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Work, work, work, and a Bundesliga soccer game

Posted on Nov 30, 2012 in Berlin | 2 comments

Illustration for a book cover

One of my smaller design projects this week, an illustration and design for a book cover.

I was a bit chained to my virtual office this week, a large project approached crucial deadlines, other work had to be done as well, it was crunchtime. So I worked long days and nights, and much sleep was postponed.

But I managed to slip out for a 2nd-tier Bundesliga soccer game on Thursday evening. It was Hertha Berlin against my native town of Cologne. The game was hyped on the radio as a fun one with an old rivalry between the opponents.

The funniest thing was probably when a couple of guys from Cologne behind me in the food lineup at halftime debated whether they should stoop to ordering a “Boulette” (the Berlin word for “meatball”) when clearly the correct word should be “Frikadelle” (the Cologne word for the same).

Berlin soccer fan products

Berlin soccer fan products are being sold as you’re getting off the subway.

The Berlin Olympic stadium

The Berlin Olympic stadium. It’s an impressive building, even though it is infamous for the 1936 Olympics.

Hertha Berlin soccer game

That’s the ticket! I had only ever attended one Bundesliga game, back when I lived in Germany as a child. So this was my second one. And the lineup was perfect for me: Berlin, my temporary home against my home town of Cologne.

Berlin soccer game

The game ended in a 1:1 tie. That was not a bad result for Cologne. I recorded the singing of the Cologne fans on the S-train home.

Bundesliga soccer game in Berlin

I came for the game, …

Hertha Berlin soccer fans

… but I stayed for the fans. This is the Hertha Berlin curve.

1. FC Köln fan curve

This is the 1. FC Köln fan curve, a bit thinner than the home team. The noise from both sides was deafening at times.

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Visit to a Berlin artist’s studio

Posted on Nov 28, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Book cover design

This book cover I designed a day after visiting Nina’s studio, looks to me as though it was inspired by Nina’s work.

I visited the behind-glass artist Nina Neumaier in her studio yesterday. It was a short visit because I had to be back home to man my desk by Canadian business hours which start around 5 pm here in Berlin (= 8 am in Vancouver). So my days are best spent sightseeing and my evenings, when it’s dark and cold out anyway, are best spent working.

Nina specializes in painting behind glass, an old but unusual technique these days. The painting has to be created from the front to the back, which is completely the opposite sequence from a traditional painting. So the highlights are applied first, and she works her way to the back in 30 or more layers that are all carefully composed as she works. She showed me some of her beautiful paintings and gave me some tips on how to paint on plexiglass or glass with acrylics. She recommended a product line by the Swiss company Lascaux for its varnishes.

She also gave me a bit more insight into the struggles of living an artist’s life, which made me realize how difficult it is. She takes commissions for decorative work on occasion, because she, as many artists, can not live on art alone — yet she has been pursuing art for many years, and over the last 15 years or so, has increasingly perfected her technique of painting on plexiglass.

She is still on the board of the Frauen Museum Berlin (Berlin Women’s Museum), and even was in charge of programming for the museum for 4 years to establish it as a virtual museum with various galleries as guest hosts of shows, and a high level of work. She mentors young artists and has helped several to get “discovered”.

We got along well, I gave her advice on the design of her next exhibition catalogue, and we are going to meet again soon for more gallery openings, concerts, and outings so she can show me her side of Berlin.

Nina's studio is in this building

Nina’s studio is in this building.

Berlin residential building courtyard

Many Berlin residential buildings, as is common in many old European cities, have these courtyards, sometimes two or three of them in succession which provide air and a bit of green space to the inhabitants.

Dish rack packaging

On an unrelated note: It’s a good thing I know German, otherwise I would not have known how to ask for a dish rack at the store. I wanted to replace the dish rack here in my rental apartment. When I arrived, I found it coated in mineral deposits, and then it turned rusty when I soaked it in a vinegar/water solution overnight. “Geschirrabtropfkorb” while it is one of those wonderful footlong German words, is not one that comes up often in conversation. Why be short when you can be long and precise and call it a “basket for dishes to drip into”.

