Monday, November 9, 2009

then we take Berlin

i would move to Berlin in a heartbeat. if it weren't for the cold weather: average daily temperature is nine degrees) . If it weren't for my extremely poor German. I have been talking to store clerks in Dutch hoping that there are enough similarities in the languages for them to understand. but Berlin has now become my new favourite European city, replacing Budapest. there are just so many ghosts here.

i wandered into a random alley in East Berlin and found myself in an old junkyard that had been converted into an gallery exhibition for street punk art, curated by an underground free art school in Berlin. This city has all sorts of rabbitholes and mirrors like Alice in Wonderland, wardrobes like the Chronicles of Narnia, but only if Narnia and Wonderland were haunted by the ghosts of Fascism and Communism. i drifted into a workshop that smelled strongly of spray paint and rubber, decorated by radical punk slogan art, altered vinyls, and an old grand piano sitting in the middle of the room. i struck up a conversation with one of the artists, an ageless man with dreadlocks and no teeth but a surprisingly impressive command of English. we talked about Vancouver and the upcomig Olympics and the headache it is causing. he told me that he found Canada to be knee deep in colonialist culture, which was a perspective new to me, and scrawled on a piece of paper for me a list of things to check out, things not found in guide books. i bought some of his vinyl art.

we found the spot where Hitler died. it's been converted into a parking lot where nearby apartment owners keep their Audis.

we asked a German kid where we should go out, and he told us that on a Sunday night, there were only two parties worth going to: an old school techno rave or a sex club. there was no point in going to a sex club (seeing as how we live in Amsterdam), so we headed for the hard core techno club located in the dank, almost pitch black basement of an old power plant in East Berlin. it was a strange place for our senses, although maybe it should have been everything to expect from a techno club in Eastern Europe. the atmosphere was a cross between a bunker and a dungeon, with cages, long dark hallways, pipes hanging out of the ceiling, and pretty much no attempt to hide the fact that we were partying in a power plant. i dug it. documentary films have been made about this legendary club which helped fostered the techno scene in Berlin since the late 80s just before the Wall came down. The club had a peculiar loyalty to Carlsburg beer, which i found curious given the countless fine German brands of beer.

We spent a chunk of the night sitting in the upstairs bar, trying to guess the ages of the clubbers (were they actually old, or had the years behind the Wall aged them prematurely?) before we realized with through our glassy eyes that the clocks read 3AM. it seemed like the club had all sorts of secret passageways and corners - we watched guy after guy disappearing behind a particularly mysterious pair of red curtains. the last time i peeked behind a set of curtains in a club that looked like that, i found a St. Andrew's Cross and a sign warning me that i *might* come across unusual activity (that was in Toronto, by the way, and not Amsterdam). Colin and i threw back one more beer to get the courage to sneak behind those curtains, but all we found was a giant, heavy locked gate, as though nothing had ever been there. one day i'll go back there and i will know the magic word to get into Wonderland and find out what is so alluring there.