Dienstag, 31. Mai 2011

Exploring Tacheles

I've been at Tacheles several times but always in the outside garden. One night, last year, while introducing the city to a friend of mine, I took part to a kind of juggling with fire performance. Other night, there were simply people moving around singing or dancing in the sand. I never dared to visit the building in itself and wasn't too much interested either. After two years of experimental arts, I learned to limit my time spent watching various creative exercises. 

But today, I was there around lunch time and saw a lot of people coming and going. And, not so strict regarding the artistic criteria, I entered the building. For the first time in my life.

Only after the first two floors I was able to get used with the smell. A mixture of odors of old building, public toilet, cigarettes, garbage. The attention to various smells was distracted by various musics coming from the artists' room. According to various evaluations, here are hosted approximatively 30 studios, with almost 300 artists involved in various activities.
Artists don't want to give up
You can find almost everything you could like about arts: photography, jeweleries, illustrators, painters, movies...Many artists are allowing the visitors - in a big number and of all ages - to take part to their creative activities. They are working and creating - not without a bit of exhibitionism - while people are taking pictures, looking around, buying stuffs or making comments about what do they see. 

Call for action

The entry to Babel

Learn how to read the walls
As in many other places in Berlin, reading the walls could be an interesting activity. Various drawings and messages are superposing, in a Babel of voices, colours and intentions. Political messages, collages, stencils, simple and child-like drawings, aggressive colours. You don't recognize the artist's hand and the trace of the homeless who spent a night or two here. Your eyes are getting used little by little with the walls' alphabet. 

Watch your steps

Graffiti effect

Filling the void with colours and letters

One of the shops

Political support for Khdorkovsky

Artist at work

Old and new in the yard

Graffiti and ad-hoc installations
In Yiddish, Tacheles means 'straight talking'. Former department store built at the beginning of 20th century, situated in the Jewish quarter, and a former Nazi prison it become an attraction point for artists in the 80s when they occupied the building as a protest against its demolition. Since then, the danger of extinction was waved several times, and the issue was solved for medium term each time. The danger persisted and the situation continues to be complicated, mostly given the financial difficulties of the owners. On the other hand, the newest problem on the agenda is a wall obstructing the accesss to the yard, a consequence of real estate plans in the immediate neighborhoud. The artists and their supporters promise to continue the fight.
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A short visit at FriedrichstadtPalast

In the late 80s, in the communist craziness of the country I've been born too, the New Year's Eve show used to include a couple of minutes of shows from our GDR's friends. The semi-naked ladies from FriedrichstadtPalast - a copy, probably of the capitalist Place Pigalle shows - were the best of entertainment we got. 

When I visited Berlin I found the location, situated in the Mitte, but very close to Friedrichstrasse, very ugly and grey. Not a good example of smart architecture and elegance. As I am not interested in revue theater, I never entered the building since today, when I saw an announcement of a free exhibition about the history of the place and of Berlin's theatre quarter. I don't know if it's something new or it used to be there for years and I didn't see it since now. 

So, why not, as long as I was carrying the camera with me...While I stay there, probably 20 minutes, there were many tourists coming and going, kindly oriented by a smiling guy waiting in the lobby. Given my previous experiences with photographying in various spaces, I asked him permission to take pictures and he allowed me very naturally to do it. 

What I learned new from this exhibition?

 It is not too much to see: left and right side of the entrance, you have a couple of small screens displaying images from the history of the Palast, with various explanations in German about the various historical episodes: the location of a former circus, turned into an important revue theater. Closed after the war, it functioned only as an ensemble until the official opening of the current building, in 1984. 

Now, it's positioned as a Broadway-like theatre, with the biggest stage of the world of 2,854 sqm.  

You can read the names of those who performed here. The old massive pieces are parts of the original building saved after the end of the War. Almost a most in many historical exhibitions about buildings in Berlin. 

The red carpet

Cold War architecture


I found interesting the little map with the various theatre from the quarter, some of them not re-opened after the end of the war: Alte Komische Oper, Berliner Ensemble, Kleines Theater, Berliner Theatre, Apollo-Theater. 

You can admire here the famous shows - YMA is the newest production - and during Berlinale here are hosted some of the projections included in the festival's program. I was not impressed at all by the interior design and even found some of the light arrangements extremely kitsch. 

But, if I would have the possibility to go to see a show once, I will definitely say 'yes'. Curiosity beats it all.

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Berlin's boulevard of dreams

The Economist about Ku'damm.

Speedy lunch at Dada Falafel

I've heard and read many times about Dada Falafel but given my high reluctance against reading and going to fancy popular places, I avoided a first hand contact with this place. But as today I was a bit without inspiration and fighting the hot hot weather - a situation available two hours ago as now a not-so-nice rain it's about to start - and in the area, I decided to give a try to this resto. The name is referring to two places: the falafel, fast-food location and the bar/gallery. Both are available with places outside. 

As I was hungry, I tried the Falafel option. The decorum is the usually creative at the limit of kitsch, with some classical elements kept probably from the old building and some colourful hype details. The service is nice although you made the order in between two cell conversations and you should ask them four times after if they understood your wishes.

The prices are good to very good - meaning that for 7 Euro you can eat and drink. If you don't want a sandwich, for the plate options, you are served with a lipia. 

