Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Mittwoch: Carolin Saage and the legend of Bar 25

All images by Carolin Saage. Book available to buy here.

"A fantastic playground...

                 ...a green oasis"
If you've never visited Berlin before, you might like to try this brief mental exercise. Conjure up the wildest night out you've ever had. Multiply by 10. Chuck in some face paints,  and a fancy-ass hat. Add a crate 80 cent beers and a couple of sprinkles of various naughty salts to the mix. Turn up the volume and colour saturation, minus the part where you vomit on your own shoulder, and replace with a glowing vermilion sunrise.

When Berliners party, they party hard. And in many minds, the biggest, hardest party of them all was at Bar 25.

Bar 25 was located in Friedrichshain, by the river Spree. Since its opening in the early noughties it evolved rapidly from its original bleak, concrete state to a secluded oasis of leafy trees, spa baths, swimming pools, tree swings and really fucking loud music. This is where Berlin's techno heroes came to let loose - a party Valhalla, if you like.


Bar 25 was notorious for its strict 'no photography' policy, and during the years they were open only allowed one official photographer to document the development and hedonism of the infamous party hotspot. Carolin Saage spent almost seven years capturing the mud fights, confetti baths, pool dives and colourful visitors of the weekend-long parties. After exhibiting a selection of her Bar 25 photographs in the city, her book 25/7 was published last year. It's a vibrant, intimate and at times hilarious window into a whole new party dimension, albeit one that is sadly no more.

Bar 25 finally closed its saloon doors in 2010 after a lengthy struggle to keep it open. Their closing party lasted a full five days, and the legendary goings-on are still spoken about in an almost reverential tone by those who went, and those who will forever regret not going.

Bis bald,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Sonnabend: Boxhagenerplatz Markt, dirty stop-outs at Fritz Klub and a bit of ambivalence.

More on the very hectic weekend. We took a hungover walk in the sun around Boxhagener Markt on Saturday, and picked up a large bag of veggies for the bargain price of 1.72 Euro..and found Cheddar! Happy days indeed, and well worth the half hour we spent searching for Boxhagenerplatz.

The Hamburg lot came down to visit this weekend, which was ace. It seems like so much longer than two weeks since we last saw them. We took them for a night out, Berlin style, although Hamburger Paula has lived in Berlin before so she was the one herding us around the city. We ended up at Fritz Klub via a very strange Berlin New Wave gay goth club (ya rly) and danced the night away until the sun came up. At 7am we staggered to the train station and enjoyed a pre-hangover breakfast of - you guessed it - more croissants. This place is more dangerous than Paris.

Oli and I bought our first pot plant for the apartment. It's a small peppermint plant. We've called him The Hoff, and will try our very hardest not to kill him. I'm not holding out much hope TBH, we haven't got a very good track record. Also, RAINBOW EGGS. The fact that this is a thing here makes me never want to go home.

Hmmm. It's Contemplation o'Clock here at Kopernikustrasse Towers. I'm not really sure what direction to take this blog in. I originally started it as a way to help me rebuild my writing skills after a prolonged period of inactivity, but writing exclusively about my little japes in Berlin seems self-indulgent, especially considering the amount of amazing sights, people and deep pockets of culture past and present all around me. Also, attempting to do one genuinely interesting thing a day is horrendously unrealistic - a girl's gotta chillax, after all. So I'm thinking I'll continue to do a couple of 'shit-Oli-and-I-have-been-up-to' posts a week, but intersperse it with more posts about the artists, museums, corking cafes and cocky-ass sparrows that make up this beautiful city. Sound better? Yeah, I thought so too.

Bis bald,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Monday, 28 April 2014

Dienstag und Freitag: Hackescher Markt and Biergarten at Tiergarten

New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Berlin is definitely the city that doesn't stop partying, which should go some way towards explaining my absence over the past few days. On Thursday Oli and I intended to go on a hike with Nana's German class. Unfortunately we woke up far too late, so contented ourselves with ditching lessons (sorry, Dad) and spent the day wandering around the leafy streets of Hackescher Markt.

Hackescher Markt is only an S-Bahn stop away from the bleak concrete consumer frenzy of Alexanderplatz, but the atmosphere is completely different. Berlin natives kick back and drink cheap beer from the Kiosks on the grass inclines overlooking the Spree, tourists leisurely wander in and out of the museums and hat vendors smoke cigarettes on the bridge whilst half-heartedly flogging their wares. We spent an afternoon reclining on the grass outside the cathedral and testing each others Deutsch (still schlecht). We didn't visit any of the museums, though. Perhaps next time.

As night drew in, we ventured homewards and stopped at the East Side Gallery to drink beer, smoke far too much and contemplate just how fucking weird it is that only 25 years ago passing through the gap between Warschauer Str and the Pirates Berlin bar would have been impossible. It's all too easy to forget that within our lifetimes the city was brutally divided. The East Side Gallery is a start reminder of the amazing recovery Berlin has made in such a short space of time.

My baby-friend Ursi arrived back in Berlin on Friday, and invited us to join her and her boyfriend Max for a quiet drink at the Cafe am Neue in Tiergarten. It's a gorgeous - and bloody huge - cafe situated by der Neue See (or the New Lake), and is strewn with fairy lights, and multi-coloured boat houses. We arrived just a tad too late to snap any decent photos, but we'll definitely be heading back there very soon to rent one of the tiny, barely seaworthy rowing boats.

