Urban Sketcher

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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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