Golden dots, whether stars or street lights, buzzed in the black sky overhead, a candlelight halo glimmering about each one. We stayed in the city for four days, each charged with that same electricity as when we first arrived. We toured several neighborhoods – from historical Mitte to eclectic Kreuzberg – walking or using public transportation to get around the city, reveling in both street art and storied artifacts, and adopting the magnetic energy of the locals.
We exited the S-Bahn at Hackescher Markt and wandered the nearby streets in no particular direction until an alley with rows of rainbow-colored pennant flags hanging parallel to the arched entrance demanded our attention. Layers upon layers of paintings and hand-drawn posters lined the brick and concrete buildings to the left and the barrier wall to the right. Each bore its own message: from the absurd (“happy hour at the hypnotist”) to the political (“picketing for a better future”) to the ironic (“hedonist” printed above five suited-men paired with “do you want to dance to another planet?”). They were stunning.
The alley off of Rosenthaler Strasse, adorned with picnic tables, bikes, and Vespas, had a quiet energy on that rainy morning, beat-driven music throbbing against the steel doors and leaping into the corridor during smoke-breaks, swift and vibrant. It swelled behind the concrete facades, waiting to come alive on sunlit afternoons and obsidian nights.
After days of traditional German food (Sophieneck, Curry36, et al.), we elected to walk down the Spree to Kreuzberg and the famed Burgermeister, a green-and-white open-air restaurant that sits directly under U-Bahn train tracks in what used to be a public restroom. It is standing-only, though there are curved pipes that can be used as seats at a few of the tables. J inhaled the meisterburger – a hearty burger with fried onions, bacon, and smothered in mustard and barbecue sauce while I indulged in the tofu-burger (complete with mango-curry sauce) and cheese fries, all washed down with a true-sugar bottle of coke (sugarcane versus artificial sugar). The food was delicious (and cheap), but the ambiance alone made it one of our favorite stops in Berlin.
East Side Gallery, a several-blocks-long remnant of the Berlin Wall, blended historical significance, current alternative art, and the advancements of future generations. Promising words and thought-provoking images by artists around the globe (and the occasional egregiously misplaced street tag) covered the concrete barrier along the Spree, not a portion of grey remaining. The structure, though not to everyone’s artistic sensibilities, carried more emotional weight than its “section” counterparts throughout the city. Created in the aftermath of the Wall’s destruction, the art was wrought with passion; some messages were scathing, some were uplifting, some were vengeful, some were demanding, some were thankful, some were conspiring. They were all worth feeling, even for the briefest of moments and through someone else’s experience.
-M. Ray Hall