Brain dump in Berlin

I need to update this. Not really cause the audience (NUDGE NUDGE THAT’S YOU) needs to know about my travels, but more because I need a moment to step away from wandering around this spread-out and varied place and write.

So here are the fruits of that need. Hope they’re tasty?

I’ve visited six museums while I’ve been here. There are way more available than that. I’ve passed by dozens at least, only returning to those that seem convenient at the time. The Pergamon, the National Gallery, countless random official buildings. Germany is a nice place filled with green and fields and gorse and grass. Berlin’s flora are buildings, parks, markets.

I didn’t know what the Riechstag was when I passed it my first day here. I just knew there was a line, and I knew it was impressive. I didn’t go inside. The big rebuilt state building with a glass globe inside is not checked off the to do list. Not this visit.

When I passed the Brandenburg gate I passed in a rush. I had to find a place to place my baggage. My first even in Berlin was marked mostly with heavy breathin’ and being lost.

But I found a place with the help of ticket-counter people. God bless ticket-counter people. Even though there is surely a downside to Germany’s organization and businesslike efficiency they sure know how to help humans get places.

Public transport here is frankly amazing. The honeycomb of trains, above-ground and below, is impressive. It allows there to be a reasonable (read: low) amount of automobile traffic gumming up the city. It’s also damned convenient.

It comes with the businesslike faces of train ticketers hopping on after the last Person has boarded. The system knows how to deal with those who break society’s shallow trust. It’s best to stay out of their way.

Visiting the Typography of Terror I was confused. Where were the cruel images of forced famine? Where were the pictures of bodies and bloodless businesslike bloodletting that I had seen in a Holocaust remembrance museum in America?

I didn’t do any research into the free museum before going. I guess this expectation of seeing upsetting images wasn’t reasonable.

Instead there was a very clean, designed remembrance of those who created the Nazi regime and death machine. Also featured were those adversely affected by it, along with tasteful descriptions of the stories of individuals. Those that created this place did it to document the people of Germany. They probably made it mostly to highlight how normally successful systems and officials and highly productive people could become so maligned. How the path can be turned.

And it does this. And granted I didn’t give this place as much of my attention as I had been lending to photography exhibitions and sculptures and escavated stones in days before. But I walked away feeling strangely dissatisfied with the place. I think my expectations were a bit out of wack with the reality of the exhibit, but the fact that the terror which was shown was only explained via text rather than shown didn’t sit right.

I remember walking through a photo gallery on display in Thessaloniki while I was there. It was on some of the photographic voices in Greece in the period after WWII but before the civil war. There was famine. It was documented with pictures of desicated peoples smuggled out of hospitals. I wasn’t expecting to find it there, amidst villages and industrial images and the works of two photographers from that era.

I was expecting to find those cruel images in Germany. I haven’t yet.

And I’m leaving Germany actually. For a couple days at least, I’m headed to Prague in the morning. We’ll see how that goes.

My experience in Berlin has been a whole lot more solitary than Hamburg. I mostly wandered around, partially lost, partially not. I usually have a destination in mind, but I don’t always have a charged device to reference.

Every once in a while your phone needs to die. It makes you ask people questions. That or become content with eternal frustration.

I talked to this Romanian dude the other day under the huge television tower built by the communists before the wall fell. His name is Marius (or similar, it might have been Mariun), and he came to Berlin because he heard that there were jobs overflowing in Germany. And yes, there are jobs in Germany, but apparently they are quite difficult to obtain if one does not know how to speak German.

He was not so subtly hitting me up for money. He had this routine where if there was a pause in the conversation he would return to a refrain of ‘bad bad, no money, no jobs.’ And I believed him to an extent. I believe that he came to Germany to find something, and that what he found is not what he wanted, nor is it friendly. Back home he cooks apparently, and he was looking to do that in this mythical place called Central Europe, where the money trickles like rain.

I felt bad for him, maybe because I understood a bit of his frustration. I understood the language trouble at least. Many Germans know at least a bit of English, but there are some times where you really can’t use it. And the German I know is only the German that I’ve learned here, plus useful phrases like Hefeweisen and Gesundheit. And German is essentially English when compared to Greek, which has a whole ‘nother script and is phonetically written, let alone Chinese. My point is, not being able to communicate on a super-complex level with other humans is frustrating.

He didn’t even know that much English. I mean, he knew enough to have a simple conversation, and with some effort a more complex one. When he wanted to say something more in-depth he would switch to Spanish, which is at least familiar for me. Needless to say, there was a lot of dumb nodding on either side.

He walked up to me and sat by my bench because I didn’t seem to be doing anything and he sleeps in the patch of green next to where I was. At least, that’s what I assume. That’s what he said. He at first asked me about discotheques, and gradually brought the conversation to his own troubles. I think most of the reason the conversation even got that far is because I stayed to listen. I don’t think that’s very usual for this dude.

We talked a while. I tried to see if I could get him to show me some Romanian music and he pulled up some rapper on my phone. He also likes 50 Cent apparently. I ended up buying him some juice and leaving one of the small bags of change I had accumulated in Greece. There wasn’t much in there. What he needed is around 116 euro in order to book a ticket to return home to Romania. I wasn’t interested in giving him that, or any amount of money close to that really. I told him that. I even felt kind of cold, especially towards the end of our conversation. His face was not happy, and it was not filled with hope. Clearly he was dreading another night in the city he had taken off to so suddenly and ill-advisedly.

