Tuesday, June 24, 2008

East Berlin

Fete de la Musique. Every summer solstice is celebrated in Berlin with music. Music everywhere, in all different genres, in various venues, from street corners to churches to parks, performers from all over come and play for the public. And the best part, it's all free.
Architecture here is astounding. The new Berlin train station is a marvel spiderweb design of glass and steel framing, and it's enormous.

The biggest event by far, in Germany, and probably most of Europe, has been the Euro Cup. It's a strange sensation, after watching one or two soccer games every single day since June 7th. It really does become an obsession, and it makes sense why everyone else is glued to the games. It's drama. It's passion. It's your own identity within the context of something greater, La Vida Eterna....
i wish i took photos of the German and Portugal match. after watching it at one of the many outdoor public viewing areas (which includes beer gardens, and post-war abandoned factories) the underdog Germans claimed victory, and the result was the biggest party on the street i have ever witnessed.
It is interesting that this is sort of public display in Germany is considered to be a fairly new phenomenon, starting two years ago during the World Cup. Since the post-war, Germany has been living with an enormous guilt complex from the atrocities committed upon millions of different ethnic groups, and any overt display of passion for their country, like flag waving and chanting, has been shunned upon and considered taboo.
But now, there has been a backlash, where all over Germany, people are refusing to hide their feelings and letting themselves go, like the Spaniards, the Italians, like most of the soccer-world, by identifying with great pride in who they are and where they come from; they are proud to be German.
But, i'll have to say, as much as i find this exciting and intriguing on a sociological scale, when walking the streets after the victory, i did have some strange postmodern-like nostalgic flashbacks, with images in my mind of old German nazi propaganda, as hordes of people chanted their country's slogan, with mighty fists in the air and synchronistic claps, all performed with near violent intensity.
On the other hand, this is not much different than how people react in other parts of the world. The fact is, my own reaction is a bit biased, coming from the history books and modern films about the nazis i've seen growing up in America (ironically, another form of propaganda). These images, based on historical events that no one should ever forget, are now inundated in my mind, as they are in much of the world. For me, the most important thing to keep in mind is: put anyone in any group in any part of the world, and things can get a bit frightening. The nazi mentality is not uniquely a "German" thing. And for me, this is one big reason why I am so fascinated by soccer. You see the way things are on a global and local scale. It reveals mankind's great artistic capabilities, as well as a country's cultural achievements. And yet, it also exposes mankind's weaknesses, like the harsh realities of racism.

Overall, East Berlin is probably the most interesting place i've visited in the past two months. My only regret: not coming here fifteen years ago, because it's changing, fast. It currently feels like how San Fran was back in the day: once a thriving and engaging place to be, with cheap rent, and a surge of artistic expression. But now, you can see the tattoo hipster culture rising, embracing liberal ideas and creativity via capitalistic endeavors. Talk about a group mentality. But who knows, Berlin is definitely not S.F., and it's coming from a totally different crossroad. And the most importantly: it's still affordable and cheap to live here (relatively).The radio tower was built and designed by Swedes, who were smuggled in secretly. Why Swedes? Not only pioneers of design ala IKEA, the commies just didn't have the resources to build, nor the architects to design it. All their best artists left for better living in the west. What is not shown in the photo, is the Pope's revenge. Despite the anti-religious sentiment from the government, a huge cross forms everyday as the sun hits the round ball on top.
What would Marx and Engels think now? As great theorists, they would say "I told you so", or "typical religious zealots!"

The old commie parks are pretty antiseptic when it comes to aesthetics and planning. Again, there was no money to pass around for art projects. And whatever art was to be made, it usually had a propaganda slant for the communist drive. Here's some equal opportunity work for women.
Most of the wall that once surrounded Berlin has been dismantled. There's one section, "East-side Gallery" that's still intact, with art murals all over it, worked on by artists from all over.


Yo, wassup Che!

2 Comments:

At 1:46 AM, Blogger ::rentastic:: said...

i was there in '93, and it was probably a lot different place back then...it was going through lots of changes. but the one thing i'm sure that hasn't changed in berlin over the years, is all the berliners constantly asking, Dónde está Che Pelotas?

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger andrew said...

Nice story Alex. It was a fun read mainly because of the gem about Germany's displays of pride. I totally wasn't aware of how recent it was. And it serves as a good little skull tweaker-- i needed it.

 

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