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A visit to the Berlin Zoo

Posted on Nov 27, 2012 in Berlin | 1 comment

Sketches of animals at the Berlin Zoo

Sketches of animals at the Berlin Zoo.

On Monday, Nov. 26 I met Katrin and two other illustrator colleagues of hers, Anja and Christian, at the Berlin Zoo.

Before I got there, I had already been on the Berlin public transit for 2.5 hours since I had to drop off a package at FedEx, and there is only ONE FedEx drop off location in all of Berlin, which was of course on the other end of Berlin from the zoo. I could have called it in for pickup, but I didn’t want to be stuck at home.

In the Berlin U-Bahn

In the U-Bahn in Berlin — a long ride home from the zoo gave me time to sketch, but I got so wrapped up in drawing that I missed my stop and had to ride back on another train. But getting a sketch done was worth it.

Berlin has an amazing old zoo. I grew up in Cologne, right next door to the Cologne Zoo, and my mother took me to the zoo sometimes daily in the warmer months, when I was small child. She must have had an annual pass. So seeing the old buildings that were designed in a style reflecting the animals’ region of origin, reminded me of the magic and mystery of seeing these exotic creatures. But they all look quite sad, especially the great apes, as Katrin pointed out. I found it very difficult to draw them because obviously most of these animals move around, but it was a fun exercise for me. Katrin did a fantastic drawing of the “Giraffenhaus“.

Sunrise on Berlin apartment buildings

Sunrise on Berlin apartment buildings.

Hippopotamus at the Berlin Zoo

A big hippo at the Berlin Zoo. But even more amazing are the hippo-sized ducks in the foreground.

Elephants at the Berlin Zoo

There was some noisy construction going on nearby and that may be why the elephants got very excited. One of them, who seemed to be their leader, trumpeted loudly and stomped about, gathering the other three adults to form a circle around the one baby elephant.

Giraffenhaus at the Berlin Zoo

The “Giraffenhaus” at the Berlin Zoo. A beautiful turn-of-the-century building which captures that era’s romanticism about exotic places. In my childhood’s imagination, both giraffes and elephants were from Ali Baba’s magical world. Katrin did a great drawing of this building here.

Gorilla at the Berlin Zoo

I came upon this strange scene: the gorilla seemed to pose for the humans. But I am sure he was quite indifferent.

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A gallery opening and a play

Posted on Nov 26, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Drawing of Berlin residential neighbourhood

I managed to squeeze in an hour of sketching in a Berlin residential neighbourhood between attending the gallery opening and walking to the Ku’damm where the play was.

Berlin residential building

And this is the building that is in the sketch.

Sunday, November 25 was another busy day in Berlin. They’re all busy here, but it’s fun. The apartment clean-up that I am planning to do, has had to wait.

Today I met Nina Neumaier, a Berlin artist who paints behind glass and plexiglass. I had googled “plexi-glass artist” or something like that, when I was trying to paint on plexiglass and was finding it harder than I expected (see my attempts below). I found Nina online and contacted her with some technical issues I had. She replied very quickly and was very friendly — I felt honoured that such an established artist was willing to tell me anything. We kept in touch and when I mentioned that I was planning to come to Berlin, she said I should contact her when the times comes and we’d meet.

Our first meeting was on Sunday at the Kommunale Galerie Berlin, which was hosting a gallery opening for the virtual Frauenmuseum Berlin (Museum for Women Berlin). Both artists sharing the opening had well-thought out, challenging, potentially disturbing work displayed; Katharina Moessinger’s over-sized stuffed animals with real fur, and Elisabeth Matthewes’ videos of a human body displacing or disturbing food or liquid. I found both women’s work worthwhile spending time with and of an artistic integrity that is hard for me to put into words.

