Wednesday, March 29, 2017


Hey so, funny story, two years ago this month we were in Berlin and I never told you about it? Ahhh man, and I had just gotten back to the current year.

We stayed with Hannes' dad's cousin Jörn, who makes a lot of money and has by far the most stylish apartment I've ever been in. I took more pics than this, but you know, it's someone else's house. You don't need to see his, like, toaster or penny jar or whatever.


We only had one full day in Berlin to cram in as many obligatory famous sites as possible, but it was still really nice of Jörn to let us stay with him. He even mailed my postcards for me after dropping us off at the airport.

 He also gave us his bed, which has this super expensive space foam mattress that neither of us ever wanted to leave again once we were on it. He was like, I knoooow, right?

The manhole cover infatuation was always there, just waiting to bust out in Japan and run free

Think this is the only pic you're gonna see of the Berlin TV Tower?
Well, you're fucking wrong.

The Berliner Dom - which actually does have domes on top - but that word is one of the many false German-English cognates just waiting to trip you up: "Dom" means "cathedral". 

And "Gift" means "poison". And "Igel" (pronounced "eagle") is "hedgehog". That last one made telling people about our impromptu birthday trip to the ハリネズミ café over the holidays really confusing initially.

"Rent too high? Sue the hipsters!"
We were still excited about this show when it was just coming out.

Mostly I was interested in the ornate streetlights. It's kind of hard to tell that this is the famous "boulevard under the lindens" in winter; Google "unter den Linden" if you want illuminated trees with leaves. I can't wait to see that in person.

Oh, but wait! Here's the Brandenburg Gate. 
What a place for a slap, too bad I didn't have any.

I only realised later that this kindly but admittedly ubiquitous (seriously, there's always one here) organ grinder closed his eyes in the pic! Nooo!

"One more because it's windy!"; the "one more" turns out to be the windswept one


Well we've had a few muffled chuckles and exhalations of air through the nose typically represented in text as "lol"s on the first segment of our tour, but let's get serious for a moment. Because, like at the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, this next place is just not one for funny poses or selfies or screwing around or being drunk or any of that shit. 

It's the Holocaust Memorial, or officially, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Something I would never have guessed at the time (and keep in mind that during my two months in Germany between Seoul and Tokyo I didn't Google anything until afterwards, aiming to be pleasantly surprised) was that this massive concrete memorial is very recent: it officially opened in 2005.

It sits where the Berlin Wall used to and, before that it was, as the Wiki article will tell you, the administrative center of Hitler's murder machine. His bunker unceremoniously "lies under a nearby parking lot".

The interpretations of what this unique installation represent vary, and its resemblance to a cemetery is obvious, but at the time, Hannes explained to me that it is meant to be silent and give you an uneasy feeling as you venture deeper and deeper, unconsciously or involuntarily, until you realise that the concrete slabs have somehow risen to be taller than you, and the sun isn't reaching you, and it doesn't look like there's a way out even though everything is straight lines.
That's how the Jewish people felt, like Hannes looks in this photo.
Didn't see him at first, did you?

To me the memorial also brings to mind the story and cover illustrations of the (Soviet, though not technically) police state dystopia in Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, which is thoroughly appropriate.


The article they've used on the main inscription, "dem", indicates that it is for the German people, dedicated to them and to serving them, which is exactly what you want to see. Especially when the building looks as ominous and imposing as this.

Interesting fact, when the Soviets steamrolled in and liberated the city from the Nazis / conquered it, a whole lot of soldiers scrawled their names, their platoon numbers, the date, where they had marched from on the way to Berlin, "fuck Nazi scum" in Russian, etc.,  onto the walls. The building has of course undergone major renovations (the glass dome on top, for example, is pretty new), but large pieces of those graffiti'd walls, also with bullet holes in them, line the corridors for the politicians working there to see on a daily basis. Which is pretty cool.

"Oh hey selfie-taking tourist trash, do you want me to take a proper picture of you?"
"Why yes crooked stranger!"
(he wasn't really crooked; how people take photos like this is beyond me though)

And then, of all things, we had Thai food. 

At the time we felt silly for having any kind of Asian food the day before flying back to Asia, but oh, it was so so good. And it took nearly two years to find really good Thai food again, actually. Anyway, this restaurant is 98% vegan, but don't ask me how they came up with that number. It's also called Samadhi and I can't wait to go back and you probably can't wait for me to stop saying that.

This is just a local brewery/beer but I love the kitschy vintage way they chose to advertise it

This is the Sony Center, their headquarters in Germany. There are a shitload of pictures of it out there, but this one is mine. Since it's a Japanese company the architect wanted to make it look like something quintessentially Japanese and chose Mt. Fuji.

