I'd love to illustrate the next few entries with photos, but I'll have to link to them later. The upload speed here is dreadful, so it's taking hour to get Flickr updated.Friday 21st May, 2010. 1:46pm. Berlin.
Had about 3 hours sleep in the 48 prior to last night, and the lead in to that was pretty much a solid week of bad sleep anyway. Last night we shuttered all the windows, made the loft black as black, and passed out for nine hours. Woke feeling a bit drugged, but the foot-and-a-half of clouded remove that had settled on me was gone. The air was getting in and the sunlight was letting me see. Nice. Now I feel like I've arrived. Just in time to leave for four days, but we'll be back in Berlin for five after that.
I learned more German in one day as a result of being put up by a man who speaks very little English than I would have in a six-week course I think. I'm still at the point were suddenly needing to use German results in me falling back on English, only to remember the German phrasing two seconds after doing so. But the fact that I managed to go from zero to semi-competent in one day on heavy exhaustion... not too shabby. J seems to think I'm picking it up really quickly, and I have to admit that navigating the place in German does leave me feeling all cosmopolitan and shit. It's actually a really beautiful language, with a really lovely texture, that's gotten something of a bad rap aesthetically.
I never before noticed the German habit of using 'so' as a thinking word. I'm hearing it about the place but Klaus did it all the time. His place is very quiet - it was just him while we were there as his wife was out of town - and I'd periodically hear this deep, stentorian and warm "Zzooohh..."
roll out from some other room. Made me think of some likeable giant, the Rockbiter from Neverending Story
or Ludo summoning the rocks. It was really quite a sweet thing to hear every now and then.
We're getting a lift to Leipzig via the automotive equivalent of CouchSurfing. Klaus' mysterious and absent daughter Daisy arranged it for us. And then we're staying in a six-person sharehouse for WGT, which is going to be something of a party joint I think. I'm someone who needs a dose of space at least once a day usually, and all the gigs are at night, so as long as I remember to slow down a little when I can and then get into everything else when it happens I think I'll wind up having a really good time. Much as I love learning a new language I'm hoping to meet some English speakers at WGT. My brain could use the break.
Dinner with Klaus last night at his favourite restaurant around the corner. Owner knows him. Had appetisers of fried sardines, veal in a cream sauce with capers and eggplant. I had the salmon with white asparagus. Amazingly good. Klaus had something more practical and traditional and I think J had the pasta. Toward the end of the meal Klaus' friend Katja came in and joined us for a glass of wine. She hasn't spoken English in a long time but does it well. Obviously nervous using it though. Ex-journalist, escaped from East Berlin when she was 17. Aside from a short stint living in scattered townships she's been a Berliner all her life. She lives in the apartments right next door to Klaus' shop. Hard not to imagine she secretly harbours feelings for him, given their close and affectionate friendship and the way she dotes on him, but that may just be me being obvious.
She told us about the family of swallows that nested in her eaves during winter, and on her balcony I think, in a pile of pine needles. Burrowed in. Would wake her every morning with birdsong, and when she opened her balcony doors she was greated with a great gusting cloud of swallows taking flight. She became quite attached to them. Says there are two she keeps an eye on, and named them both. Can't remember the names, but they were aristocratic and sweet.
We wanted to pay, Klaus beat us to it.
Next morning we ate breakfast at a bookstore cafe. I understood enough of the menu to see all the breakfast stuff involved cheese, meat and bread. So it was pumpkin seed and white bread for me, with thin slices of hot spiced salami, good Swiss, cream cheese, proscuitto and black coffee. Surprisingly not heavy and kept me going most of the day.
After that we returned to Klaus' apartments, J finished some work, I wrote an entry for this, we squared our gear and were farewelled at the door. Klaus shook my hand, kissed me once on each cheek and then we walked for the U-Bahn with our packs. Sad to think I probably won't see him again, and wished yet again I'd spoken better German.I made an album of how we spent the day before leaving. The shots are annotated so I'll let them do the talking.Around 3:30-4:00pm
Three-lane highway in either direction. I'm in a van, headed toward Leipzig. Two hour drive. J took shotgun to keep the driver company, given she speaks the language. Turns out to have been unnecessary as it's all happening in English. Deep, deep forests line the highway to either side. The occasional expansive green (or vivid yellow canola) field slides past. Techincolour beyond belief, even muted through the anti-UV tint.
The van has three rows of seating, I'm in the middle passenger-side. There is a Vietnamese couple behind me with a toddler in a capsule seat. She's pregnant, he has the look of a man resigned to his fate and seeks solitude in his earphones, and the kid is a giggling screamer but she seems to have a handle on keeping him hushed.
J and the driver talk education, goths, the weekend, the social system. I join in briefly and occasionally but the sound of the engine makes it difficult to contribute or even follow sometimes. Glad she did though. Still not used to the driver being on the side opposite to what I'm used to. If I'd volunteered shotgun I would have definitely gone and climbed into the driver's seat by mistake. Could have been hilarious. -ly awkward.
Wind farm up ahead.
So much hotter here than I expected.
Wind turbines widely spaced in a broad, deep field of green. Oversized. Like they're the only real things in the picture and we're all scale models down here. A dozen fans turn blades the length of lorries slowly and majestically in perfect, natural synch with one another. I think these things might just be the first manmade things I've seen in a long time that I consider to be both practical and truly beautiful. It's like watching twelve collosal, peaceful... things... turn to face their God against a flawless blue sky. My brother told me a German company has been hired to install a windfarm just north of Cooktown on the windiest point in the country - an old lighthouse promontory that families have been going to for ages. Everyone's angry it's going to make the place ugly. I can't imagine these things making anywhere ugly. I look at them and everything is suffused with "Its okay. Everything's going to be okay."
