Donnerstag, 22. Mai 2014

At the Comic Messe

At the end of April, the comics, so popular in Berlin, were celebrated with different events and fairs held in various locations all over the city. As usual, I rather preferred to cover my side of the city, taking part to the Comic Fair held at the elegant Ellington Hotel close to the KaDeWe. It lasted for six hours and was attended by an impressive number of people, most of them with a clear aim in mind: to find out new collections and complete their current ones. 
The decorations were made in the pure 'Eastern' style so the location did not matter too much once you entered the location and paid your ticket. As I was looking around, I noticed that there were more adults than children, with the same curious eyes when it comes to browsing the offers put on sale.
Most of the publications were old ones, in German. The prices were more than affordable for the casual collection, with significant discount if interested in more. By special request, I bought a couple of old Garfield issues - end of the 1980s - for less than 3 Euro. 
But there was a special section too, without too many visitors anyway, selling collection comics. The price for a 1984 Garfield drawing was 1,790 Euro and a George Harriman Crazy Cat drawing from 1922 nothing less than 15,800. 
As in the case of Manga events I attended recently at the Leipzig Book Fair, my favourite part of attending such events is watching authors drawing live and there were many such tables where authors were making their happy job under the curious and some jealous eyes of the visitors. 
It took me a long time to accept comics into my intellectual life, but I must say that I took the right decision, as there is another way to express feelings and imagination, but I also dare to say a kind of literary style. Matching words with images can be as difficult as setting up a documentary, and this comparison helped me to understand the richness of this genre. I left the fair with some interesting comics from Carlsen Edition House, about politics and history, that will keep me entertained for sure this probably sunny Sunday. 

Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2014

The Memorial to the Homosexual Victims of National Socialism

When you go from Brandenburg Gate to Potsdamer Platz, after you pass near the Holocaust Memorial on the left side you will find at the entrance of an alley in Tiergarden a black cubicle with a small window. It is the Memorial to the Homosexual Victims of National Socialism. 
After several discussions and not less controversies, the memorial was unveiled on 27 May 2008. Designed by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, it is the third of this kind in Germany - the others two being located in Cologne and Frankfurt. Inside the black concrete cubicle, there is a movie with 2 kissing men that can be watched free of charge through a small window, that goes on and on 24/7. 
The gay people were not given justice after the end of the war, and the Paragraph 175 condemning homosexual relations was finally eliminated from the Penal Code only in 1994. On 17 May 2002, the German Bundestag resolves to rehabilitate all those who fell victim of the section 175 of the German Criminal Code during the national-socialist regime. 

Dienstag, 13. Mai 2014

Foodie Berlin: Pan Asian Kitchen

I am craving very often for Asian food, but still haven't found what I am looking for, especially when it comes to some specific dishes I am so much in love with - like pad thai, for instance. One of the last weeks, I was wandering around Zoo, hoping to discover a place to recommend for the exquisite cuisine. As any menu seemed to be very far from my requirements, the journalistic side won and decided to explore a new place full stop. Rolled the dices and entered the Pan Asian Kitchen a relatively new place on Ansbacher Strasse. It looks very youngish, with colourful decorations matching the bowls with fruits. 
It does not look as a big investment in design, but looks friendly, a good choice for Sunday brunch of families with children or for tourists tired and hungry after long walking around the Zoo. The service is friendly and very fast and we were able to order, enjoy the food and leave in less than 50 minutes.
 We started with a green tea, a healthy addiction I acquired during my Japanese time.
We started the meal with a delicious salad, with an unexpected and unique for me combination of veggies: edamame and waterchestnuts, plus tomatoes, soya sprouts and different types of cabages. Light, an impressive portion for one person and brings back the good energy.
Unaware of the size of the dishes, we ordered a (huge) portion of veggy noodles too.Compared to the usual wok experiences, it did not have too much oil, but for a second meal, it was obviously too much. At the end of the feast, we are treated with a small bowl of fresh fruits just not too feel too guilty after so much eating. The prices are moderate, and this first experience was friendly enough to give a chance to a second meal here. 

Dienstag, 6. Mai 2014

25 Years without the Berlin Wall: the Palace of Tears

25 years after the fall of the Wall, the memory and memories of the Berlin are still alive, not only in the daily encounters with the architecture and the remnants of the wall. Many still have fresh memories about the lost relatives and the precarious life during the DDR or about the desperate attempts to risk the most precious asset, the life, for a minute of freedom on the other side. Near Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station, an exhibition reminds the everyday experience at the border, recreating the former border point, the so-called 'Palace of Tears'.
Because very often, those who were leaving the freedom to return to their country-prison were having tears in their eyes. Not necessarily the economic and social comfort were they missing, but going through the humiliation of permanent surveillance and ideological brainwashing and the daily hardships was not the kind of life to dream about - even though there is still a 'romantic' nostalgia about the so-called 'golden times' of the DDR - the 'Ostalgia'.
The 'Palace of Tears' was created in 1962, shortly after the building of the Wall. Following the end of the war, the city of Berlin was split into four zones: French, British, American - on the West side - and Soviet - on the Eastern side. Friedrichstrasse was one of the most important border crossing point.
The exhibition, that can be visited for free, presents various materials testimonies describing the ambiance of the crossing point. The opening of the border is illustrated by news aired in the local media at the time. In the communist Berlin, the authorities were joyously announcing the event as an opportunity offered to the citizens from the Western part of the city to see the socialist realities. In the good style of the communist denial language, they were forgetting to mention that before the decision of erecting the Wall was taken, more than 100 people were leaving daily the DDR. 
Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station was several times rebuilt since its inauguration at the end of the 19th century, and was considered as an important junction of the transportation system of Berlin. By 1884, more than 300 local trains stopped here every day. After the construction of the Wall, many subway stops turned into 'ghost stations', because impossible to use as there were part of the new security situation.
Nowadays, all the objects and images are part of the history, but at the time, there were representing a painful past and impossible freedom dreams. Another reason why I liked the exhibition was for personal histories of the people who were successful to start a new life on the other side of the border. Not all of them moved to the Federal Republic, as there were few that decided to follow the communist dream and relocated in the DDR. 
The visitor can also have a look at the way in which the border control functioned, with a short introduction into the special training and identification tips of the people working in such a sensitive job.
The communist authorities used the short-term visits to gather hundreds of thousand of personal data about citizens of West Berlin. From time to time, they were also sending their famous STASI spies under cover in the West.
Before being free to start their day on the West or Eastern side of the city, strict controls were made through the luggage of the citizens. Especially books and topics that might put in danger the socialist credo were sought after and, if found, confiscated. Many Eastern citizens were happy to bring back home from the West some good coffee or chocolate. 
Another fascinating section of the exhibition presents the last days and hours of the Wall. While the country was taken over by peaceful protests, the official TV was talking for hours about the extraordinary prodigies of the Democratic Republic. 
No one really knew for sure when the Wall - whose construction was qualified by the German chancellor Willy Brandt as 'illegal' and 'inhuman' -  will turn into a historical episode introduced at exhibitions or scholarly conferences. But looking back at those times, with wise distance, I am grateful for living in the times when I can move freely in the city, without my bag being searched out for 'subversive' books.