Katharina Moessinger and Elisabeth Matthewes gallery opening

Katharina Moessinger and Elisabeth Matthewes gallery opening by the virtual Frauen Museum Berlin, hosted at the Kommunale Galerie Berlin.

In the theater on the Kurfürstendamm, Berlin

In the theater on the Kurfürstendamm, Berlin. I love live theatre. I booked a play here that sounded interesting and funny “Der Eiserne Gustav”, about an old carriage driver in the 1920s who is being usurped by the way, inflation, his children’s rebellion, his son’s death in the WWI, and the automobile’s gaining popularity. At first I wasn’t too impressed, but soon the play grew on me. It had a good dose of social realism and was not portraying anything in a romantic light. The end of an era, generational clashes, and the inability of the “Iron Gustav” to soften.

Christmas window display

Christmas window display, Berlin. Christmas sure draws out the sentimental kitsch. This holiday seems to be one big excuse to keep digging up a utopian fantasy of holiday cheer and cosy nights around the fire and red noses and sleigh rides and walks in the snow. Sometimes it does feel like that at Christmastime, but of course the commercial approach is to drip with clichees.

Cuckoo clocks

Kuckucksuhren (cuckoo clocks). Berlin is not exactly in the Black Forest, but this is still Germany after all.

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Beware of roofied schnapps at the Christmas market

Posted on Nov 26, 2012 in Berlin | 1 comment

Lucia Christmas market, Berlin

Lucia Christmas market in my Berlin neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg, one of about 50 such markets that just opened in Berlin this week and will continue until just after Christmas. As far as I can tell, it’s both a place to go with kids, as well as a chance to swill some Glühwein after work for the adults.

It’s a good thing I speak perfect German. I can listen to the radio and stay abreast of any Berlin Christmas market perils ;-).

I am getting concerned about my level of alcohol consumption here in Berlin. I am not nearly drinking enough. I’ve only made it through one-and-a-half bottles of wine since I arrived here two weeks ago. With booze being about 1/3 to 1/2 of Canadian prices, my original plan was to drink so much in my three months here that the savings would amount to a full year of alcohol costs back home in Canada.

This situation may be remedied a bit by the opening of Berlin’s 50 Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets). I walked through my first one and the ratio of bars serving Christmas punch or Absinthe or beer or Glühwein or Grögg to other establishments is quite high. It looks like a 50/50 split of alcohol-to-knick-knack-booths from my small sample. However, as the title of this blog post tells you, the police in Berlin are warning people to not let strangers buy them a drink. Apparently there are roofied shots being handed out at the Weihnachtsmärkte as well as in bars.

Asinthe bar, Lucia Christmas market, Berlin

This Lucia Christmas market even has an art-nouveau style Absinthe bar. I don’t know that Vancouver has absinthe at all. Well, they do, but it’s not common.

Lucia Christmas market, Berlin

It’s not all about the booze, there are also carousels for kids and trampolines with top ropes and wooden toys and potato cakes.

Jünemann's Pantoffeleck, Berlin

Jünemann’s Pantoffeleck, Berlin. A 100-year old slipper factory that has survived 2 devastating world wars and a two-generation socialist regime. I needed a pair of slippers for my cold feet, and these simple, hand-made-in-the-back-room €12 slippers fit the bill.

Jünemann's Pantoffeleck, Berlin

Jünemann’s Pantoffeleck, Berlin. This is the tiny, below ground level sales room where the slippers (they only have two kinds) are stacked up in shelves that look like they’re from the 1930s.

My new locally made slippers

My new locally made slippers from Jünemann’s Pantoffeleck. They are so nerdy they are cool. And if they are not, I don’t care. Nice warm camel hair.

Exotic drinks in Berlin

“Tropical cocktails” — I was enjoying this cheery promise in the midst of a giant, dreary Berlin building block.

