part 1 - march
by the time 'landslide' followed 'fade into you' there had been too many beers, rose wine, fizzy vodka shots, bloody marys, underberg, and whatever else you've forgotten. wished you'd forgotten. definitely it was time to leave. even the clocks had lost track of time. and suddenly a comforting and all encompassing calm, two songs to gently kiss away the night. but the sky was pale. we were too late. only the apartment could magically return the night, and with rainbow fingers i fell asleep and dreamt of water.
that song will echo through the whole weekend. silently like sebastian.
jølle had rung me halfway through breakfast, what would otherwise have been about a fifth. there's a complicated problem and it involves his passport being locked inside the instrument vault in studenterhuset. this is a reoccuring theme with us, the student house shines bright across the landscape of our incompetences. but all is fixed with a little convolution. we even reach the train station, our original meeting point, at the exact time we'd planned. and as we approach the busstop the coach pulls in besides us. this is an auspicious start.
the eight hour trip passes easily. thanks in part to the ferry. plus because we're awesome. and soon i'm walking into a soon-to-be crowded kitchen and being handed a beer. i sit down and begin peeling potatoes. welcome to berlin.
dinner was twelve or more of us sitting around the ugliest glass table. i ruined the german-ness by buying myself a pizza in anticipation of the authentic schnitzel cuisine. but it was the perfect meal. boiled potatoes. tinned peas and carrots, cooked with extra sugar and fat dollops of butter. and only in germany, maybe america, could you then pour bearnaise sauce over the whole thing
i'm given a plaster across my chin, lied to about its purpose, but that's ok. i paint my own nails. drink other people's alcohol. get dragged through the beautiful ugly berlin streets. the music was both good and terrible. except we talked through the good and danced through the bad. i should hate berlin for ruining my record of having never danced to pearl jam. but once the wheelchair guy had rolled onto the dancefloor to join us there was no way i could leave. no matter how much still alive eddie vedder was.
but i can't sleep in the dark when i know it's light. i find it easier to sleep in the cold kitchen, dominated by the ticking click clack of the clock and left in ruins by the previous nights activities. i slept another hour maybe before starting to clean up. what else to do at 1pm? drink some tea, take a shower amongst hundreds of tiny liquer bottles. another two hours and maybe the boys wake up. fresh buns are baked. the neighbour comes over and makes us pancakes. we spend a good hour eating and soon it's 5pm. i'm going to start crying if we don't get outside. it's new and exciting and 14c out.
so our evening is spent almost exclusively on and around danziger strasse. complaining about shit tourist shops. talking to a fascist hippy. drinking coffee with the worst view in the whole of berlin. moving on to the club mate and karamalz before forming a solid theme for the night - bar sports.
we start with table football, get dragged through pool, and end the night with table tennis at the unique and incredible dr.pong. i had surprised myself by being quite good at foosball, but the pay back came in the shape of a ping pong paddle. i have never sucked so bad, repeatedly going out first round after first round. i was stuck and no amount of beer or club mate could save me.
perhaps dr.pong requires an explanation, as much as any beautifully simple idea ever does. everyone who wants to play has a paddle and everyone rotates around the table, twenty or forty people. if you mess up on your turn you're out. the last two people play to five points, then knock on the table and the next round begins. everyone jumps up and starts again. it's plain and unpretentious to the point that it would never work in copenhagen. concrete walls, undecorated and graffiti free, flourescent tube lighting, thin fabric roughly hanging over the windows. the only indication from outside that it's a bar at all is a message scrawled across the window in black marker pen asking people to not bring in their own beers. the decor is fabulously shitty. i have so much love.
sleeping through the rain. hiding a sense of loss. morning hummus. i think that's what i wrote. humour? human? humm?
and then suddenly the sun is warming you through the coach window. it's quiet and subdued. familiar faces. majestic windmills towering over the trees. yearning for a sea breeze. nails still all colours. eggnog ritter sport. this time yesterday our host hadn't even gone to bed yet. it must be around 1pm. and i don't want to go back to denmark. not quite yet.
berlin has been truly beautiful. everyone we've met has been unexceptionally lovely. the only asshole we met was that capitalist hippy at the army surplus store, and fuck him. but if you ask me what i've seen in berlin there's nothing i could tell you. i saw someone who reminded me of you. his/her eyes were beautiful when they were drunk. i saw kitchen walls for five or six hours a day. i didn't see the inside of my eyelids nearly enough. but a city is not its tourist attractions. it's the 1kg of wholesome falafal you eat for breakfast at 5pm on a sunday evening. perhaps with halloumi. it's every single stranger who gives you a drink. it's all these little lucid moments.
so there's no story to tell. more like a story of telling stories. am i really supposed to be able to remember? the blur of pocket coffee and caffinated water. my beautiful headdress. the largest thing you could possible hide in a city, a beast of a russian memorial. an abandoned theme park which you can't break into at 4pm on a saturday, but you can still see the dinosaurs at least:
still in berlin, back home (it was already feeling like home) there are more guests and i can slowly begin to wake up. vodka revival. underberg, jagermeister, blood orange vodka, another 2cl bottle of herby caramel coloured liquid. probably definitely alcoholic. my sleater kinney fix. and i'm ready for the night, with that sickly pink cocktail i'd thrown together and dragged out the door.
