Snapshot Impressions
18 Aug 2013

Snapshot Impressions

 

Brandenburger Tor, before the rain rolls in.

Brandenburger Tor, before the rain rolls in.

It’s somehow been three weeks since I excitedly arrived in my new home – Berlin – and now I’ve had a chance to sit down and catch my breath a little I wanted to share a few impressions of this unique community of millions.

The problem is, to describe everything that’s happened thus far would be to write a novel (not an entirely un-Berlin thing to do), so instead here are my first photographic impressions:

Morlox techno-protest. While on my way to visit the East Side Gallery (an art-laden section of the Berlin Wall  popular with tourists), I veered off track to find the source of booming speakers echoing down the street. It took me to Morlox, an alternative club in old commercial premises (a car dealership, I'm told) seemingly furnished from garage sales and in serious danger of being demolished to make way for apartment blocks. The source of the music was five trucks with DJs on the back, providing the soundtrack for a parade of dancing Berliners protesting against the on-going gentrification of the city. The crowd soon swelled, but whether participants were concerned over Morlox's fate or just wanted to dance remains a mystery.

While on my way to visit the East Side Gallery (an art-laden section of the Berlin Wall popular with tourists), I veered off track to find the source of the thumping bass echoing through the neighbourhood. It took me to Morlox, an alternative club in old commercial premises (a car dealership, I’m told) seemingly furnished from garage sales and in serious danger of being demolished to make way for apartment blocks. The music was coming from five trucks with DJs and speakerstacks on the back, providing the soundtrack for a parade of dancing Berliners protesting against the on-going gentrification of the city. The crowd soon swelled, but whether many participants were concerned over Morlox’s fate or just wanted to dance remains a mystery.

Dashing, head down, through a thunderstorm, I saw these: plaques marking the homes of Jewish residents who were either killed or taken to extermination camps.

Dashing, head down, through a thunderstorm, I saw these: plaques marking the homes of Jewish residents who were either killed or taken to extermination camps.

Berlin Cityscape

Berlin Cityscape

The good Berliner friend I was staying with when I first arrived jumped at the chance to see NZ band Six60 (a favourite from his Kiwi backpacking adventures) perform at White Trash, a cozy bar venue filled with expats and German Kiwi-philes. The world being the small place it is, I ran into a family friend from my tiny hometown of 45,000 people.

My good Berliner friend, with whom I was staying with when I first arrived, jumped at the chance to see NZ band Six60 (a favourite from his Kiwi backpacking adventures) perform at White Trash; a cozy bar venue filled with expats and German Kiwi-philes. The world being the small place it is, I also bumped into a family friend from my tiny hometown of 45,000 people.

East Side Gallery

East Side Gallery

I somehow found myself at my first ever Poetry Slam (competitive poetry recitals), in Kreuzberg. It was, of course, in German, so I understood almost zilch. I immediately vowed to improve my German A.S.A.P, but the theatrics of the performers were still entertaining.

I somehow found myself at my first ever Poetry Slam (competitive poetry recitals), in Kreuzberg, in German. Immediately vowed to improve my German A.S.A.P, but  the theatrics of the performers were still entertaining.

Here is why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; this eyesore is actually the entrance to one of the world’s most famous techno clubs; Berghain.

Don't judge a book by its cover; this is actually the entrance to one of the world's most famous techno clubs; Berghain

The Berlin Hipster Cup, as mentioned in my last post.

The Berlin Hipster Cup, as mentioned in my last blog post.
SONY DSC

However, I didn’t make it to the Hipster Cup as I joined some Couchsurfers on an hour and a half train ride to Poland (€6) for Przystanek Woodstock Festival – the biggest open-air music festival in Europe. We joined upwards of 500,000 free-spirited campers and day-trippers (with reports of closer to 800,000 people) for the free gathering which featured a surprisingly varied lineup ranging from UK rockers the Kaiser Chiefs to Russian ska-punk outfit Leningrad.

Potsdam Zee side: Berlin was in the middle of a mid-30 degree C heat-wave when I hitched my way into town, so the only option for the weekend was to visit some of the many lakes near the city to cool off.  Duly, I was also exposed to the fine German tradition of elderly nudists at the zee (lake) side.

Potsdam Zeeside

Berlin’s techno scene from the inside, this time at Tempel Club.

Berlin's techno scene from the inside, this time at Tempel Club.

My Kiwi hunger reawakened after catching up travelers at the Six60 gig, so I had to recreate the good old NZ meat pie for a friend’s BBQ.

My Kiwi hunger reawakened after catching up travelers at Six60, so I had to recreate the good old meat pie for a BBQ.

Berliner Dom
Although many historic buildings were destroyed in WWII bombing, Berlin still has a distinctive array of architecture, ranging from the reconstructed neo-renaissance splendour of the Berlin Dom (above), to Soviet era apartment blocks.

The Maybachufer Turkish Market in Kreuzberg; delicious and cheap. I'm sold.

The Maybachufer Turkish Market in Kreuzberg; delicious and cheap. I’m sold.

Just one part of the  more than 2km stretch of international beer stalls at the annual Berliner Beer Festival.

Just one of the of Frankfurter Allee international beer stalls which stretch for more than a mile at the annual Berliner Beer Festival.

Relaxing on the Spree River bank

Relaxing on the Spree River bank

I’ve done the same as the gentleman below and found myself a bike (fahrrad). It’s something I have not regretted one bit as Berlin is a fantastic city to explore by bike. This sentiment may change by winter time.

I've done the same as this gentleman here and found myself a bike (fahrrad). It's something I have not regretted one bit as Berlin is a fantastic city to explore by bike. This sentiment may change by winter time.

WG life. Saturday morning brunch with my temporary WG (share house) roommates.

WG life. Saturday morning brunch with my temporary WG (share house) room mates.

Tourists line up to have a photo taken with men dressed like, but not actually, American soldiers at the 'Checkpoint Charlie' Soviet/Allied border. While plenty more tourists look on.

Tourists line up to have a photo taken with men dressed like American soldiers at the ‘Checkpoint Charlie’ Soviet/Allied border crossing. While plenty more tourists look on or head to the patriotically-located McDonalds next door.

About the Author:Joe Dodgshun

Berlin-based Kiwi writer in innovation communication. Inspired by social enterprise, science and tech for good, responsible travel and climate action. Sharing the inspiration through journalism and brand storytelling.

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