Bis bald (bis morgen is far too optimistic),

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mittwoch: Alexanderplatz

A trip to Alexanderplatz was in order on Wednesday, as a) none of us have done much of the tourist-y Berlin shit yet and b) my ragged old jeans finally said sayonara on Tuesday evening. We'd only made a flying visit to the central shopping hub on our first week to pick up German SIM cards and new phones, so Diana, Oli and I decided to have a proper wander and see what all the fuss was about.

Truth be told, Alexanderplatz isn't my kind of place. The behemoth shopping centres with their seeimngly endless corridors of fast fashion and frozen yoghurt may hold different, alien brands, but they're still the same old soulless fast fashion outlets with the same poor quality, mass produced schlock we have at home. Visiting the Alexa Centre didn't feel like an adventure. It felt like a Saturday shopping trip in Cardiff, right down to the empty smiles on the shop assistants faces and oblivious yummy mummies with oversize prams (a personal pet hate of mine). The market stalls/overpriced tourist traps outside aren't much better, and sell approximately 40% neon 'I Heart Berlin' hoodies, 50% novelty ginger bread and 10% faux-vintage pocket watches.

We were bored and exhausted in equal measures after only an hour, and retreated to Gauloises bar for a much-needed Weissbier. Alexanderplatz, thanks but no thanks. I'll take the graffitied streets of Friedrichshain or the second hand meccas of Mehringdamm over you any day of the week.

Bis morgen,
Betti Baudelaire xxx

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dienstag: Ich lerne Deutsch gern!

After picking up a hearty breakfast of Schokolade croissants from the Backerei on our street, I sat down for a nerd-out morning with 'Von Schlauen Fuchsen und anderen Hinterlistigen Tieren' (or 'Of Sly Foxes and Other Deceitful Animals' to you and me). I found this cute-as-cupcakes kids book at the Humana store on Frankfurter Tor (more on that later), and have set out to translate a couple of pages a day before attending my intensive language class in the arvo.

German is a tricksy beast. It lures you in with the promise of familiar nouns - Mann is man, Fuchs is fox, Sack is sack etc - before slamming you full force in the face with a tsunami of cases, articles and bizarro verb conjugations. Hell, I've never fully acquainted myself with English grammar, aside from a day-long introduction to the perfect tense in high school, so trying to figure out what the fuck to do with the Nominativ, Akkusativ and Dativ kasus feels like I'm back in a GCSE classroom fighting back waves of frustration whilst staring blankly at a textbook full of badly drawn cartoon people in Mom jeans and rucksacks. At least I can now confidently order a beer to ease the post-class brain ache.

To summarise, life in Germany would be far, far easier if I could learn the lingo the way Neo learns Kung Fu in The Matrix.

Bis morgen,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Montag: Potsdam and Couchsurfing language exchange

We had fantastically chilled day wandering around the Park Sans Souci in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. The city didn't look like much when we arrived - most of the area is built up, and the few beautiful buildings around the Bahnhof were swathed in scaffolding. But as we wandered (ignoring most of the signposts, as is customary) we struck gold. Spring seems to be the perfect time to visit Potsdam. The pastel-hued cobbled streets were dusted with cherry blossom, and the weather was just right to enjoy a falafel feta kebab and a fag in the sun.

Sans Souci is even more idyllic. We dangled our feet off one of the Orangerie tiers and heard only the shuffling footsteps of tourists and birdsong. It's hard to believe that this oasis of tranquility is a mere 30 minute ride on the S-Bahn from the heaving, honking metropolis of Berlin. Unfortunately our quiet time came to an abrupt halt when a couple of fellow Brits plonked themselves beside us and started banging on about how they simply couldn't bear the thought of being in a relationship with someone who doesn't appreciate the theatre. I reined in my desire to passive-aggressively chuck my cigarette butt in their direction and beat a hasty retreat.

At 7pm it was time to switch on our brains again, as we hopped over to Cafe Buchhandlung in Mitte for our first Language Exchange Evening. Cafe Buchhandlung has taken shabby chic to a whole new (and very colourful) stratosphere and is well worth a visit - the hand painted signs, wobbly spiral staircase and reasonably priced vino earns the proprietor a massive mental high five in my book. About 60 people turned up, but sadly very little German was spoken as the mix of nationalities pretty much ensured that everyone switched to 'mediocre English' (ourselves included). This worked out well for us, because right now our German conversation is limited to basic descriptions of our home town and requests for more beer. Aye well, slow and steady wins the race.

Bis morgen,

Betti Baudelaire xxx

Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Ich wohne jetzt in Berlin

When I first stated my intention to move to Berlin about a year and a half ago, a lot of people were disbelieving. I've lived in my small home city of Cardiff for 25 years. My family, friends and memories are all based there. So I'm guessing it was quite a surprise for everyone when my boyfriend Oli and I were accepted onto the Leonardo Da Vinci scheme, packed up our lives and left the country within the space of six weeks.

Armed with only a suitcase of clothes, a smattering of German and an average quality camera, we arrived in the city last Sunday. We've been finding our feet, drinking far too much beer from the Spati across the road, suffering from new-city man flu and attending Balkanska gigs regardless of my bunged up nose. 

But now the time has come...for productivity! Because I naturally default to 'lazy bastard' if I don't have a project, I'm going to attempt to do at least one interesting thing a day for the duration of my Leonardo placement in Berlin. Hopefully it will help me to see the city more - so far I've yet to break out of the Friedrichshain/Kreuzberg bubble - and by documenting it on this here blog I'll once again be embracing the writing skills I have so cruelly neglected for the past ten months or so.

 Bis bald!

Betti Baudelaire xx