Berlin was a mixture of nu-rave and stilted stoicism. Past meets present. bleak history meets woooo let's go crazy. Next to Checkpoint Charlie there is a showroom for the Currywurst Museum, where you can buy a knitted Currywurst. And next to it going the other way is Trabiworld, where you can hire a Trabant that somebody has painted pink, and drive it around the city in a display of 'Hooray, I did not have to apply for this car and wait 17 years for it to arrive, before discovering it is made of cardboard!' defiance. Not really defiance actually, since you are allowed to do that in Berlin now. I think that a lot of Berlin is revelling in some sort of 'oh god, we're ALLOWED TO DO THIS NOW!' hangover that hasn't quite transformed into whatever it is the city is going to be now that it's not being covered in tanks and walls and things. One of the principle things I learned when I went there last month - the end half of 2015 - and went to the DDR Museum, which had been recommended to me by a friend as 'if you only go to one museum, go to that one' but actually turned out to deserve that cliche, was that the wall may have come down in 1990 or whenever, but it took longer than that to sort out the colossal mess that had been made of things. Reunifying Germany alone wasn't something that happened on a Tuesday before lunch. So I guess it wasn't surprising that 25 years later, things are all still a bit confusing there. And in the midst of all this confusion, a bunch of hipsters are throwing a party.
It is a bit confusing. There are neon stickers coating every lamppost and an abandoned Soviet-era theme park on the outskirts of the city has been opened up for the weekend - complete with the turning on of a Ferris wheel that is so old and unfit for purpose that it looks and sounds like something out of the Saw movies as it screeches to life - to host none other than a children's concert among the rotting fairground rides. Berlin has also chosen some unusual heroes. Currywurst (which looks worse than it tastes) is on every menu, even in those restaurants that have nothing to do with curry, or erm, wursts. The Ampelmann, which is the Berlin equivalent of our stop/go man at pedestrian crossings is so much of a hero that he has his own store. David Hasselhoff has signed his name on the inside of this shop, and I get so confused by all the devotion to a road symbol that I buy a tea towel and a pair of socks. And 2 fridge magnets. And a keyring.
Basically, Berlin doesn't really know what it is doing in life. It has made some mistakes and now it is trying to rectify the situation by making everything whimsical and fun. I don't really know what I'm doing in life either and so in celebration of this, I decided to make Berlin into DISCO BERLIN and here it is:
Having recently bought a new laptop and Photoshop Elements 13, I decided to make use of all the weird filters that come with it - the ones that make your photographs look supposedly like a painting and stuff. I don't know why anyone would want that but I think that my photos of this particularly place look better for not looking *quite* real. Maybe it's because my photos are terrible, or maybe it's just the nature of Berlin. Unreal is what I was going for anyway, in the absence of any better idea, and also because it seems to fit.
Most alarmingly whimsical about Berlin, or whimsically alarming maybe, was the presence of a showroom advertising The Currywurst Museum right opposite Checkpoint Charlie. Although really, what's more inappropriate - this, or hoards of American tourists eagerly photographing the spot where innocent people got shot at, essentially for attempting to cross the road? That's the part of Berlin that seems most unreal actually - imagining that stuff. Because that stuff happened not so long ago - in my lifetime. And I can't imagine anything quite so ridiculous as putting up a wall and telling a whole section of society that they cannot cross it. Probably needless to say, I didn't go visit the site of the old checkpoint, but I did learn pretty comprehensively about what happens to your mouth when you put a frankfurter covered in curry sauce and mustard powder in it.