That was a really weird conversation. Kind of glad it took place though. I don’t know what’s been happening with him since. I hope he makes it back one of these days. He’s been in town for about a week, and doesn’t seem to be able to find a way to make money. I assume he’ll find something lucrative and illegal to do at some point or else pull some odd-job gig out of nowhere and make it back to Romania. That’s assuming he was telling the truth about his situation. But you know what, I don’t think that’s a bad assumption to make.

It’s rough for him. But at least he can go back to Romania, once he figures out the money needed to return. And he has family there. Many people don’t really have that sweet combination. It’s weird to think of him as well off, but he sort of is. It’s weird to think of a man looking that sad and lost being ‘comparitevely well off’ and even weirder to compare his situation with my own.

The fact is I’m on vacation without aim. I’m one of many in Europe it turns out. It’s sort of common here to be drifting. I just happen to be able to withdraw money when I need it. The money that I spend on tourist cafes I could be burning. The money I spend on fixing cameras and doing laundry in Athens is wasted. I pay more for these things because I’m a tourist, and I don’t have the knowledge or time needed to find the same things for cheap. This is the case at least some of the time. And paying more than locals do doesn’t effect me—not really. I’ll be returning home to a job soon anyway. I’ll spend so much less not traveling that the money lost abroad will seem insubstantial. It never really existed anyway. That’s false, but it’s difficult to think of things like the actual value of something when the trip over costs so much. When there are entire economies strutted with the excesses and vulturism of tourism, it can be difficult to separate meaningful from frivolous when it comes to expenses. It’s all frivolous really, but some receipts come with less meaning.

I should have spent some of this money I have access to on a book of photography. I visited a boatload of photography exhibitions over the last couple days. And I will remember them, but it’s a bit strange taking pictures of pictures, so I didn’t. I sort of wish I had. They were cool as all hell.

I walked into the Museum of Photography and was greeted by five giant portraits of naked women, courtesy of Helmut Newton. Over half the images on display in that building were referencing or using nakedness. It was a smut museum.

Don’t get me wrong, it was really interesting. It featured artistically valid pictures, and a lot of provocative things. But I was not really expecting so much nakedness on display.

Shrugs.

Art I guess. I got used to it while walking around. On a later day I went through an exhibition of Juergen Teller’s work and the comparitively tiny volume of sexual organs on display was striking. There was still a bunch though. German photography likes the human form I guess.

Shrugs.

I saw the work of William Klein as well. Would recommend. It doesn’t cast life in a very light light, but it’s quite visceral and pretty genuine. There’s also an out of focus picture of a woman accidentally blocking the camera that is brilliant. I liked it.

Alright it’s time for sleep. There’s a ton more to put down into the interwebs but I leave for Prague in the morning. Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Old anarchist chilling at a table and watching a protest is dismissive of violent anarchists

While I was covering the demonstrations that went along with a general strike the other Wednesday I talked to an interesting man. He walked by the protests in my general direction while I was trying to get a good shot of protesters in both the background and the foreground (when the marching people curled up a street on a hill) and he just looked swag. That’s the only way to put it.

His name is Savaidis Makis. He seemed bemused by the protest, but not dismissive. I walked up to him when he sat down at a table outside an internet cafe. Next to him sat an older man who (apparently) has a son in the Greek air force.

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A cool image from among some marchers.

Makis had reflective sunglasses on which he (sadly) took off before I took photos. He looked like a character, and I got to talk to him simply by being an annoying American journalist.

During the impromptu interview (made complicated by protesters chanting loudly in the background as well as his limited English vocabulary) we talked a bit about the culture and history of protest in Greece.

That makes our conversation sound sophisticated. And it featured some sophisticated thinking, but like any communications through language barriers, most of it was more simplistic. Just cause simpler is easier to understand.

“Greek protest is different from US,” Makis said. “We walk in the streets. In the US they walk in the (points at a sidewalk and grunts) these.”

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Makis was very much an onlooker to the demonstrations right then, but seemed approving. Or at least bemused.

I dunno. He was an interesting face, who had interesting things to say, even if most of it didn’t translate into good quotes.

He’s a subscriber to the Five Star Movement in Italy, and apparently has studied five years of philosophy sometime in the past. I found his Facebook and his blog, but everything’s in Greek. Fortunately, browsers come with translation tools now, so it’s not impossible to get a gist.

He was vocal about being a self-professed anarchist, but of an older school of thought. He is not an advocate of violence like some of those who were out that day. Instead he subscribes to the philosophy of someone whose name sounds like “Glicko” (like how Glee Co. would be pronounced).

“Peaceful, only with word,” he said. “Words are the biggest bump that exists.”

 

All Hail The Bawlah

Sometimes it is necessary to bawl out of control. In this instance we can observe one Brandon as he approaches his final form. He is The Bawlah.

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A king, looking upon his domain.
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A loyal subject, theorizing how the world works. All conclusions lead to praise of The Bawlah.
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Bawlahs need some back-up sometimes. Ellie’s got it. She also can walk on walls.
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David gathers onlookers to the majesty that is the Bawlah. Disciples to its greatness. Missionary to its cause.
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Not everyone can appreciate The Bawlah. We call this type of creature A Hater. Pictured is a classic example.
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The Bawlah sends his regards.