Berlin street art 3-8-2010

Posted in Berlin, street art by Deputy city editor on August 4, 2010
tea towels


Read this: Alone in Berlin

Posted in Berlin, Books, facism, Labour party, Terrorism by Deputy city editor on April 15, 2009


Even before ‘Jackboots’ Jacqui Smith announced her plan to recruit block wardens throughout Britain, trained to work with the authorities in the war on terrorism, there was more than a strong whiff of fascism in the air.

To see  the consequences of how easy it is for people to be led down this road by unscrupulous leaders, there is Alone in Berlin.

Today Berlin is a city that throbs with youth, art and music, but these streets are cohabited by ghosts and they are far from exclusively Jewish.

You do not need to know Alexanderplatz to see the contemporary resonance in Hans Fallada’s brilliant testament of Nazi state terrorism.

Modern Britain, where the police also kill with impunity,  is a good place to read this.

Alone in Berlin has only now been published in English, in a superb translation by Michael Hoffman. (The book is published in America as Every Man Dies Alone.)   This is the best book I have read about Berlin during the war.

This is not the high society Berlin of the same period, described by Marie Vassiltchikov nor do the grand events of the war provide more than a passing backdrop to the events Fallada describes.  More or less everything happens in this book, all at once. There are love stories, tales of brutality, ordinary people who are extraordinary for their braveness and courage, and ordinary people who are bullies and cowards. This is yet more evidence that what happened in Germany could happen to any of us – and perhaps especially to the delusional British, with our demented politicians and ridiculous media.

Fallada died shortly after finishing this masterpiece. On the basis of the experience of reading this novel, he seems to me one of the great journalist/writers of the 20th century.

Click on the image above to look inside this book.

Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte – April 2008

Posted in Art, Berlin, painting by Deputy city editor on April 28, 2008

Christoph Bouet is shown here in front of Hafen III painted in his hometown of Magdeberg, at the opening of his exhibition at Galerie Berlin on Saturday (April 26). We were among the admiring crowd. Nokia N95 picture. Click pic for more detail.

The orange juice lady at the market in Kollwitzplatz. Note customer’s child accessory. Prenzlauerberg is Europe’s nursery. These people are having more unprotected sex than anyone else in Europe. N95 image. Click it for more.

The Bionade generation at rest. A boring picture with only one stroller in it so possibly these are more likely to be tourists. N95.

This property development on Kollwitzstrasse is already sold out. Berlin’s street artists protest the gentrification of a neighborhood. N95 effort with left index finger.

Tiny man surfing on top of car, Kastanienallee. Being photographed by a man being photographed by me. You can only see it if you click to enlarge. This is an actual un-retouched photograph from the N95.

Gate, graffiti, ghosts, on Kollwittplatz from the N95.

To save Tempelhof, with added causes and objections. Final N95 image from Berlin for now.

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Top 13 things about Berlin…

Posted in Berlin, Germany by Deputy city editor on October 29, 2007

Unter Den Linden and Friedrichstrasse, circa 1910

A return to Berlin. I first visited this city when it was divided. Then again when it was reunited. And now when it is transformed. All within little more than 20 years. Here are some probably pretty superficial observations on the state of the city in October 2007: Trieze – j’eus un plaisir cruel de m’arrêter sur ce nombre.*

XIII. It is the coolest place in Europe and not just because it is bloody cold and Tom Cruise is filming outside Humbolt University. After the wall came down and it was clear how shabby things had become in the east, it took some time for Berlin to recover. But not that long. Where there were Soviet military convoys, now the place is full of Russians buying Bugattis on Friedrichstrasse. DDR memorabilia is chic and convoys of pink Trabants parade the streets for the tourists.

XII. Rents are maybe a fifth of what they are in London hence it is a paradise for penniless young artists, writers, musicians, and minor league trustafarians, who can comfortably sustain themselves for a month on what it costs to scrape by for a week in UKland. There is so much real estate to be had, and so much development possible, that the politicians and corporations can build their monuments while leaving the neighbourhoods undemolished.

XI. There is a very non-threatening street scene. People are incredibly friendly and nice. There is none of the apparat of the National Security State that envelopes London.

X. The ugliest new building is the aggressive, paranoid British Embassy of James Stirling. The American embassy compound is also hideous. The American installation succeeds in recreating the notorious wall, so segregated is it from the city, so dangerous the beast caged within. Checkpoint Charlie lives!

IX. Everyone speaks some English although often rather superficially. But they are better linguists than the French or British.

VIII. The food is only fair. The chefs have not yet reformed Berlin’s cuisine to London or Paris standards.

VII. The coolest part of this cool city is the old Jewish quarter which is the epicenter of the new gallery/atelier district. The organisation of urban neighborhoods in a city so spacious permits both masses of small parks and also buildings with verdant couryards where children can play in safety.

VI. There are children everywhere.

V. Getting in and out of Berlin is a nightmare because of completely inadequate airports. They are British in their primitiveness. They have finally agreed (after years of British-style wrangling and allegations of corruption) to build a new one (Berlin Brandenberg International) but it will not be ready until 2011. When Tegel and Tempelhof will be closed. Even more space. Once you are in, the public transport is amazing and it is maybe the most bicycle-friendly major city in Europe.

IV. It is all happening on the east side; the Ku-damm and the bright lights of the west all look a bit shabby in comparison.

III. The guys selling the tacky DDR souvenirs have all moved up the Unter Den Linden to the bridge over the Spree. A rat (?) skin hat with a faux Soviet badge costs 25 euros; in white rabbit, maybe 35 euros.

II. The city remains eternally huge. Gigantic construction has made a big dent around the Branbdenberg gate and along the line of the wall to the south but there are still huge prairies.

I. It is only a matter of time (seconds) before Time Magazine has Berlin on the cover and declares it swinging. The transformation of this city has been one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. More so, it has changed from a place greatly sinister to a place where one can develop a real affection for the people and the place. It remains a place of memories but faces the future more convincingly than anywhere else. Ich bin ein Berliner?


*Inspired by Berliner Walter Benjamin, inspired by Proust.