Samstag, 25. Juli 2015

Welcome to Berlin, European Maccabi Games!

 I've been around Olympia Stadium area several times, but never was motivated enough to enter the stadium and eventually take a tour of the place. It is not necessarily because my limited sport knowledge, but because the place in itself did not inspire me. This time, on a rainy Sunday, I finally found a reason to head, together with an impressive amount of people obviously more interested about sport life than will ever be. 
From the train station, brownish brick bridges in the middle of a small forest help us to not get lost. All you have to go is so follow the large path and the big signs.
Breathing the fresh air of the small forest, you may want to get lost and slow down. After all, it is just a peaceful non-working day and nothing can bother my serenity.
But once out of the woods, you are faced with the reality of a different time and kind. The massive construction with the olympic circles hanging between the two pillars was inaugurated on the occasion of the 1936 Summer Olympics that played an important role in the power coreography of Nazi propaganda. Guided or individual tours are available round the week and I am going too through the gates of the entrance. 
The first benchmark: the Southern Stelae for the Olympic Champions. Each stelae is representing a sport represented by the craved image of an athlete in the Greek style with the name of the German winners inscribed on the other side. Among them, Alfred and Gustav Flatow, the two gymnasts of Jewish origin that perished at Terezin. New champions were added after 1945. Since 1997, the Reichsportfeldstrasse nearbz, was named for the Flatow cousins, who won at gymnastic games at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
I did not expect to see such a display of totalitarian art. The discus throwers statue by Karl Albiker is such an example, presenting the new type of man of the Nordic race imagined by the crazy totalitarian regime.
Another example is the Olympic Bell decorated with totalitarian symbols in the front of which many visitors are nonchalantly taking their selfies. It was displayed between 1936-1947, and rededicated in 1982 in the memory of the victims. 
The massive lime stones the stadium and the adjacent buildings are made of creates a certain heavy ambiance where you feel overwhelmed and dimminished.
After the Nazi Olympic games ended, the names of the German winners, but also of the representatives of the German establishment were inscribed in stone. After the war, they were removed. May be erased from the book of life for ever for their evil deeds.... 
The Olympia Stadium complex is covering 1.32 square meters, with a capacity of around 100,000 people. It includes the Maifeld - with a 50,000 people capacity, the Waldbühne amphitheater - 25,000 capacity - as well as facilities for tennis, football, swimming and hockey. This massive horse is another example of totalitarian art, with the animal in a rigid position, completely subordinated to the force of the human. 
The long corridors are empty now, leaving the visitor alone with its thoughts. There is so much negative energy around. Someone coming here to attend a sport event, like one of the sport shows of Hertha BSC whose souvenir shop is situated nearby, will definitely have a different feeling crossing these halls. 
And there is the stadium, one of the biggest I've seen in Europe - not that I dedicate too much travel time to visiting famous stadiums anyway. After being used for a long time during the 1930s and 1940s as a display of totalitarianism, it recovered its glory in 2006, when used regularly for the FIFA World Cup Games. The initial plans and structure were kept, and new modern facilities were added.
In only 3 days, this haunted place will host for the first time the European Maccabi Games 2015 - the Jewish Olympics. The Jewish European sporting championships is held every 4 years in a different European city, with an attendance of around 2,000 Jewish athletes from 37 countries. In a place where the Jewish athletes were banned from attendance and in a country where after 6 million people were killed, later on, in 1972, Jewish sport players were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics, Rabbi Yitshak Ehrenberg will say the kaddish (Jewish prayer for the death) for all the Jewish victims. 
The entrance to the sport competitions is free. 

Mittwoch, 22. Juli 2015

Summer of pop-up stores

It is plenty of pop-up store in the Eastern part of Berlin, but thanks to the creative people from Bikini,also in the West. The temporary fashion spaces are becoming not only places to trade merchandise, but also to offer inspiration and creative energy. Brunnenstrasse 190 is hostign till July 31, Popup Fashion BLN and went this week to have a look around.
The space is big enough to accommodate a lot of people and different kind of tailored products, from evening gowns and glittering rocks to jewellery made practically out of everything.
There is even a Japanese-inspired corner using traditional kimono textures for bags - love them - or caps. The prices are medium to high, the usual average in an area with many cretive hubs and tailored unique fashion.
For the environmental aware, there are home-made Brazilian soaps that look like tempting pieces of chocolate. 
Near by, at no. 195, a different pop-up store is aimed to create no only shopping temptations, but also to bring a piece of Japan to Berlin. Connecter Tokyo Pop-up Store aka. Tokyo meets Berliner is open till the beginning of August.
 I was disappointed because I was expected a bigger space, but still it is enough to exhibit gorgeous dresses with manga motives. The colours are so pleasant and fashionable that I would love to buy them all.
And if I want some pancakes with honey to dress my feet, I know from where I can bring a bit of extravaganza into my life. It is never too late to dramatically change my style and a Japanese pop-up store is the right place to start the rewamping. 