But yeah, it's hot: 22 degrees C. Which is cold by Melbourne standards but it's bright, and I'm sweating in my jacket. Gonna do this light.
New commando pants are serving well. Cash and receipts on left leg, phone and Moleskine and passport and map on right.
Passing Worlitz turnoff (how the hell do I get an umlaut on this thing?) God canola makes for a beautiful field, especially sectioned up by green bush and treelines half submerged in all that sunny Picasso-like colour.
Crossing the Elbe.
Random: a tiny, white, boxy, old-style two-floor house(?) overlooking a field by the river. Massive green plate, tiny white impractical folly feature. Narrow white bike trail running across the precarious-seeming top of the winding green 'dam' between the field and the river. Could look in the top floor of the 'house' from there.
Might visit Dresden before returning to Berlin. Klaus' inspiration is the collection housed in the castle there. He showed us a thick Teschen hardcover of what the castle contains. Spoils of war for August the Strong I believe. And gifts. When I get internet connectivity I'll see if I can find something online about it and post a link.
Invented a new word today: "Stahlbrotchen" (again, need extended character set): translates (I think, roughly) as "buns of steel.) We did a lot of walking yesterday, I did a lot of walking before that, and the apartment in Leipzig is at the top of five flights of winding stairs with no lift.
I can see a farmer alongside a field, driving a flat wagon pulled by a team of two horses.Around 5:30pm.
Driver dropped us off at the carpark across from the magnificent
train station. A line of goths qeueing to get their wristbands from a demountable office placed there.
Got that sorted then headed into the station. Needed a map to find the apartment.
The interior of the train station - the main space - is mostly a two-tier shopping mall with the trains on the top level. It is goddamned gorgeous. Vaulted, gothic, and I realised that stuff like this was going to be everywhere. Also, the place was filled with people in black, with neon extensions or fuzzed-out leg-warmers, or PVC whatever or facepaint or leather and studs. It was a mallpopulated by 50% regulars and 50% schwartzenkinder
(I just made that up.) It was actually really, really funny in a warm and fuzzy way. A mall half-full of stylish revenants doing really banal things, like buying pizza, recharging mobile phones, reading a paper, whatever. The locals are clearly used to it but still a bit amused. And a lot of the more mainstream stores have thei black stuff propped up in the windows.
Finally found a map by leaving the station and hitting the lobby of the Novotel across the street. Decided we need food. Had just sat down to get a plate of pasta and a glass of red when J's mobile got a text: Marek (the guy we're staying with) was leaving for his gig in 40 minutes. Reslung the packs, headed out, crossed the street, deciphered the tram network, and made it here just as he and his fellow musicians were leaving (Marek plays acoustic in a four-piece folk outfit called... Quellenthal? I'll check for a link once I get the 'net happening.)
Morning of Saturday, 22nd May, 2010. Around 5:30am. Walking from Statdtisches Kaufhaus near Augustusplatz in the centre of town to Kathe-Kolwitz-Strasse to catch a tram back to Marek's.
Marek on the left. Nowhere near as sombre in real life. Quite the opposite.
Before I left R gave me some assignments to do while away. One was to wake early enough to witness a sunrise, and describe the experience from start to finish. I realise now that what I noted as we walked wasn't exactly the experience of the sunrise but the experience of trying to get home at sunrise. I'll have to do this again. Anyway, here's an expanded version of what I tapped out as we walked:
Exited 'When We Were Young' (WGT's annual club/party that runs all three nights.) North on Neumarkt. Silence. J's boots. Street cleaner with trolley. Pale cobbles. Classic German architecture. Valleys of cut stone blocks and arched windows. Steel light. Chilly. Cold PVC pants. Click click. No one else around. Stopped for directions by a likeable guy, looking for directions to WWWY. Passed by lone cyclist. Pommes Genuss stand lit but shackled. Trash blankets the cruciform park we passed on the way to the club, back when it was dark. Squads and squads of rowdy, organised drunks had colonised it, making it their own, and now they were gone. Pigeons feeding on McDonalds wrappers, picking their way through clear glass bottles and smashed glass. The whirr of the Pommes stand's heating unit. Old lady pushes a trash cart past the white cafe tables to our right. Cathedral in salmon-pink light. A lone cab hushes past. Flock of pigeons from the park swoop past us from behind, through the wide plaza space. Four people wait for a tram, talking animatedly. We keep walking. Ravens fight on cafe tables. I photograph a chair installation. We get to the tram stop we need. There's a couple there, laughing. 20 minutes til next tram. We walk to the 13 route instead. Wandering ponygoth checks the timetable there, waits, leaves. Across the street a man places a thin vase on the gutter lip and phoographs teh flower leaning in it. We wait. Traffic. Tired. Sore feet. Longing for shower and sleep. 3 minutes to tram. Big building with moat sits across from us. Green letters read 'Kommunaler Sozialverband Sachsen'. Photograph dome and spires at far end of curving street with the iPhone against morning light. Tram arrives. Deep Hum. 15 and 7. Need 13 or 3. Sun glints off metal, blinding. Cold out here. Tram arrives, we leave.