Apartment building, Berlin

Berlin is full of these kinds of drab buildings, but some are interesting in their own minimalist way.

Berlin apartment building

But Berlin has many sides. There are plenty of grand feudal buildings like this one, restored to former glory.

Berlin modern architecture

Then there is the modern Berlin, offering a third option to drab vs. grand.

Berlin street art

This is more than just street art, this is a sanctioned building decoration, no doubt. The illustration style appeals to me, not surprisingly.

Berlin typography

I had to guess that this is the restaurant name, since it looks like graffiti, but I confirmed that it is. Strangely, “Hartweizen” is an Italian restaurant, and is getting good reviews online. Loving this signage.

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My Mac thinks I’m friends with Lenin

Posted on Nov 25, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

At the DDR exhibit, German Historical Museum, Berlin

At the DDR exhibit, German Historical Museum, Berlin. Photography was not allowed, but I had to sneak one in anyway when I saw these collected socialist heads. When I brought this picture into iPhoto, its facial recognition engine asked me for the people’s names, so I entered them: Engels (I think), Lenin, and Marx (back row to front row).

On Saturday I arrived at the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) shortly after they opened at 10 a.m. I had seen a poster for the DDR exhibit that was ending this weekend, so I expected large crowds and I wanted to beat them. But the DDR exhibit turned out to be only one of several in this vast museum. It was busy but not overrun, and it wasn’t even that big. I think there are just too many choices here in Berlin, while in Vancouver the few exhibits we get tend to be mobbed in their last days when everyone tries to cram it in. The DDR exhibit also included free audio guides featuring interviews with people who had been imprisoned by the Stasi, or recounting their military service experience, or working conditions, or travelling around Eastern Europe with its restrictions.

Afterwards I also visited an exhibit of the DHM’s painting collection. They collect only paintings that are relevant to German historical events, and they did cover the gamut, including a painting of Hitler which was clearly not meant to flatter.

There was also a modern art exhibit on art, “Verführung zur Freiheit” (Seduction to Freedom). The exhibit expresses answers to questions such as “How do we wish to live? By what should we orientate ourselves? What roles should politics, the state and society play, in helping us to live out our lives, as worthy human beings? Does our desire for a socially and ecologically secure future count as a basic human right?”

It’s interesting for me to ponder this role of art. I am aware of its validity, but so far, I have the need to just create images without questioning why I am making them. But the question of why we make art and for what purpose and whether it can be for the greater good, is one that needs to be asked over and over again.

Oliv, a coffee shop in Berlin

After my 3.5 hour museum visit, I had lunch and a coffee at Oliv Cafe. I’d done my google research and read it was good, and it was. I sat at a large communal table and did a drawing, but only roughed in the people closest to me so I wouldn’t be caught staring at them for too long.

Then I wanted to ride a City Bike to Kurfürstendamm to pick up an opera ticket and a play ticket I had reserved, but the whole bike rental internet system was down. All the bikes were locked up and nobody could use them. So I started walking. I walked for several hours, until I had done my errands and lots of meandering and looking into shop windows and then I took the subway home, had dinner, and crashed. It was only 8 pm but I had been sightseeing for 10 hours.

Fokus DDR — exhibit on East Germany at the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Fokus DDR — exhibit on East Germany at the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Postcards with old East German signage.

Postcards with old East German signage, top to bottom: No Goods Today (they had a preprinted sign for that?!), Helper of the People’s Police (no doubt this really meant “your friends and family hate you”), Closed Area: Do not walk in, drive in, or take pictures or you will be punished.

Dead warrior masks by Andreas Schlüter in the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Dead warrior masks by Andreas Schlüter in the German Historical Museum, Berlin. A large central roofed courtyard was used to display artillery in the Empire times. The dead warrior heads are above every window surrounding this courtyard. I spent about 45 minutes drawing this one, but the drawing looks too banal compared to the intensity of the sculptures, so I am not posting it here.

