The street art here is out of this world! There is the standard tagging I see in any urban environment, but there are also serious pieces that can be considered works of art. From intricate murals covering entire buildings to cartoon characters decorating garbage bins, the street art in Berlin is all about self-expression. See for yourself:
Since most, if not all, stores are closed on Sundays, we trooped off to the flohmärkte (flea markets) in Prenzlauerberg.
First stop was Arkonaplatz for the “cozy” market. It was absolutely packed! Couples were carting away newly bought tables, pre-teens were sporting thrifted leather satchels, and families were examining housewares. Noteworthy sights: booth selling large letters, DDR stamps, piles of random jewelry that was mostly junk (think broken watch faces, earrings without pairs, etc.), a table selling the most wonderful but terribly expensive art and drafting supplies, art prints, and many more sights! I bought a bookmark with 2 DDR stamps from a self-proclaimed “artist.” Then it was off to the Mauerpark flohmarkt!
They should rename the Mauerpark Flohmarkt to the Monsterpark Flohmarkt. It. Was. A. Beast. The market was enormous and so much more packed than Arkonaplatz. Stephen and I tried to walk around the whole thing—sometimes slowly shuffling in single file lines to squeeze through some parts with the crowds—and we barely scratched the surface.
Stephen spent a long time searching a pile of mismatched leather gloves, but it was worth it for a 10 euro pair.
Stephen was also especially excited to find an entire booth dedicated to not only normal Legos, but also Star Wars and Lord of the Rings themed Legos.
Here we are sporting our finds: Stephen with one of his leather gloves and me with 2 prints from a photographer that had the most stunning colors for a film camera.
After eating 2 euro bratwursts in the flohmarkt biergarten, we followed the sound of music and cheering to the park part. There was a karaoke/music festival going on in the amphitheater. The seating area was overflowing with probably 2,000+ people in front of a concert stage upon which you could sing karaoke with a live-band. It was fantastic! They also played all American songs, surprisingly. We sang along with the entire crowd as we watched singers of all ages—and of all levels of talent—take the stage.
Stephen and I broke off from the group to explore the part of the Wall bordering/splitting the park. We watched a couple of street artists spray paint the afternoon away.
We enjoyed the view from the crest of the hill, looking down on the karaoke/festival and the flea market. I love the feel-good vibes from so many people in one place enjoying the same thing under the sun. It was a Sunday well-spent!
Our study of world cinema continues in Berlin! We have class every morning for two hours and nightly film screenings, with Fridays free for travel. The classroom is an enjoyable ten-minute stroll from our hostel and does double duty as an architecture studio during the rest of the year. There were many familiar projects around the room such as cork board models, plans, sections, and abstraction exercises.
My favorite hidden gem was a piece of paper addressing the US system of measurement: “From an European point of view, the U.S. unit system seems quite complicated and impractical. The difficulty comes mainly from the fact, that larger units seem to be an arbitrary multiple of the next smaller unit. For example, 3 feet equal 1 yard, 1 foot equals 12 inches, so 1 yard equals 36 inches.” I obviously understand the US measurement system, but it does indeed sound baffling when described in a statement like that.
1. Looking out the window of that dreamy architecture studio
2. Waiting for class to start
I have been learning a great deal in class, especially since I have never actually taken a film course. (Does a freshman seminar on zombie movies count?) The first half of the class in Locarno discussed film festivals’ role in European and world cinema, art cinema versus Hollywood, auteurist cinema versus studio cinema, and audience demographics. The second half in Berlin is taking a closer look at (trans)national cinema, European films’ depiction of migration, film as an institution in terms of financing and subsidies, historical/heritage films, and the ever-changing film industry as a whole. Although film is very different from landscape architecture, I have already found inspiration in both this film class and the city of Berlin that I can’t wait to apply to my future LDA courses!
3. Guest film producer (left), Florian Koerner von Gustorf, who produced Yella (one of the films we watched) and our professor Jaimey Fisher (right)
4-5. Skyping with Ying Liang, director of When Night Falls which won third place at the Locarno Film Festival last year
6-7. Working on our film analysis papers in the hostel lounge
Here is the filmography for this class:
Lives of Others*
Wings of Desire
The Celebration (Festen)
When Night Falls
In the Mood for Love
(* = my personal favorites)
I definitely recommend all of them. Just don’t watch them alone, for the films will leave you wanting to talk about them with a friend or two!
During our time here in Berlin, we are calling Schöneberg home. Schöneberg is to Berlin as Brooklyn is to New York City or Berkeley is to San Francisco. We are still in the city, but in a quieter area that is a fifteen-minute metro ride from the center.
From what I’ve seen, this neighborhood is very livable. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and places for children to play. There is a plaza and kinderspielplatz (playground) down the block. It is at the intersection of two streets, but the area is cordoned off from vehicles. Parents sip coffee and read the newspaper outside of the cafés while their kids ride skateboards or run around after each other. It’s just one example out of many that shows what a pleasant place Schöneberg is!
Here is a description of Schöneberg that I found online that may be more informative than I can be: https://www.airbnb.com/locations/berlin/schoneberg
Fun facts about Schöneberg:
- JFK gave his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” at Rathaus Schöneberg, the borough’s city hall
- KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) is located here. It is an extremely posh department store—the largest in Europe—that is the German equivalent of Harrod’s or Bloomingdale’s.
- Marlene Dietrich, Germany’s “Blue Angel,” was born in Schöneberg, as well as buried here.
- The Brothers Grimm are buried in a cemetery a few blocks away from our hostel.
And now for pictures!
1. Inside the lobby of our trendy hostel with the study abroad group
2. The exterior of the youth hostel (“jugendhotel”)
Way Back When
6. Where the old meets the new. (There was a plaque mentioning something about the People’s Court and the trials related to the assassination plot of Hitler. I’m not sure of the details since it was all in German.)
7. The nondescript tombstones of the Brothers Grimm.
Surprisingly, the first neighborhood we explored was not the one in which we are staying. Instead, our first adventure with the rest of the study abroad group was to the neighborhood of Prenzlauerberg to check out the city’s oldest currywurst stand and oldest beer garden.
The currywurst stand was called Konnopke’s and was located underneath the U-Bahn tracks. Currywurst is considered Berliner food fare, good for cheap, quick food on-the-go. According to our tour guide from our first day, it was invented when a soldier returned home from the war as a POW in an American camp. He kept telling his wife about this amazing meal he had there called barbecued ribs. It was tangy, sweet, and full of flavor. Wanting to recreate this meal, his wife took a sausage and added ketchup for the sweet flavor then curry powder for the spicy. And thus, currywurst was born. (Supposedly.) It was a fun dish to try, although I don’t think I will be eating it regularly.
Next, we walked to a place called Pratergarten, which was a scenic beer garden in a grove of chestnut trees. There were cheerful red and yellow tables, as well as festive twinkle lights hanging between trees. We enjoyed a round of German beer in the afternoon sun and made lists for what we wanted to see and do while in Berlin.
Afterward, we wandered down Kastanienalle. There were a lot of quirky boutiques, but after some sticker shock, we stuck to window shopping. Below, the first picture was a café that had pink tape for the store sign, used window markers for the menu, and decorated with plastic streamers and lawn chairs. As for the last picture, I’m as stumped as you are, but it was a funny sight to see driving down the street!
All in all, it was a successful first day of exploring on our own!