Art

Travel Diaries: BERLIN

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I felt an indifference to Berlin before deciding to go, but after trawling Instagram and WordPress blogs for info our destination was decided. My sources whispered Berlin’s comparison to Shoreditch’s chilled out vibe and its affordabilty, and I like East London and i like cheap. SOLD. Not that its ever going to stop me travelling, but i do have to say this, i have insecurities about travelling as an ethnic minority. Sure enough my liquids were chosen at “random” to be tested from the queue and my passport checked a little while longer at customs. Maybe its just me. But its fine, why not be safe? THERE I SAID IT… DONE!!!

Away from London, I feel the rest of Europe has a much calmer energy; at rush hour in Germany’s capital city, the air is calm, almost soft, still and quiet, theres no racket of pollution, but a hum of peace. Kreuzberg, once enclosed on three sides by the Berlin Wall, illustrates the colour of Berlin’s transformation, since the wall came down. We arrived at our accommodation, tall with vines, eery with history and plagued with graffiti. I felt really calm here. Our Air b&b host ,a young artist, explained to us that we were to be one of his last tenants as the government is making the use of homes to rented to holiday makers illegal;The reason being, in Berlin alone there are 20,000 homes alone on these sites, and too many homeless people and refugees on the street, and that holiday makers aren’t helping there economy get better… I’d also recently read in the Sunday Independent (which by the way doesn’t exist anymore) & VICE about the wave of British people ,many of which are creatives, who’ve relocated to Berlin because of its affordable living. And Britain wants to pull out of the EU… On the Standstead express on the way home i’d read that the cost of living is pushing creatives out of London, officials fear that it could be tearing the vitality and art away from the capital and stifling young talent…. As we walked through the residential areas the walls are embellished with Street Art, scattered with Freerunners, a Muslim Man praying in the park, a young gay couple embracing, a window of a building reads ‘refugees welcome’. I feel really open in this city, easy to ask questions, even to think. Sombre, youthful & inspiring. I felt a real sense of nurture towards creativity and to the public.

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Simon Mcberry, Beware Of Pity, the first piece of german art-theatre i’d seen. Based on the 1939 novel by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, a harrowing tale of love, experimental medicine, guilt and war. There was something quite sparse and revealing about this production , No big automated set or grand costumes. The actors, who were onstage for a full 2 hours, entered ready for the marathon equipped with bottles of water and scripts at hand, readied by their designated seat and lamp.They introduced themselves in preparation, spoke about the play and drove full steam ahead into piece. The product, though i couldn’t always follow what was happening, was the most electrifying performances i’ve seen. But with little set or costume. NO AID JUST STORYTELLING. There seemed to be sharing quality to the performance and a feeling of safety for both the audience and actors. Like being invited to a rehearsal. In the front row under spotlight sat, script in hand, a prompt for the actors. I felt really safe because the actors felt safe. True story telling, it felt ancient, primal even, no ego or garnish. As was the contemporary dance piece, Twenty 2 Eight, choreographed by Sasha Waltz. the contrast being the mix of ethnicity in both the cast and audience, which was beautiful to be apart of. In a theatre raked by scaffolding, it felt like a hub for creatives, humming with youth and ambition.

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Well whats a trip to Germany without visiting a concentration camp, i say earnestly? The Sachsenhausen Camp, located 35 kilometres north of Berlin. i want to say that it was dreadful, harrowing and dark, the stories were, but i felt a stillness and tranquility. Bare skeletons of foundations mapped the grounds and high walls concealing it. The air was eery but tranquil. Thats the feeling i had for my whole trip actually, a peaceful eeriness, not a distasteful eeriness but a knowing. I don’t have to pick at the scab of the holocaust, I just think its important to point out that this could have happened in any country. I also think that its important to note that the general public didn’t know what was happening inside the walls of these camps, the majority didn’t make it their business to know.. What happened with the camps was horrific and I’m not making excuses, but i have to ask myself how many times have i have sat and watched my government make massive decisions that effect vast amounts of the public negatively and have never used my voice or opinion, because it isn’t affecting me directly. Its also important to know that some of these same nazi ideas are still being exercised throughout the world. Something that our guide had said, that really stood out to me; is that this part of history is taught over 5 years in German schools. I really admire this. I think its important to not live in the past and carry guilt, but i do think its important not to ignore it as there is something to learn.

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Begrudgingly, i left the sleepy town to the chaos of my reality. I arrived feeling rested, though my schedule was packed and open to decode the trivia of my own. To take care in my own work, to use my right to vote and to have an opinion. After travelling to Berlin its hard not to want to ask questions about your own government, economy and home. Which then in turn makes me ask this? Why do we go away on holiday? We go to have fun, to get away from our everyday and relax. But how many of come home from a vacation feeling as if we hadn’t left home at all? if not to feel refreshed what else is there? Im not saying there is anything wrong with just relaxing, but what can we learn from getting away to make our reality better?

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