Freedom dress in the German Historical Museum, Berlin

Freedom dress in the German Historical Museum, Berlin. A fashion sculpture on the occasion of the museum’s 25th anniversary, designed by Stephan Hann, using posters of past exhibits.

Under the train tracks, Berlin

These two views are only separated by a street and a tunnel. I don’t know how well these bars under the tracks are doing, but I like how given the option, Berlin chooses to party. Of course, as an urban sketcher, I prefer the left view.

View into apartment building lobby, Berlin

View into a random apartment building lobby, Berlin

In the metro in Berlin

In the metro in Berlin. I am spending a fair amount of time riding the subway here. At least they’re a cheery yellow.

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A trip to the Canadian embassy in Berlin

Posted on Nov 24, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

I did not have an emergency, I just had to get my signature certified by a consular officer for a legal document that I had to complete and send back home to Vancouver. But I thought I might as well look around to make sure they spend my tax dollars wisely. Of course, I did have to pay €40 per document — apparently my tax dollars do not cover that. I had to go through a metal detector at the entrance, and also had to surrender my cell phone for the duration of my visit. It was locked up and I was given a metal token, just like in a coat check.

The embassy is only open for public business from 9–12 every week day, so I am making a mental note to not have an emergency outside of those hours.

On the 3rd floor, where the consular services are located, the agent was behind thick bulletproof glass. It was a bit hard to hear her. Between the two doormen on the ground floor and the two agents in consular services, I detected zero Canadians — all of these staff appeared to be either German or of another linguistic background.

I did use the very spiffy, clean toilet with Grohe flush apparatus before I left. Since there was no fee for that, I feel I got at least 50 cents of my tax money back.

Canadian embassy lobby

The lobby of the Canadian embassy in Berlin. They would not allow me to take photos even in the lobby, so I pressed my camera against the glass from the outside. I know I shouldn’t expect much fuzzy love from government agencies, but the downright inhumanity of their “procedures before people” approach is always a bit chilling.

Canadian embassy in Berlin

The Canadian embassy in Berlin. It could be worse. It could look like the one in Washington DC which is a claustrophobic fortress.

Sony Center Berlin

After my embassy errand, I rented a City Bike and cycled back towards home. I got a bit lost at first and went through the Sony Center Berlin by accident — a large covered plaza with an interesting dome structure, very striking.

In the Tiergarten Park, Berlin

Cycling through the Tiergarten Park, Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate from the Tiergarten Park, Berlin

Brandenburg Gate from the Tiergarten Park, Berlin

Cycling through the Brandenburg Gate

Cycling through the Brandenburg Gate towards the TV Tower.

German Christmas pyramids are dominating the shopping landscape.

German Christmas pyramids are a common sight in the shopping landscape at this time of year.

Faculty of Law, Berlin

Faculty of Law and Law Library, Berlin. I was convinced this was the opera and tried to pick up a ticket in here. But they pointed me across the plaza. After a while, one neo-classical building looks like the next.

Crossing the Schlossbrücke with view of the Berlin Dom and the TV Tower

Crossing the Schlossbrücke with view of the Berlin Dom and the TV Tower. It’s the first full sunny day in Berlin since I got here 8 days ago.

Altes Museum, Berlin

Altes Museum, Berlin. It houses the antique collection.

Dip dyed hair

I like to experiment with my hair colour. This woman’s dip dyed hair looks great.

Soviet-style building, Alexanderplatz, Berlin

I like all the soviet-style buildings on Alexanderplatz so much more now that they no longer represent an all-powerful, oppressive regime.

Dirndls, Berlin, Germany

Dirndls are for sale even in Berlin, which is far from Bavaria, where dirndls are the traditional dress. But these days many German women own a dirndl, if only to attend the local Octoberfest. I think it is mostly ironic, a bit like a costume, to put one of these on, unless you live in a small Austrian village like many of my cousins do.

Worker sculpture

A fine example of a socialist-realist sculpture of a proud worker.