Iranian graffiti at SomoS gallery

Everyone is speaking a lot about Iran today and politics are always on the top of my interest list - equal place with travel - but there are also other things that the Persian culture can offer: the talent of young free minds, and the very tasty food. This Monday, I started my week visiting an interesting graffiti exhibition with works of Iranian artists, at SomoS gallery at Kottbuser Damm. 
When thinking about graffiti, the first thing it comes in mind is the street art, isn't it? This exhibition brought motives and works typical for the street art in the closed space of the exhibition. Local urban symbols and various messages of peace in Persian are part of the graffiti on canvas works. 
The space, hosted at the first floor of a building, was crowded with people, some of them artists themselves keen to offer more details about their work. Images on a musical background are projected on a screen, but unfortunatelly there is not too much to find out about how it really feels to be a graffiti artist in Tehran. Probably many of them already left the country, as I bet it is not that easy to make your free creative way there without freedom risks. 
There are not too many works displayed and wished there are also other events on the same topics organized on that occasion, such as short presentations and open workshops with the artits. SomoS Gallery is an open creative space offering exhibition space to artists, meaning 'we are', in Portuguese.
 The exhibition can be visited till the beginning of August.
This was the first event dedicated to Persian graffiti and hope that Berlin, which hosts many young Iranian artists, will offer even more special similar events. As I was able to see during my short visit at SomoS, there is a huge interest for this part of the creative world and I hope not only for the opportunity offered to the West to make businesses with a very politically incorrect regime. 

Sonntag, 12. Juli 2015

Impressions from the Fashion Week: IT couture in trends

Berlin fashion is always a special way of being. It might not be as glamorous as in Paris or Milan or bold like in New York City, but it has its own branding and can be easily recognized by the knowledgeable eye. With the Fashion Week in the making the last days, I decided to pay attention to something more specific, beyond the usual catwalks presentations (not that I don't like it). My evening journey lead me to the Microsoft Eatery special presetation, the Bikini Berlin pop-up stores and ended up in my favourite shopping place in the West: KaDeWe.
At the Digital Eatery on Unter den Linden, a special experiment was in the making: an exhibition of fashion items inspired by the IT industry. As my last extensive fashion experience covered the green side of the fashion, I was curious to find out what it is about in this case: From the entrance, I was welcomed by necklaces and rings inspired by the neuronal system. Totally unexpected, I may confess.
The aim of the event was to award the best fashion projects inspired by tech. The approach is part of a larger city branding idea labelling Berlin as both an IT and fashion center of the world. In its advantage is playing the (still) affordability and good location as well as the various incentives given by the local authorities. 
As for the host of the evening, the Microsoft Office in Berlin, it shows another example of smart adaptation to the needs of the city. The Digital Eatery - that I visited two years ago, when was a fresh entry in the foodie landscape of the centrre of Berlin - tries to turn into a creative brain-storming venue - an art exhibition inspired by Excel tables will be open soon as well as series of seminaries dedicated to the transatlatic relations. 
The projects nominated covered a lot of medical applications - such as the emergency apparel by Katharina Boedies, featuring a jacket with a button that can help you get the first aid, activity tracker for kids (Dongji), special cloth item aimed to help the patients with dementia (Spur by Julia Danckwerth that received one of the first prizes). The fashionable distance control jacket (in image) by Gabriel Platt is another ingenious combination of practical ideas and fashion: the jacket helps the woman wearing it to prevent a possible attack, by issuing a high voltage wave. 
Fashion-wise, I did find fascinating all the projects combining technology and elegance, such as the warm scarf by ElektroCouture (what you need in Berlin during the long cold winters) or my favourite, the various IT displays from the collection of Veronika Aumann. The other winner of the first prize, Mi.Mu team for gloves for music is another SciFi dream come true: motor bike style half-finger gloves that can control the from short distance various instruments and sounds. More high-tech than fashion, but still incredible in terms of achievement.
The jury deliberation time was filled in with a special music and visual art moment offered by Parasite Single.
After the ceremony was over, I finally had the time and space to have another look over the projects. There are so many smart ideas in the air, but I am still a big fan of classy examples. But if you can add some smart colourful circuits to your elegant night gown, why not?
The next day, I continued the search for new samples of fashion at Bikini Berlin, a shopping destination that I visit quite often. Special preparations were made for the Fashion week too, such as a big wooden skeleton where people can share on post it notes various impressions about fashion.
Most of the shops here are pop-up stores and thus I have always new reasons to pay a visit. This bag made of photo films literally took my breath away. Call it creative feelings.
 What about this beautiful dress, combining Oriental silks with canvas inspiration?
 Or this beautiful pastel paintings of a jacket?
 The pop-up stores abound in samples of creativity, from shape-changing jewellery to various head coverings and lots of dresses.
 If I would have been on a shopping mission, would have had a lot of pain to make the right choice.
There are not only the products displayed who are interesting, but also the entire design setting which is attractive.
The next stop: the KaDeWe, where the lobby is covered in beautiful flowers and stylish dresses. Most of the designers belong to the Made in Berlin brand.
 Out of all the fashion samples I saw in the last days, here is where there are the most wearable options. 
As for now, I am just a visitor and a passionate photographer, trying to catch the grace and elegance for a blog post. The creative brain storm of the last days gave me a lot of inspiration though that I hope to better use one day. 