2am and drinking liquid sunset. should have left it with the strangers on the train. maybe we did. and then the club. the club.
we skip the queue like rockstars. it's a rabbit hole into eyes wide shut. a mansion of debauchery with an ever shifting layout. two seconds in the door and i'm lost. and for the first hour i have zero orientation. through room after room with no consistency to hold onto. up a ladder, along a balcony, narrow stairs, large staircase, around the corner, a bedroom, a living room, everywhere a dance floor. antique furniture. bricked up furnaces belting out heat. i'm in awe and i couldn't even tell you what floor i'm on anymore. a voice keeps telling me not to lose sight of jølle or lene, because if i do i'll never see them again. but then i'm in the toilets and someone is wretching into the urinal. it's not me. or i'm being dragged onto the stage, me and lene, surrounded by drag queens. comfortable in my ignorance. running away and drinking club mate. time seems to bend with the twisted floor plan. so that when we finally leave the club, thirty minutes after entering, it's into morning sunshine. there's still people queueing to get in. our friend's shift starts at 9am.
things become clearer with the fresh air. we sit on the river bank and watch the morning drizzle dapple the water's surface. plips and ripples endlessly expanding and bisecting. there's a guy walking along the riveside with a plastic snake, orange and black. apparently we've met before.
i need to write everything down, clutching onto whatever i can remember as it all slips away in the void between the then and now. intermittently someone new enters the kitchen and i lose another five minutes. but i'm chuckling to myself in my sleep. at the absurdity of the previous evening and the fantasy-esque qualities that my memories have left it with. that and dr.pong. and jølle, of course.
part 2 - july
now returning to denmark on the ferry, in red pen, after waiting maybe an hour at the dock in the hot sun. i'm exhausted, but not (this time) from an excess of pretty much everything, but instead a terrible nights sleep in a hot room. dehydrated and dizzy. the buzzing fan like an infinite stream of raindrops outside. longing for something cold and wet but unable to do anything about it. not being over dramatic or anything. just sticky and waiting for morning.
so we arrived in berlin at 5:45pm on the 24th. this much is precise. it was a saturday. also july and 2010. we rolled our way to hauptbahnhof and met the canadians, triumphant tourists in their straw hats. then to greifswalder and our hosts apartment. just like that. easy.
we dropped luggage. said hello. walked in one direction or another somewhere towards town. in search of falafel with halloumi, of couse. potato and mint and slightly lemony. washed down with the first bottle of clubmate.
nearer home we bought a crate of beer, jagermeister, and tiny bottles of german liquor. we are doing it properly this tourist thing. we listen to bonaparte and chicks on speed. we wait for it to become early enough to jump a tram and play some dr.pong. you know this story, but tonight i have a certain rhythm and we leave happy. buying more beer from a kiosk, more clubmate, go in search of another bar. we find a few, but we also realise we don't really need a bar anymore. we have a street beers, and that's enough for the night.
soon enough we're frying up eggs in too much oil with vege frankfurters. we've got beans heating in a pan. it's a beautiful berlin sunday morning with fresh bread from the bakery. fresh bread with a crust like bark.
sunday is the day for flee markets. busy and incomprehensibly huge, just as we think we've reached the edge of it another area opens up. another street packed with old junk. cameras, toys, jewellery, tshirts, dentist tools carefull laid out across velvet, old slides, bike parts, paintings. the smells of food from all over the world. noodles with tofu, spinach and cheese pancakes, fresh orange juice. vats of ayran. of course we buy nothing but food. where would you even begin?
after the karaoke we drift towards the centre of belin. walking or cycling. enjoying the rain. everywhere the smell of waffles. all these cafes and restaurants i can't believe we're not going in. matcha icecream. our vague destination is a huge squatted building with a backyard full of art galleries and open air bars. drinking black cherry and banana juice.
we walk some more, more central, into commerciality. chainstores leading to the brandenburg gate, a piece of history that doesn't particularly impress me (sorry). around the corner is the holocaust memorial, all these stones of various heights and straightness. an undulating floor. it invites play, exploration and games. it absorbs all sounds of the city and suddenly you're somewhere else and lost. your friends are probably just two concrete blocks away but you might never see them again. the memorial is incredible, but just too much fun. it made me happy, jumping from stone to stone. i can't apologise for that.
we subway home. order in pizza. have a eurovision party late into the night. ouzo with icecube. much fun.
monday was our designated tourist day, starting with the ritter sport store where we didn't make our own bar, and the lush store where we got awesome free stuff. walked around the reichstag, raced through the tiergarten, lovely places. we all wanted to see checkpoint charlie, which does go to explain the whole wall thing, but does bad because it's mostly just a tourist beach now. saw some of the wall still standing. then to the east gallery, a 1.3km painted stretch of wall. impressive and periodically amazing.
went home. cooked dinner, pasta and sauce with salad and a second crate of beer. underberg. we sat around talking before watching a terrible film and then trying to sleep.
that's back to now, where i have to remember what i've forgotten and fill in the generic boring linear blah with interesting details. some character. like the high-energy ticket collector who jumped on the train one time that we did have tickets. it was sort of a shame, because he looked like he'd pull a fun on anyone without. that would have been an experience. but nevermind. next time.