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Memories of growing up in Germany

Posted on Nov 23, 2012 in Berlin | 2 comments

Another random drawing

Morning charcoal drawing.

Being back in Germany sometimes brings up memories from my childhood. Not surprisingly, food tends to be involved, other times words that have changed or disappeared, or memories of stories, sounds, architecture, or pictures.

Of course memory is selective, and inventive. We create our own stories that we can turn into memories. The visuals of the East-German born artist Neo Rauch, for example, remind me of illustrations in old children’s books I used to read. I think my perception of recognition is triggered by this artist’s use of form and colour palette, but the paintings show dream-like scenes from his own imagination, not an idealized childhood.

A new word I learned this week, while listening to the radio, is “Flitzer Blitzer”. I think it means a traffic camera or a policeman taking your picture with a flash (Blitz) as you speed by (flitzen) so they can mail you a ticket.

And again on the radio, it was announced that a WWII bomb from an air raid had to be diffused somewhere in the vicinity of Berlin. 800 people had to leave their homes and wait it out. It took just over half a day; they announced it in the morning and later in the afternoon they gave the all-clear for people to return to their homes. This kind of event is a reminder of a more distant time that I never experienced, while the Soviet-style buildings around Alexanderplatz and other areas of former East Berlin are reminders of events that happened in my lifetime.

Here are other examples of memory-triggers:

Chocolate covered marshmallows, German style

These tennis-ball size chocolate-covered marshmallows are entirely artificial, but I loved them as a child. They used to be called “Negerkuss” from “tête de négre” in French. No need to translate, as it’s racist. But when I grew up, that awareness had not entered my brain. They are now called “Schokokuss” (chocolate kiss). It says on this 12-pack that they have 95 calories each. So I could eat the whole dozen and still have calories left in my daily average calorie intake for a sandwich. Of course, if you eat more than two of these a day, it doesn’t feel so good, as I found out yesterday.

Brötchen or Schrippen

The one food you can usually find in Germany in abundance and variety is bread. Bakeries are usually open for a few hours on Sunday mornings so that Germans can get their fresh bread. I have great memories of “Brötchen” (buns) which are called “Schrippen” in Berlin, as I have just learned. I have been waking up early here and going for a walk around the neighbourhood most mornings, and usually there is a bakery along my path.

German donut

This glazed or sugar-sprinkled, jelly-filled German donut is called “Berliner” in many parts of Germany, but not in Berlin. Here they call it “Pfannkuchen” (pancake).

Advent calendar

Advent calendars are a German tradition. We now see them in Canada in the grocery stores, but there is usually only one kind containing waxy chocolate-flavoured objects. The odd deli has German chocolate calendars. I am finding out that the advent calendar offerings here in Berlin are huge. I stared at a large display of about 20 different chocolate or candy calendars. All the big candy makers have their own calendar. I found this dark chocolate calendar by Lindt this week, and I just had to buy it. It’s twice as big as my laptop.

Bier-Kalender/Beer Advent calendar

It wouldn’t be a German Christmas without a “Bier-Adventskalender”. They didn’t have this when I was a kid. I told Jeff about it, and he asked me to buy him one. Seriously? I was hoping he’d help me bring back some new clothes when he arrives with a half empty suitcase. Not this.

Hairdresser signage

And completely unrelated, another typographic find in my neighbourhood: a sign for a hairdresser.

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Meeting Berlin artists and sketchers

Posted on Nov 22, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Berlin drawing 2

I started my day with another random charcoal drawing.

Cafe Fleury, Berlin

And a sketch from our sketching session in Cafe Fleury, Berlin. Katrin is part of the Berlin Urban Sketchers and is the one with short dark hair at the far left.