Sonntag, 5. Juli 2015

Berlin histories: Plötzensee Memorial

One of the first things I do as I either work or live in a new area of a city is to find out interesting places, restaurants as well as special histories. As in the last weeks I started a new job in the Moabit area, that I explored previously but only superficially, it was about time to find out more than the things you can easily reach by foot. Situated in the Charlottenburg district, there is a place called Plötzensee where I arrived relatively easy after a bus ride of around 15 minutes. The first view was the colourful houses from the Kleingarten Saatwinkler Damm colony.
It is a Thursday summer day and many people are outside in the garden either enjoying the sun or taking care of their piece of green land. Alongside small streets with names like Bergweg or Steinweg, you can feel the smell of roses and the view of cherry trees with fruits almost ready to be served. Although surrounded by an industrial landscape, this little paraadise, founded in 1923, encourages serenity and care-free thoughts.
Only ten minutes away of slow walking on Emmy Zehden Road there is nothing but serenity: the high walls of the Plötzensee prison where during the WWII around 3,000 people that opposed Nazism- including Zehden herself - were murdered.
I go through the massive doors bordered by big walls, entering the memorial space, created in the vicinity of the prison, currently in use. 
It reigns the quietness you might expect from a memorial, but there is also something else that makes you feel under pressure because actually the place is still in use. I walk slowly, as I don't want that my presence got noticed, advancing through the gates further in the yard.
The Plötzensee prison was built outside the gates of Berlin from 1868-1878, ad covers around 25 hectares. The red-bricked administration offices nowadays are organised as exhibition spaces, while the church and the infirmary were left to the prison. After 1933, Plötzensee started to be used as a remand prison for political detainees, following the decisions of criminal tribunals and 'the People's Court' created in 1934. After 1939, the German political prisoneers were joined by foreign forced labourers among which also a group of Tatar intellectuals and officers. Another important group was represented by the Czech resistence fighters.
In the memorial courtyard, the ashes of some of the victims in concentration camps were brought in a massive urn. 
The exhibition space is mostly covered in dark, recreating an ambiance of respect for the victims but also awe thinking about those times. There are not too many words to describe it. Prisoners were beheaded bz ax or guilotine brought under strict secrecy. The prisoners who were sentenced to death were housed in the large cell block (House III) directly next to the execution shed. They spent their last hours in shackles in special ground-level cells, 'the house of the dead'. Their last walk was across a small courtyard.
About half of those executed were Germans, most for resistance activities. Among them, the theologian and political thinker Hermann Stöhr, the communists Liselotte Herrmann and Galina Romanova, many members of the Red Orchestra secret organisation as well as those involved in the attempted coup of July 20, 1944.
The memory of the victims is reminded in short stories, in both English and German. The entrance is free of charge. 
I slowly left the place with a heavy heart, while planning to update my knowledge about the resistance movements in Germany, especially outside Berlin. The quietness followed me, but was getting less heavy, especially upon reaching the other side of the street, with the view over the river.
The quietness of bad memories was replaced by the rays of lights. At a big extent, the lesson of the day was that despite the overwhelming darkness, ther were people trying to bring back the light and they paid with their lives. Their actions made a difference in a sea of deadly indifference.