Escape of the Week: Berlin Art

Love. Berlin.

It’s no secret I love Berlin. This is the second post I’ve done that features Underground Berlin, and with good reason: there is just so much awesome to be shared. Even if I had a terrible couchsurfing experience, the city wrapped its way around my heart.

The art scene in Berlin fascinates me. From the graffiti to the sculptures to the colorful buildings adorned with twisted takes on pop culture, there is art everywhere.

Covered walls in Tacheles.

Kunsthaus Tacheles, an old department store turned artist enclave in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin, features both a colorful interior and exterior, along with artist studios.

Even outside of the giant building, there is art to be explored.

But, the art goes beyond Mitte and into every facet of this dynamic city. Neighborhoods all over town echo the culture of the past and present day together.

This is one of my favorites … this work is found in the area where Hitler committed suicide.

Even Knut, the infamous polar bear who captured everyone’s hearts when he was a baby, is included in the telling of stories. This piece shows how he went from adorable baby to bear. Sadly, the beloved animal passed away recently.

Artists took over an entire building in one area, painting murals of people from all over the world. I love the whimsical look of this painting.

Even the buildings tell stories …

The gorgeous art in Berlin goes beyond the paintings though and into structures, too. One of my favorites place when I travel to Berlin is the Holocaust Memorial, which actually has a chemical on it that makes it impossible for would-be graffiti artists to tag these larger than life pillars.

I also love this building, with this half-bust hanging over the entry.

And, who doesn’t love these little guys? They may not be considered art, but to this girl, they are!

Where have you been with amazing art?

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Underground Berlin

When I was in Berlin, I enjoyed two free tours. One that took me to the historical sites (which, to my surprise, was not a snooze fest), and one that took me to the underground art scene.

In the cold and rain, our guide escorted us through squatter residences, enlightened us on the history of the street art, and educated us on the artists whose work we were enjoying.

I loved the tour. Like, really, really loved it. During that afternoon, despite the rain that was spitting down on us … in May … I quickly became enamored with the sub-culture I was just getting the tiniest peak at.

This photo is of an alley that leads to artist haunts somewhere deep in one of my favorite cities in the world.

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Berlin – the other love

I may love Madrid, but Berlin … man, it comes in a close second.

Seriously.

It may have been really cold … and windy … and rainy in Berlin, but after escaping Borris‘, I was hit smack in the face with all of its awesomeness.

First, it was Hostel Aloha. It didn’t even bother me I had to climb countless flights of stairs each time (it’s all about building endurance, right?). The hostel was awesome. The people there were awesome. The breakfast was … you guessed it … awesome. (I’m talking fresh bread, Nutella, bananas, PEANUT BUTTER!!!!)

Then, it was the New Europe free tours. I took the East Berlin tour with Paul (an Israeli I had met in Prague) my first day in the city and it was fascinating. I am not one for countless churches or museums, but the minute you start talking about World War II and Hitler, I get really into it. At one point, we stood where Hitler’s bunker was, the place where he killed himself. Now, it is a parking lot surrounded by some nicer Communist apartment buildings. (Quite fitting cars now park where Hitler took his last breath, if you ask me.)

Later on the tour, we stood where a vicious gun battle had broken out once Communism had taken hold. I looked from a mural depicting everyone smiling because of living a Communist lifestyle to the reality — columns and walls riddled with bullet holes only recently covered up. And then, the Wall. Well, the remnants. And then … Checkpoint Charlie. Reconstructed, but still Checkpoint Charlie.

The next day, I fell deeper in love with the city. Armed with my 48-hour train pass and my iPod, I took the Sbahn to the Zoo (home of Knut, the once adorable baby polar bear who morphed into a moody grownup) and walked back to Alexanderplaz. A hefty walk. But, beautiful. The sun  had come out for the day (!!!) and the weather was mild, so walking through Tiergarten was perfect.

That evening, Berlin got even better with Chris (@TheAussieNomad) arriving from Amsterdam and joining me for a pub crawl. The pub crawl, not so great, but Chris’ company was.

The next morning, he checked into Aloha and we headed to another walking tour — this time of the colorful graffiti and squatter haunts of Berlin. Even in the pouring rain and cold, it was fascinating. We walked around “beach” bars, went to a warehouse riddled with colorful graffiti and artists’ studios, and learned about the sub-culture that makes Berlin really interesting and different from … oh, most places.

We even went to an indoor skate park near an old train depot that was bombed during the war.

And then, there was Chris’ and my search for the perfect kebab. We found it at Mustafa’s. A delicious combo of chicken, fried veggies and potatoes topped with spicy goodness. Loved it.

Even that night, just making pasta and hanging out with everyone in the hostel was a good time.

Sadly, the only day with sun was my first real day in the city. It was hard for me to leave — I wanted to experience more of the sub-culture of Berlin — the graffiti laden beach bars, the markets — but the sun never came out enough to make it possible.

My first day in the city, I had met two Aussies who were planning to be there for a week.

“That’s a long time,” I had said.

“This city is absolutely amazing,” they replied.

At the time, I hadn’t felt it. But, by the time my train to Amsterdam was pulling up at the station, I knew precisely what they meant.

Berlin, I will be back. Promise.

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I’ll always remember my first time … Couch Surfing

Up until Berlin, I was a couch surfing virgin. Yup. Never had I slept on anyone’s couch via the very cool CouchSurfing.

I had planned on surfing during my travels, not just to save a little cash, but because I have heard nothing but raves about the experiences people have had … the insight into cultures they receive … the friends they made.

I should have known better when I agreed to couch surf with Borris* (yes, I am changing his name, this is a rare case) in Berlin.

Why?

Blog Europe Germany Travel

A BRIEF intermission: Chasing spring … two months in

Today, May 7, is my two month anniversary of traveling. It is the longest time I have been away from home. The longest time I have been away from family. The longest …

For two months now, I have chased spring. It started in Spain, with the first buds on the trees, the first field of little yellow flowers, and has followed me since then.

Spring is an amazing time of year. It is about birth. About starting new. And, it signifies a lot to me, since this trip is a birth of sorts for me. I have literally taken my entire life’s work, my dreams, my desires, and washed them from my mind and here, have begun to reconstruct the wheel, to re-identify what my dreams and desires could be/are.

A year ago, when I lived in Atlanta, I remember marveling at the city’s sheer gorgeousness with the changing of the season. The pink flowers that would sprout from the winding trees. The bright green grass that would pop up overnight. The light wind that would gently blow during days spent at Piedmont Park, taking in the South’s spring.

I would never in a million years have imagined spending my spring 365 days later in Europe, living in a prolonged (and amazing) spring for nearly two months.

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