I had a Flickr mail from Katrin, a Berlin urban sketcher, professional illustrator, and artist. We arranged to meet in a coffee shop called Fleury to sketch together. She brought two colleagues along: Marion, a graphic designer, and Anna, an illustrator by profession. Katrin and Anna are original Berliners by birth, Anna was born in East Berlin and remembers the fall of the Wall as a pre-teen. She grew up in Singapore, because her parents worked for the UN, and only returned to Berlin in 2005.

It was good to get “real” Berliners’ takes on a few things, from annoyance with people riding bikes on the sidewalk (a common practice here that appeared to me to be well tolerated) to observations about being an illustrator in Germany. All three of these women are established and have institutional clients with recurring work, but they all feel that illustrators are not as respected in Germany as they are in the U.S. I can only say that they are not respected in Canada either, and I don’t think it’s that different in the U.S. There are only a few stars, and many highly talented people who are getting by. Maybe the grass is always greener?

After sketching for a few hours (see Katrin’s two sketches here and here), Katrin, Anna and I moved to a cozy bar/restaurant called “Kapelle” around the corner where we had “Flammkuchen” (an Alsatian dish which is very much like a thin pizza). Katrin whipped up another sketch in an amazingly short time (she is definitely a professional illustrator!). But I had an extremely tired day on Wednesday and was not able to do any more sketching.

Long bench, Berlin

A long bench wraps around the whole length of a small park at a Berlin street corner. I can see this being filled with people in the warmer seasons, chatting and resting. Sometimes I think we could use more inviting, practical spaces in Vancouver for people to hang out. Berlin makes it easy for people to hang out.

Book exchange tree, Berlin

I had breakfast at a great coffee shop called Anna Blume in an art nouveau building and was looking right at this book exchange “tree”.

Danziger Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Berlin is full of grand avenues, street cars fit comfortably in the centre median.

Fernsehturm/TV Tower, Berlin

One more of the TV Tower. One day I’ll get to see it without fog, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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Typographic tourism

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 in Berlin | 3 comments

Walking around my neighbourhood yesterday morning in search of a bakery, I made a point of taking my time and stopping to explore as soon as anything caught my interest without questioning, sometimes turning around on my heels and going back after I had already passed, rather than rushing by. So much of the time in Vancouver I am in a rush. I am not one of those organized, punctual people, if they exist. I may not be German after all.

For most of my life, I have been so goal-oriented that I tend to zip towards where I’m going without noticing what’s around me. But here in Berlin, I walk more slowly, and I stop when something catches my eye. The Berlin residents on their way to and from work seem to be breathing impatiently down my neck when they are stuck behind me in a narrow passage. In my normal life, most people walk too slowly for my liking too. But this is my chance to enjoy process rather than focus on results all the time.

Even that giant to-do-while-in-Berlin-list is entirely optional. It’s not about checking things off. I am perfectly happy exploring the few blocks in my neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg. The slower I move, the more I look, the more I see, the more I get out of it.

When you go to Paris for the first time, you feel a great need to visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. I did. The second and third time I went to Paris, I went with other people who hadn’t been to Paris yet, so I went back to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. My fourth time in Paris (I grew up in Germany, so Paris was not that far away), I finally allowed myself to get lost in the streets or sit in the coffee shops watching people go by. It was great to not have to “do” the Eiffel Tower.

The most meaningful tourism is making your own discoveries rather than being spoonfed the official version.

Charcoal drawing

Sketching early in the morning without a plan, being in the process. This drawing may be the processing of my struggle with the laundry.

Poster for a modern play

Poster for a modern play.

TV show marketing

“Sie werden sterben.” = “You will die.” An ad for a TV show on the topic of death.

German typography

German typography.

From a poster for the play The Name of the Rose

From a poster for the play The Name of the Rose.

Curbside water pump

Curbside water pump. I don’t think it is functional, but I didn’t try very hard.

Poster for a dance performance

Poster for a dance performance. “Wut” is German for “rage”.

Hand-lettered text at a store specializing in Czech products.

Hand-lettered text at a store specializing in Czech products.

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