But this is the main attraction of Potsdamer Platz, individual sections of the heavily-graffiti'd Berlin Wall on display. They're actually posted through the city like monolithic sentries from the past everywhere the wall once stood, but this place and also the East Side Gallery are the most famous places.

"Ha, we can only hope," one or both of us said dryly.

I don't remember anything I read now unfortunately, 
but I can assure you that it was interesting.

These twin buildings - that other one in the background yonder is the same as this one hither I do believe - are German (left) and French (right) churches. They and the concert hall between them are collectively known as the Gendarmenmarkt (pronounced with a softer French "g" sound), which has existed since 1688. And all of it was pretty much pulverised during the War, but like so many other beautiful things in Germany that were reduced to rubble and ashes, have been repaired and rebuilt.

Typical Hannes

I think he got bored of this once we had been together for about a year and 
he realised how goddamn many pictures I'm always taking

Anyway there's the streetlight I was so desperate to capture, sheesh

And oh hey, speaking of streetlights, look who it is! 
Our old friend from the boulevard of lindens leading to the Brandenburg Gate.

-heavy mouth breathing- Guys.. This time I got streetlights angels the TV tower the lindens probably some birds AND the cathedral all together 

We only had time for one and obviously we chose well. 
It was founded in 1987 on the 750th anniversary of the founding of Berlin.

Get ready for some old books and bitchin' illustrations y'all.

Fun fact, the specialised research library attached to the museum
 houses around 13,000 rare books.

Dat handwriting tho

Ope, wait, hold up, crucifying Jesus
Just a sec

Okay, Party Ogre!
And um, laundry? Are they doing laundry on his head?

"THESE are bangin'."
Actually I should post this on Classical Art Memes..

Whooooaaaaa! Everything looks all crazy through my helmet!

This is super tiny and these were very trendy around the time you can see on the little placard, but actually, just last weekend, NiQui and Rejon and I saw a huge one that I took a much higher-quality picture of, so that's really exciting! 

The Wiki article definitely doesn't go back as far as this one and I don't think it talks about little bitty ones, either, just the bigger and slightly simpler toy theatres. Yet another fun fact, I designed one as a kids' drama class project before I knew about them being a thing, too.

File under "moderately nightmare fuelish"

File under "yes that is basically our idea of German leisure as well"

File under "oh, my, god, Becky, look at the size, of her, butt".

Nothing quite like Cubism to render individual humans into the lifeless monochromatic forms of their own headstones, huh? Eeesh..

Oh, and the atrium is pretty neat too. This museum is enormous and has many attached components (such as the aforementioned library) in addition to its massive collections from so many time periods, and since we had already been walking around the city centre all day, we were really tired by this point. It's very much like what I did when I plowed through Taipei.

Ah yes, our friend the TV Tower. He's been waiting for you.

Fun fact (wow, another one so soon?!), the Dom - but no I mean like the whole thing - was built between 1894 and 1905, destroyed during the War, and rebuilt like pretty much everything else, but regardless, some kind of cathedral has stood on this site since the 15th century. That's a hell of a long time, right? Right.
Fun fact.

Splashed with yellow light
Looking majestic as fuck
Yep, got birds that time

Chestnuts? I don't know what it is about them but ball-shaped things are just the best.
No, not those kind. I mean like those little flower puffballs, marimo moss balls, smoothed beach stones, small doughnuts. Those kinds of things. Why are they so cute? 

(to be read in high-pitched sorority girl voice)
Ahhh, another selfiiiieeee! 

This river is called the Spree, which sounds more like "shpray", as in "just shpray the plants a little bit" as opposed to "this traffic makes me feel like going on a killing spree".

No wait

There we go. Now it looks like a church on a different planet!

The last thing we did before heading back to Jörn's was to meet up with Hannes' best friend from grad school, Ben, and his long-time Peruvian girlfriend. We went to some little hole in the wall pub, pretty literally, under the S Bahn railway track bridge, that was very cozy and that we immediately realised was a gay bar. They had a pretty solid catch-up session even though we didn't hang out very long at all; Ben now has a job he really seems to be enjoying working for a government organisation that goes through, uncovers, and makes available GDR-era information compiled on citizens by the secret police and Communist government. 

And how could I not finish with the most obligatory of all the tourist photos, one of Alexanderplatz with friends on bikes meeting up like we had just done, a tram rolling through (they just go through the middle of big open areas in Europe, it's so weird), and our persistent yet unobtrusive friend the Berlin TV Tower illuminated in the background?