Thursday, March 06, 2008

Oy, Berlin...

Things have been slow here, with some small exceptions. Notably, I got into the graduate program that I've been dreaming about! Enough about me, though. I'd like to talk about Berlin.
It's gotten cold again, sadly. We had some days of nearly warm weather, which was lovely. Now it's back down to about 0 or 2 degrees Celsius, which is not truly that bad; it's only that I'd been so happy with the warmish weather and random sunshine, and now I'm shocked back into scarves, hats and underthings. To any Canadian readers, please excuse my weatherly disposition. Canada would scoff at my shiverings.
The cold here, though, is amplified by the fact that we're in the throes of a transportation strike that threatens to spread and worsen; the trains generally offer a temporary respite from the brutal winds, but they're currently unavailable. It hasn't been too awfully disruptive so far, but come Monday, the whole city may be at a complete standstill. I'm sure the Berliners won't riot like the French seem to when they have mass transit strikes, but I'm also sure it'll be a real pain. Berlin is fairly expansive, and the metro system is very effective. Its absence is alarming.
There are two separate companies that run the public transport in Berlin. One is called Ver.di, and that's the one that's currently on strike. That means all the underground trains and the buses and trams are out of commission. The other group controls the above-ground trains; they're called S-Bahn Berlin GmbH, and they're not striking yet, though they went on strike a few times last year and seem to be leaning towards a strike beginning on Monday. If they decide to go on strike, well, I'll be alternately taking very long walks and sitting at home. I like the idea of city- or state-owned public transit; it seems like this sort of mini-crisis would occur with less frequency.
Finding a bright side, though: I'm seeing more of the city that normal, as I'm forced to walk routes that I would normally be zipping by on the U-Bahn. It's allowing me to take pictures of some building-sized murals that I usually see flying by out the window. For example, the paintings along the U1 line, such as my personal favorite, the astronaut.
Goerlitzer Bhf.
There is also a 5-story technicolor character that I really appreciate, mainly for the extreme detail in his pants and scarf. I'd like to know how people get up the sides of these exceedingly flat buildings to paint their pieces.
Schlesisches Tor
And finally, there's this strange skull-made-of-babies (or skull-made-of-nude-bald-men, I can't tell) that I stare at every time the train passes it, and I still can't decide if I love it or if I hate it. I suppose I'm ambivalent. However, according to a couple websites, it's one of the best murals in Europe. I don't get it.
Warschauer str.
I'm trying to make the best of the bahn strike by taking the time to appreciate the city, and I have to say, despite the frustration about transport and the chill in the air, Berlin is a pretty easy city to appreciate. My next task for myself is to have West-Berlin-Appreciation-Hour. I don't get over there much, and my interest was piqued after venturing to that side of the city for a friend's dance performance. It's like another world on the other side of the invisible wall. Although, you wouldn't always know it by the architecture or the monuments. I find myself roaming the old American sector, shocked at how Soviet everything looks. Like this, the memorial to the Berlin Airlift of, oh, 1947 or so.
Berlin airlift memorial. It's ugly.
That is not an attractive monument. I sort of like how stark it is, but I still feel that it should be a little more triumphant.
Before I wrap up here, I'd like to acknowledge the blogging hiatus I've taken and promise that it won't happen again. I'm planning on having much more of interest to bring to the table, rather than the grey days of work and February that I'm still waking up from. Spring will be welcome.


baystar_one said...


dude, baby wall is crazy scary and intriguing?

i wish our tall walls were covered with crazy detailed pants paintings.


stay warm.


Anonymous said...

i'd say the last monument isn't vert attractive... but who's that guy?! oh wait, thats me.... ah snap!

sq meals said...

Love all the photos... the wierd building depictions, "monuments", and people ~ the handsome guy in the last photo. A welcome collage compared to the previous set of bizarre paintings. I hope your walking shoes are holding up. Thanks for the fascinating blog news!

silvergirl said...

yes, the baby-man is most awesome because of the random

i am
u nk

at the bottom... hmmm!
and Katie, tell us more about your graduate program! i'm so happy for you. :)

Carla said...

i love these. they're so weird! europe is so much more fun than america.

baystar_one said...


hey dude, check this out!



Jared Dugger said...

I lived in Berlin for a couple of years as a kid, and one of the iconic symbols of the city then - and now, at least in my mind - is the Airlift Memorial.

The Berlin Airlift began 60 years ago this week, and it'd be hard to argue that it was anything other than one of the most heartwarming and inspiring acttions ever undertaken by the armed forces of the US and UK. If you're not familiar with the history surrounding the Airlift, I'd encourage you to read up on it - very fascinating stuff. It's one chapter of history that makes me very proud of wearing the uniform.

By the by, the three-pronged design of the Memorial represents the only three authorized air corridors to & from Berlin that were opened after the Blockade and which stayed in place until the wall fell in 1989.