Berlin is just the coolest city in the world. Really. I think so. New York is too big and dirty. Philadelphia is too small. Berlin is both old and new, it's a Pheonix at the moment. Maybe that is why it is so exciting.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet with a friend. We met several years ago at UArts while I was in grad school. He's involved with the book arts world through a periodical he publishes for experimental text and images. He's originally from East Germany and so having his perspective on things and the development of Berlin was extremely interesting. He's also a bit of an architecture buff. The best tour guide I ever had. We walked all over the place the first evening, back and forth between east and west Berlin. The new Hauptbahnhof is incredible. It's beautiful structurally, and HUGE. It's the large station in Europe now. Uwe told me about the plans that made it all possible which were first proposed in 1904 - but because of one thing and another - weren't possible until just now. They built a tunnel under the city and apparently it's been very sucessful.
One of my favorite things he showed me, just because of the sheer brilliance of it was the Memorial to all of the Jews who died in WWII. Conceptually it ranks right up there with the Vietnam memorial. It's incredibly moving and brilliantly designed.
When one first approaches it, it looks like it is a flat surface which different heights of these blocks which represent sort of tombs or crypts one would find in cemetaries. They are these grey cement blocks at different heights. But as you start walking among them, you realize that the ground slopes down. Quite deep.
Here's Uwe standing deep in the middle of it. You get a good idea of the height of the things around you. And it's amazing. if a person turns the corner - they dissapear. You absolutely cannot see them. It's extremely impressive - in the sense that it leaves its mark - makes an impression upon you.
On a lighter note, there were other things we stumbled on which were pretty fun. After dinner the first night we walked back to my hotel and ran across Senefelder Platz. Senefelder is the guy who invented lithography. Imagine a country that names a whole little corner of their city for an artist! What a concept, eh?
I also like this sculpture because of the small details. If you look closely - the angle on the left is writing Senefelder's name backwards. It has to be backwards on the stone in order to print correctly on paper. The other little angle holds a mirror up to it so that he can read it correctly. how sweet is that?
But probably my favorite thing we just happened to see was the Ritter Sport store. Now, if you don't know Ritter Sport, you need to find out about it. You can actually get it in the states.In Philadelphia you can get it in the little fake Wawa's and such and in California I've seen it at Cost Plus - or World Market- or whatever it's called now. It's a square bar of amazing chocolate. Anyway - we stumbled on a whole store. A whole store! Just with this chocolate!
So many amazing flavors. I did break down and buy my favorite, Dark Chocolate with Marzipan. Hmmmm. Yup - it always tastes better here - wonder why? We wandered around there and were amazed at all the different sorts we could buy - bigger tablets than we've ever seen, little tiny ones, single squares, yogurt tablets, you name it - they had it. The front of the store was some kind of (what looked like to me) frozen yogurt bar of sorts. However - when I went back before I left Berlin to pick up a few things I discovered that that "bar" is a create-your-own-chocolate-bar bar!!! OMG! How cool is that!? You can mix and match your own flavors (up to four) into a bar of half-bitter chocolate. It's melted and then they pour it into a form. It's ready in about 1/2 and hour. If only there would have been more time. sigh. What a fabulous idea! I'm going to have to go back just for this.
Uwe also mentioned that Olafur Eliasson was having a big show at the Gropius Bau - which is a big art museum. And I love his work. He is a contemporary artist born in Denmark, grew up in Iceland and his work has a lot to do with light and playing with the properties of light. This show was incredible. I don't know how it will travel though, unfortunatly I don't think it will. Eliasson lives in Berlin and the show is very much about that. The title of the show is a play on words. The title is Innen Stadt Aussen. Innen Stadt means inner city - or city center. Aussen mean outside. However, the word Stadt written with a capital S means "city." But written with a small s the word mean "instead of". So the title can be read both ways and it just doesn't translate to English. But it's brilliant.
He set up so many things for people to interact with. A lot of mirrors, lights, shadows, playing with light and color light. Different colors of light which cancel each other out. In one room there is a circular prism hanging from the ceiling, turning slowly. A bright light shines through it and so you get the shadow of the ring on the wall where it should be, a huge circular rainbow which moves around the room, and then a white circle of light which somehow moves and twists down to the infinity sign. This light slips through the shadow of the ring on the wall and opens back up again to the circle of light. In another room he has set up so many mirrors and strange angles that it would be easy if you were along to lose your balance. I liked this peace because of what else it gave us. At the same time this show was up there was a Frida Kahlo exhibit. People were waiting in line for five hours to see that show. But if you looked at the outside of the mirror room, you could see the reflection of some of the Kahlo paintings. Most visible was the one of Frida with the two monkeys. I wonder how many people caught that.
Finally that last mind blowing part of the show was the fog room. It was actually three rooms with "fog" probably dry ice I imagine. The fog was so dense you couldn't see more than a foot in front of you. But you had to move forward to see the change in the light. The whole thing was lit with different colored lights - and of course the light was all around you - you were completely consumed by a particular color. At one point as you walk through a color of red/orange that is so bright and hot that it invades your head. I had to close my eyes. I turned around and walked back into a blue light and felt my eyes relax, the heat went away and I could look around me again. It was also amazing to just stand still and watch people moving around. They would appear out of nowhere and then dissappear.
If you double click on the image above you can probably get a better idea of what I saw. That is a guard I accidently photographed - and then he walked over to me just as I was putting my camera away. Of course I got totally sucked into this room and lost complete track of time. So I was late meeting up with Uwe. But he still took me out to Potsdam to see the Einstein Turm. This is the observatory build by Mendelsson so that Einstein could prove his theory of relativity. It's really a cool little building. Still in use. And when you walk around it - it really looks like a space ship.We walked around Potsdam a bit to get an idea of the city as well. It's so different from Berlin - which you can walk to from there. It's like West Philly and Center City - but drastically different. Different Architecture - different feeling. The difference is more like the difference between Center City and, oh I don't know maybe Bryn Mawr. It's like the country and the city, but right next to each other.
That evening I got to see another friend of mine I haven't seen in years and years. It was great to see him too, and then.....
To see my great aunt. She is not doing well at all. Last night she pulled herself together a bit for me, but today I saw what was really going on. She's on an air mattress - doesn't leave the bed at all. I found that her thought processes were still pretty clear - but Erich doesn't understand her - and doesn't try to either - so he keeps saying she is talking nonsense. Well, she's not if you pay attention. And wether they like it or not, things go better when she wears the hearing aides. She also still has her sense of humor. Thank god. Even in her much slowed down state of mind, she can tease and make little jokes. So I'll hang onto those things.
And finally - say a little prayer for my Jacques.
Poor Christie (my intrepid intern who is staying in the house - despite the fact that it turns out she's allergic to cats) had to take him to the vet on the train because he had a little bladder infection. Now she has to pill him. So, well, maybe you should say a little prayer for Christie instead. Christie - Ritter Sport is definelty coming your way! :)