ich bin ein Berliner…

this was said by JFK in the sixties.

This city with its overdose of street art, show-off contemporary architecture, mind-blowing history and so much more. You’ve invaded my soul as you conquer and exceeded all expectations. Who knew that one city could grasp your attention like this. Deeply temped to just add a bunch of photo’s and then to tell you all to come and explore this city for yourself. But seeing that most of my followers have a nation to build. Let me tell you some of my experiences.

The amount of amazing street art that I have seen in this one week has doubled my all time bests. From an early Banksy, to the queen of Berlin called Pö. In a polite way this means bum. As an advert lover of a good dose of wc humor, this artist amuses me deeply. The story goes as follows, only a few years ago this French lady introduced herself to the city by means of a heaven drop and she wrote Ich bin Pö. Her trade mark ever since yellow bare bums. Some hairy bums, some fat and some normal. But super funny. Who would have guessed that in Berlin street art is also illegal, but unlike many other cities you only get fined accourding to the size of your art. Now to still keep the culture going they have these designated areas that gives you a legal area to paint/write/stencil/tag/paste on/heaven drop or what ever you feel like. I happen to live around the corner from one of these areas. The last few days we have been having a fresh strip of art every day. Should most probably go out soon to see what is there today. Also had the privilege to chat to one of the artist that I caught in the act. He grew up in East Berlin and he has been painting the last 25 years. He is not the first one to tell me about the change in this artistic city. It seems like the more the new investors gets to buy up the fairly affordable areas the more they want to clean up the city or almost control the art. Like another street artist said earlier the week. Graffiti is like a wild animal, you can not cage it in. To control and almost veneer the streets might just kill the spontaneous wild side of this very special city. Awhile ago there were these Italian artists Blu and JR that did two world-famous multi storey murals in Kreuzberg. In attempt to bring some attention to the change in the city they just started painting over these pieces in black paint. These black walls are hard to miss, as they stand out in the middle of the city along the river against two exposed walls. To me this is super sad, but also maybe a wakeup call to the investors? What will East Berlin be without the street art? Just as predictable as the west side? Or should I say boring?

That said. Street art has been a voice in Berlin since back in the cold war times. Although the East Side Gallery has the graffiti on the east side of the wall these days. This was not true during the cold war. The west side had the opportunity to express themselves by means of graffiti on the wall, which made this the biggest canvas in the world. But the east side could not get close to this wall. In between these walls they had the death strip. Almost like a no mans land. Some of the creative ways the people on the east side tried to get in the west side: Loading a truck full of rocks and driving through the wall. Digging tunnels. Trying to get over the wall by flying etc.  Besides the craziness around the cold war and how this influenced the street art. Even the architecture were different and the amps from the street lights. Then there are these little pedestrian green and red men at the traffic lights. The little man on the east side has a name. Its called Ampelmännchen. He is the cutest guy with the cutest hat and the red man has his arms open. As if one can give him a hug. Pity that since the west and east merged that many of the little east side men have been replaced with normal traffic men.

On the west side i absolutely loved the vacant cold war airport that by way of petition and referendum has been kept as a public space. In this park you can cycle, Segway, skateboard, kite or Rollerblade on the runways and have a bbq in the designated areas. This airport was called Templehof. When the Russians decided to close the three-way roads from the west to berlin back in the cold war, america and the allies actually flew everything into this airport. Really stunning that they kind have kept it as it use to be for recreational purposes now.
If you feel like experiencing the German Harrods then make your way to KaDeWe. A massive department store also on the west side. They honestly have anything. I tested them and surprisingly they ticked all the boxes. Apparently they were also the first store to bring neon lights to berlin and was reprimanded by the police shortly after. Rumor has it that the neon light interfered with the motorist ability to focus on the road and the traffic lights. This is actually partly amusing because this is and was higher that six storeys.
Another really grand thing worth visiting in nice warm weather would be the Baddenschaf. The bottom of a freight ship has been converted into a pool. Yes the whole thing is floating in the Spree while you take a lovely dip in this 25m beautiful pool. The idea is genius but also pretty pleasing to the eyes. Just make sure you bring sunblock and your bathing costume because underwear is not permitted. Although if you do forget you can rent a bikini at the bar.
Coming from South Africa there were many things that I could relate to in Berlin. Especially the integration between two very different world views or in many ways almost cultures between the east and the west. It is sad how we as people always want to change people to be like us. Or have the same opinion as us. Cloning ourselves. There is a well known graffiti piece in Kreuzberg. From afar it looks like a big pink monster with a piece of bread on his finger. But if you look closer you can see that the monster is created from many pink little men that looks like they are almost strangling the next pink person next to them. And the tip of the finger is the only beige little man. The big monster is aiming to eat the beige man. An interpretation of this piece is that by trying to consume the person being different might still not solve the challenge that even though all are the same. They still are not happy or living in peace with each other. In many ways one wish that people will not try to become your neighbour but to allow them space to be different and to embrace your own uniqueness.
So it was as I was traveling by train to the next country that I realised that train rides are amazing, how small Europe is and that we are just mortal humans on our journey through life.  What a lovely and very amazing privilege.
Thank you to my lovely host and my friends in Berlin. Your hospitality, friendliness and kindness has been overwhelming. It felt like I could sit under a lovely shady tree and rest. Hope to see you real soon. Wunderbar! Choooooze.

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