I spent a long weekend in Berlin specifically to see the theatre play but the time was important to reconnect with my creativity and sense of freedom.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been in Berlin and a lot has changed. I can hear more English as a common language for communication between people. In fact, I can see more of it in signage and advertising and I wonder how important the German language is in order to live here (not very, probably). I can see new buildings. Updated buildings and gentrified streets. There’s obviously a few new faces here and the demographics are slightly different. There are new ideas like picnic taking the place of some street parking. There are e-scooters darting about everywhere. There are lots of young families. Parents with young children and they seem relaxed. Some of the parents looked cool!
I went to see “Linie 1” with my father. The play is set in the mid-eighties around about the time when my father lived in Berlin. The play, at that time, seemed to be a fairly ordinary depiction of the types of characters that you’d typically see on the notorious Linie 1 subway route which ran from the West to the East of Berlin.
The story goes that a girl from West-Germany is pregnant from a rock star who lives in Berlin and she wants to find him. She arrives at Berlin Station, which is when the play starts and she sets of on her quest and she meets people along the way although she only take one journey.
Characters included the ho-bos staggering about and asking for money and fighting eachother, punks staggering about and fighting each other, disillusioned office workers wobbling on the verge of freaking out, outspoken old women who shuffling about and who thought Adolf was right, happily unemployed drifters lounging around, depressed unempoyables lounging around, beer guzzling blue-collar workers sneering about, Mercedes drivers and their nagging wives out and about, and about another twenty five different characters.
It was ordinary at the time but now, almost 35 years later, it’s a work that crystallises a bizarre period of time when an entire city was surrounded by a wall and ‘in every direction you went East’.
The play takes place in the Grips theatre (above) and is on permanently and we watched performance #1899. In fact, it’s a sort of musical, almost in an ironic sense like Rocky Horror. The band, ‘No ticket’, is the same band as the first performance and they’ve played ever since. The music was nostalgic and brought back that eighties feel.
I came away feeling inspired (as usual) to be creative and surround myself with more creative work. Inspired to write something similar about what I percieve in the world. And I already sort of do, in my writings here. Although what I write appears ordinary, maybe in thirty years, it will be interesting (finally).
That evening we took out my father’s map of Berlin which dated from the 1980s. We followed some of the routes and traced where the Berlin Wall used to be according to the map. We went to a few bars. Some of them have changed, others hadn’t. One of them used to have a view of the Wall – now it doesn’t.
The street corner, here, used to be a corner of the wall, as indicated by a hashed red line on the map
Feelings about being back in Berlin
I love Berlin. There is so much of the atmosphere that I like and admire. It’s a great place; to be, to hang around, to be inspired by. As much as I was overjoyed to be there, I was equally struck by a frustration that being here as a ‘tourist’ wasn’t enough. I wanted more than that, I wanted to be part of it all.
I felt frustrated. I felt I was ‘missing out’.
I went back to the dance floor opposite the Museums-Insel. They played tango and I couldn’t join in, I don’t know how to dance tango. Still, I enjoyed watching them and I reminisced about the times we danced swing and lindy-hop in the same place about five years ago.
It was hot and I was thirsty. I queued up to get an Apfelshorle (apple juice with sparkling water) and I espied an outdoor gym with some large muscular Germans, barechested, working out. I got my drink and wandered over and joined them in the gym. I put my drink to one side, took my shirt off and did some press ups, pull ups and dips.
After releasing some excess energy and frustration I felt more at ease. It helped me to reconnect my mind with my body to ensure I was truly here, not stuck in an insular mind floating in its own dark cloud of frustration.
I then rented one of the eScooters and whizzed around the centre of Berlin for about half an hour until I ended up almost where I started – only by pure chance. The roads were empty unlike other cities.
The joy of scooting around gave me back that feeling of freedom. I was now finally at ease and free so I grabbed a beer and headed back into the park by the river and the Museums-Insel. I was so chilled that even a frisbee, which bounced off someone’s hand gently flew towards me as I was walking and almost landed in my hand. I threw it back and I heard a voice say, ‘hey, cool’.
But more than anything, that feeling of freedom and inspiration was important towards reconnecting with the joy of doing creative work. KH was started a few years ago when I spent a summer living in Berlin.
Although I was only in Berlin for a few days, I was able to soak up a lot of inpsiration (from the theatre and music), creativity (from the surroundings), observations (from the people around me), tales (from Berlin’s history) and most of all, that feeling of freedom.