My choice: a halumi plate, with cucumber and salad (although the problem with the Spanish cucumber I took the risk), mustard (very spicey), hummus (not enough, only a trace of). The halumi was a bit too fried, but in combination with the various dips, was tasty and soft enough for such a Tuesday. They have also some sweets - baklava, for example - and I saw on the bar side some mint-based drinks. 

The final decision: the next time when I'm in the area I will try other restaurants, or I will have a look at the funny French place - Nord-Sud

Dear Edeka management,

did you checked recently - the last three months, at least - the level of happiness, optimism and enthusiasm of your employees? I know that client service might be problematic sometimes here, but I am very happy with the services offered by your company: cheap, clean, nice locations, nice people. Or, in the light of the latest experiences, I used to be happy with your services, until the last 7 minutes spent at EDEKA Friedrichstrasse, just at the basement of the famous S-Bahn station. 
Tuesday not so-late-afternoon, around 3pm, many people, but not continuum flux. Quiet people - from time to time, at this very circulated railway station you can observe or interact against your will with various sorts of craziness - and...two ladies at the paying counter. One was looking so sour that I immediately decided to delicately move to the other waiting line. My happiness lasted only a couple of seconds - maybe three: the other lady looked angry at me, but I thought I was wrong - too hot outside and a lot of thought in my mind. And after finishing with the other two persons before me, she checked my products - a new juice - called vivaris, with yogurt taste, not an excellent choice at all and some toast and announced me how much do I have to pay: 2.03 Euro. Not a friendly voice at all. The second checking: something is wrong with this lady, for sure. But I continued to smile, grab some small change from my purse and gave to her. "I said 2.03. Here is only 1.03". The last 03 was told with a tone and half higher than the usual politeness rules. It took me a couple of seconds to realize where I was. For the first time in the last two years, I was facing this rude behavior. Answered her in German, as aggressively polite as possible that it's fine, I will gave her the missing 1 Euro and that she doesn't have to get worry at all about the final payment. Gave her the change, smiled and wished ironically 'Good luck' and left. As I was living, she was displaying a kind of grinny smile.
In conclusion, dear EDEKA management, do something for changing this situation. I am going quite often to buy stuff from this EDEKA shop and I'm afraid to face the two iron ladies again...Something should be done: a retreat, coaching, smiling sessions, higher salaries... 

Montag, 30. Mai 2011

Varia from Berlin

What I missed during the week-end: 
- the celebrations from Ku'damm. I'd heard the fireworks Friday evening and I had a look Saturday evening from Olivaer Platz to Zoo, admiring the exhibition of old cars, drinking Coke for free and looking at the electric cars exhibited by Peugeot - an interesting and not such an expensive idea. During the week-end - and on other week-ends to come - the circulation was deviated adding another funny drop of chaos to the overall changes taking place (this year, again) on various U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines.
- about the long night of science lovers I don't have any feed-back...Another year when I missed completely these events...
- apparently (male) people are taking very seriously the Dad's day - June 2nd - and I've been told at least twice but respectable pater familia that this is an important event - spent, some (female) people told me, by long beer sessions. 
- Thursday is another religious day, shops will be closed and schools out for a long w/e...

The summer is smiling to Berlin and I wish I am more outdoors!

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Old style restroom

Maybe some of my readers would object that writing about restrooms it's not such a high-intellectual topic. Wow. This is a simple blog written in various breaks from various trips and working and hectic projects where I want to enjoy freely my thoughts and a quality writing time. It's not about academic opportunities or  elitist approaches, as I have other playgrounds to juggle with such attractions.
When you are travelling or spending hours outside - this is the case now, when the summer blushed unexpectedly, with 30C today and 30+1C expected tomorrow - you will feel your physical limitations. As a tourist or a chilling-out citizen, you need...a restroom. And one good thing about Berlin is that you not only will find one such a "resting" place, but you can enter them without too many risks. I never visited such place during the night...
Public restrooms are most part of them free and - whatever the age or the design, the big majority are clean and safe. In the big shopping malls, you should pay a modic price - less than 1 euro - but it's normal to be thankful for the services you are offered.
The public restroom from the picture is near Rüdesheimer Platz, looks very old style - beginning of the 20th century - but inside is very clean and modern. It's worthy an exploration.  
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The colourful buildings from Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg

Berlin is a city which faced so many historical and social problems that it's a wonder how it survived successfully. Although I will never take the decision to live in the Eastern part of the town, I can't stop appreciating the imagination of the young and creative people that are very often challenging the former communist greys with a rainbow of colours and non-sensical drawings.
Pictures from Kreutzigerstrasse...
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Dienstag, 24. Mai 2011

Jewish Film Festival Berlin

and Potsdam...More or less new movies, most part of them high-class category, with many interesting documentaries. If I will not write too much in the next week, you know where I am...
For Berlin, the events are held, as usual, at Kino Arsenal.

Potsdamer Platz

Freitag, 20. Mai 2011

Pigeons at Alexanderplatz

The feathered guys below enjoyed a nice busy Friday flying around those waiting for their trains, or simply watching them. Apparently, as the needles proove, the birds are usual guests at this train station.