Bits of Berlin
Whenever I travel I usually keep some kind of diary - often just in the notes on my iPhone, but occasionally with documentary tools like Bonjournal, which I've been using for a few years now. Here are a few snippets from a recent trip to Berlin.
My hosts are three hip twenty-something men in a lovely high-ceilinged apartment in Oslauer Strasse. They’ve converted their tiny back room into a mezzanine bedroom, building a bed halfway up the wall and shelves and clothes rails in below. There are two young and lithe cats that hide amongst my shirts or peek down at me from my bunk whenever I leave the door open - one is called Yop. Their owner tells me their names were “chosen democratically”, and one has ended up named after his grandmother, which he’s not quite sure about.
I choose a cafe recommended by a colleague, tucked away on a tree-lined residential street a few blocks from Rosenthaler Platz. It's full of distressed wood and bare brick and dried flowers in green bottles, and it's full of people as well, because everyone in Berlin is a freelancer. Lots of very expensive brown furniture disguised as mismatched reclaimed junk.
I claim the window seat to watch residential Berlin go by - beautiful women in flappy coats, snail's pace old men on bicycles and dads pushing prams. I'm not sure how I feel about basil and rhubarb as breakfast foods, but the coffee is good and the service is kind. Perhaps too kind; I experience the trip's first encounter of ordering in German and being replied to in English.
The Zionskirche is such a staple of the Berlin landscape that we decided to finally view its interior. Less spectacular than the outside, but the upper balcony is still quite magical with its smattering of pews and splashes of colour from the stained glass pooled across the floor - on sunny days it must be magical. A loud and boring photoshoot is happening downstairs and the discarded wing of a monarch butterfly lies in a puddle of orange.
Tempelhof Airfield is where it's at in the sun, and half of Berlin is here. Everyone is spread out across its huge flat expanse, sunbathing near-nude in the communal allotments or rollerskating/sports biking/scootering down the runways. On my last abortive visit four years ago I was on foot and it drizzled constantly, so this time I return with an old Dutch bike rented at the daily rate of €4 and cycle the entire airfield in glorious sun. There's lots to look at; fenced-off ancient planes, the old US Air Force shooting range and the airport building itself around which there always seems to be a lot of official building work and bustle but to what end I've no idea. I listen to a podcast about serial killers.
I spend an hour reading in the shade with an ice cream and a coke. A man sees my camera and stops to talk to me about analogue photography, as he's just taken it up. We chat for a while and he asks me out on an analogue photography daytrip. I tell him I'm from England and he comments that that's probably a bit far for a daytrip, compliments my German and wishes me a pleasant holiday.
On the U-Bahn a woman in leapard-print leggings asks me:
"Do you know Jesus yet? Of Nazarath?"