Posted on Dec 8, 2012 in Berlin | 0 comments

Vancouver and Berlin sandwich

This map is a sandwich of Vancouver and Berlin. I created two Google maps at the same scale and stuck them on top of each other, with my homes in Vancouver and Berlin in the same spot on the map. The red veins are Berlin’s roads. This helps me compare the distances in Berlin to the ones I am familiar with in Vancouver. Since Berlin has a higher urban density, I think, it is not really bigger in area, even though it has 3.5 million/4.5 million in the metro area vs 600,000 people in the City of Vancouver/2.2 miilion in the metro Vancouver area.

It’s getting difficult for me to remember what I did even two days ago. Hence, this blog. One day, when I’m back from Berlin, asking myself “what the hell did I do during those three months?” I will be able to look it up on this blog. It will also help me remember some life lessons that I am drawing from my experiences here. It’s not all about the sightseeing — that is just the external stuff.

I am spending a lot of time here in an internal dialogue that is at times so loud I cannot hear much else. This is beyond good or bad, but simply as it should be. This is my time to focus on my inner journey. I am very grateful to have this opportunity. And “Ich fühle mich hier sauwohl” (I feel bloody great here), as Heinz Rühmann’s character says in the German classic movie Die Feuerzangenbowle, where he returns to high school as an adult man to make up for things he missed out on.

There are so many impressions here that I am easily able to relate to my inner life, which is very enriching. I am trying to keep a separate journal to record some of those, but this blog takes a lot of time.

On December 7, I rented a bike and cycled halfway around Berlin’s ring streets to the large Turkish market at the banks of the Maybach in Kreuzberg. I am amazed that I am still cycling in this freezing weather, it was -4˚C and the roads felt a bit frozen. All I bought at the market was half a kilo of mushrooms for 50¢ (they ended up in a casserole dish that I will be eating for dinner four days in a row).

Then I went to the Käthe Kollwitz Museum. Käthe Kollwitz is one of my favourite artists, I was inspired by her work and dedication to her political beliefs ever since I was a teenager. She knew what she needed to say and she had the talent and will to say it with her art. “Eine Gabe ist eine Aufgabe” was her motto (It works better in German, but it means: A talent is an obligation). The museum is in a beautiful old villa in Charlottenburg and had a special exhibit about the influence of the Russian October revolution on her life and work.

Right next door to the Kollwitz Museum is the Literaturhaus Berlin which is also in an old villa where as guests of a wealthy couple, artists and scientists would visit at the turn of the 19th century. Tours of this villa are held on occasion and I may sign up for one at some point.

After the Kollwitz Museum, I had a coffee and cake at Einstein Kaffee before going to an opening of a show at Galerie Taube, where one of the Urban Sketchers, Oona Leganovic, a 25-year old German woman, had a couple of her drawings included in the multi-artist show. All the work represented by Galerie Taube is highly figurative, which is not so much my thing, even though I draw and paint figuratively. But I very much like Oona’s purposely unfinished-looking watercolours, which leave something for the viewer to conplete, and I am planning to buy one of her sketches as a souvenir.

I am doing my best to express my support for these Berlin artists I am meeting by buying small works off them (this is the watercolour I will be buying from Oona), and the pieces I am buying are going to be very meaningful to me. They will remind me of this time in my life when I got to meet these artists in person and grew in understanding of their work, and of what it means to be an artist.

Church in Berlin

It’s hard to cycle by these amazing sights in Berlin. Luckily, I don’t have to go by. I can stop and take a picture, and I do. This church is just sitting there in between regular residential buildings, along the big ring of grand streets that surrounds Berlin.

Berlin raised metro near Oberbaumbrücke

The raised Berlin metro near Oberbaumbrücke.

Oberbaumbrücke Berlin

Oberbaumbrücke Berlin. It crosses the River Spree and according to Wikipedia, was featured prominently in the movie Run Lola Run. I will have to re-watch that one now. Also, Oona Leganovic, the artist I was going to meet later that night at her gallery opening, has spent a lot of time drawing and painting this bridge.

Berliners crossing the Oberbaumbrücke

Assorted people crossing the Oberbaumbrücke.

The Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin

At the Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin. Definitely worthwhile visiting. Beautiful setting at the banks of a somewhat smaller but still substantial river which may be a tributary or channel connecting to the Spree River.

The Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin

At the Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin

Banks of the Maybach, Kreuzberg, Berlin.

The Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin

At the Turkish market at Maybachufer, Kreuzberg, Berlin. Of course you can get everything here, not just food, but shoes, clothing, bedding, hardware, you name it.

Berlin Christmas lights and decor

Berlin Christmas lights and decor on Kurfürstendamm.

Cool retro lamp shop in Berlin

A cool retro lamp shop near Kurfürstendamm, Berlin.

Title still from Die Feuerzangenbowle

I am having a great time watching old German movies on YouTube. This is the title from Die Feuerzangenbowle, a 1944 movie with the famous German actor Heinz Rühmann, who sounds like he was a Berliner. As I mentioned above, the plot is about a successful writer who decides to go back to high school to make up for the camaraderie he never had, having been home-schooled. And a Feuerzangenbowle, which means “fire tongs punch” is a special kind of punch where you set fire to a large sugar cone that has been soaked with rum and let it melt into a spiced red wine concoction.

A poster with the actor Heinz Rühmann

A poster showing the actor Heinz Rühmann who starred in Die Feuerzangenbowle.

Loriot, a German cartoonist and comedian

I am enjoying a nostalgic German moment, watching old cartoons by Loriot, a German cartoonist and comedian, who died in 2011. If you are interested, watch this 3-minute video of one of his best skits ever, where a proposal of love is overshadowed by a stray noodle. This video even has English subtitles. When I saw this skit for the first time, I screamed with laughter.