their people. Oh, and the nerds.

The Pirates are essentially the politically party you’d get if you rounded up all the players at a Dungeons and Dragons convention and asked them how they thought government should be run.

The newest thing I heard is that they want government IDs in the future to be printed without gender. I’m not sure what the point of that would be, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it had to do with some wacky future-think that gender roles are the root of our problems. Oh, and to make gender-neutral people feel more comfortable. Uh, ok. Weirdos.

Having said all that, Germany has a history of minor parties gaining traction and becoming less minor parties. Because it’s a parliamentary system, you can be a minor party and still get some sort of say in the way things are run.

The best modern example is the Green Party. Unlike in the US, where the Green Party seems to be a glorified Marijuana Rights conglomerate, the German Greens came about as a political movement in 1968, were roundly loathed by the establishment parties, and then slowly but surely became a part of the political fabric (they weren’t actually a proper political party until 1990).

The Green Party‘s big issues have been protecting/saving the environment and getting Germany off of nuclear power. Over the last several decades, the former has become part of nearly every major party‘s platform. The latter was finally achieved (or is being achieved) when the German public freaked out at the events in Fukushima, Japan last year. The right-leaning conservative party (CDU/CSU) in power finally bowed to the overwhelming pressure that’d been building for roughly forty years and Germany has now vowed to go off of nuclear power.

Some experts say they’re insane for doing so, and there’s definitely a touch of ‘let’s show the world we can engineer this one‘ about it. However, that’s sort of my point.

This Party of Pirates? Are they a bit mad? Sure. They really are.

Do they have a clue how politics works? That’s debatable. It’s certainly naive and presumptuous to say you can succeed at politics without knowing how things are done. But naive and presumptuous are actually two of the things the Pirate Party has going for it.

irgendwo

irgendwo

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve been moving around quite a lot lately. Here and there. Every Tuesday in Poing, and last week some massive oversharing while I took this show on the road. While in Berlin, I scattered plenty of photos, visited tea shops/tearooms and generally tried to entertain the lot of you with things I would’ve probably been doing anyway.

Regardless of all that, I’d like to make a desperate plea. One that probably sounds rather rich coming from the likes of me. But before I do so, I’d like to introduce you to Patsy.

Some bloggers have the foresight to alter close friends’ monikers before splaying their names all over the place. To protect the innocent and everything. Well, I hate to say it, but it’s too late for all of that when it comes to Patsy. Not that I’ll be divulging her surname. What, do you think I’m completely insane? Might be better if you don’t answer that just yet.

To adequately describe who Patsy is, I could easily go back to one of the darkest times in my life when I lived for a short time in her house. We’d sit on her porch and drink coffee and solve the many problems of the world, because to be perfectly honest that’s what one does while sitting on the porch drinking coffee with Patsy.

I could just as easily go back many years before that when I was a wee little boy and my mother and Patsy were friends, and we’d go on adventures. Me and Patsy.

Where would we go? Well, exciting, faraway locales like the neighbourhood super market. I’m not kidding. She was so full of verve, that my dear Patsy could make a trip of such drudgery into an adventure. Years later, I’d accompany her to the same neighbourhood super market. It was my habit to grab that week’s New Yorker magazine, and proceed to read it aloud to her as we made our way from the fresh produce, through the frozen foods and on to the salsa and Mexican Food aisle.

It was not only a pleasure to read to her, but it was my small way of saying thank you to her for all that above-average adventuring that we’d had when I’d been little. She knew about my thank you.

She knew, because I told her.

So, I can hear you asking, ‘What about this desperate plea? We want to hear more about the desperate plea.’

It’s quite simple, as many of the best things are. And it’s something I learned from Patsy while sitting on her porch drinking coffee and solving the world’s problems. As one is wont to do. So, rather than take even a morsel of credit for this one, I’ll let Patsy tell it in her own words:

‘See Ken,’ she’d say, ‘You can either go out and see the world. Or if you stay in one place, and wait patiently enough, the world will eventually come to you.’

Let me get ahead of you logical sorts who dissect and disprove simple brilliance at every opportunity. Don’t take this so damned literally. For once, can’t you just enjoy a bit of illogical, improbable wonder?

One needn’t go to Berlin. Or that trip to Peurto Vallarta you were considering? Not necessary. Not at all. The Himalayas can wait…they’re not going anywhere, after all.

Just sit quietly and wait. The world’s going to come stumbling by soon enough. You wouldn’t want to miss that now, would you?

The title of this, incidentally, can be translated as ‘somewhere‘ or ‘anywhere‘ or best of all: ‘nowhere special‘. Kind of perfect, don’t you think?


We’re going to the zoo

Knut the polar bear cub

Do you remember Knut? This was not simply a German phenomenon. He became news around the world. Born in late 2006, Knut brought record numbers of visitors flocking to an already popular zoo. The story was compelling, because he was rejected by his mother and raised primarily by his handler Thomas Dörflein, who sadly died unexpectedly in 2008. Oh, and because he was an adorable little polar bear.

The Zoologischer Garten is located in the Tierpark neighbourhood of what was formerly West Berlin, and you might recognise the nearby S-Bahn Station (Zoo Station) from the title of a U2 song on Achtung Baby. It might be a bit confusing with the name Tierpark if you go to reunified Berlin today, because it’s not only where the Zoologischer Garten is, but the name of the still vibrant Tierpark in former East Berlin. I haven’t been there yet, but I’m certainly curious and willing to visit.

Back to the matter at hand. If you want to know interesting data about this zoo, a good start is the Wikipedia page here. It’s truly a remarkable place. Let me just say that I’m normally pretty hesitant to even go to zoos. They feel like animal prisons to me. I know zoologists are some of the most committed animal lovers, and I respect that they do more for animal conservation than I ever will. Nevertheless, there’s always a pang of regret when I set foot in a zoo. Enough of that…let’s get on to the animals.

Walked by the enclosure where Knut used to live (he sadly collapsed last year and shockingly died). Though there were two grown polar bears sunning themselves on a rock, it seemed somehow empty without little Knut. Please don’t tell those remaining polar bears I said so.

Oh, and I’ve included both a You Tube video I made of the the, as yet, unheralded Moon Jellyfish and the obligatory shot of your sometimes humble blogger. Enjoy…

polar bears taking in a bit of sun
turtles and an crocodile
this school of fish were just going round and round
nothing wrong with a lonely hippo
a tiger doesn't belong behind bars
three slinky slithering snakes curled up with one another
a colourful fish...what more can I say?
two Bald Eagles looking very patriotic despite that they're both Germans
a couple of lions that appear to really like each other
Who says a turtle doesn't have personality? Not me.
This young Russian boy didn't seem at all surprised to be attacked by this agitated bird.
Did someone request penguins?
these curious pigeons had feathers on their talons
little girl has close encounter
and an entire other sort of penguin
Rowr...

another day in Berlin

The U-Bahn in motion

Typically, this blog is a lot of text and one well-chosen photo. The last several have been the opposite. Lots of visual impressions of Berlin, and not much interpretation. You certainly know I like to write about my thoughts, so I assure you that there’ll be some of that in the coming days.

Alas, there’s so much going on here. This was actually a business trip, so I needed to take care of that before I could attend to blogging. But I promise you I’m not complaining. Far from it. Here are some of my favourite views of Berlin so far:

The Fernsehturm from the U-Bahn
night and day under the Rüdesheimer Platz
Checkpoint Charlie
at the Currywurst Museum
Berliner Dom
stretching in the Lustgarten
market vegetable seller
winding down at the Tadschikische Teestube