Day 2 – Berlin
Ever seen two haggled looking orangutans jumping up and down, hugging each other like how, maybe, Helen Zille would hug her comrades after hearing Jacob Zuma didn’t get majority?
Our bags arrived. Elation prevailed. Tegel Airport in Berlin is tiny. We could’ve been landing in George for all I knew, and yet our bags were spat out onto that conveyor belt with a resoundingly satisfying thud.
We had clothes.
And I had a cold.
Amsterdammage had indeed given me the hammering I well quite deserved, and now I had a streaming nose, glazed eyes, a red schnauzer and didn’t quite look the part I was hoping: evanescently cool looking with a penchant for techno.
I haven’t been sick for more than a year and NOW? Now I get a cold??
This was going to be one of those Push The Fuck Through It You’re In Berlin scenarios, so ignored my cold completely.
Such well talented birds we are, we found a bus, then jumped on the underground U-Bahn, effortlessly, to emerge finding the most incredible hostel ever.
I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels. But The Circus in Mitte is worth mentioning, because it was like the Plaza Hotel as far as I’m concerned. Clean, funky, hundreds of amenities (they will even loan you an iPod with Berlin music loaded onto it if you want to go on a jog, say.) And it has a very cool pub and a café spilling out onto the street.
We didn’t waste any fucking time. The moment we stepped off the plane we knew we were going to love this place.
So we walked around the neighbourhood, drinking it in. Berlin has graffiti everywhere. And it’s beautiful. It also has a giant TV Tower, the Fernesturm, planted firmly in the East, but where one can see it from every angle.
Every shop we passed was vintage and retro. Stuff from the 70s – the original tick tack – from shoes to furniture to clothes. It was sensational.
We visited the DDR Museum. Berlin has 381 museums. THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY ONE. That means you’d have to go to a museum everyday for one and a half years to see every one. So we had to prioritise.
The DDR Museum is brilliant for two reasons: it’s super interactive, with touch and feel and all of that, and it’s super fucking retro. I’ve also always had a fascination with communism, Soviet dictatorship and such, so I knew this was gonna be a goodie.
So when West Germany manufactured the VW Beetle (hoorah!), the East had to come up with their own ‘People’s Car’ pretty quickly. They created the Trabant. The cutest looking fucken car on the planet. Two stroke engine (a hamster wheel), didn’t have a fuel guage (it broke down all the time), parts were almost impossible to get. And yet the people loved it. The waiting list was 16 years. Parents would put their kids down for one. You can now hire them to drive around in. Trabi Safari they call it – gotta love the nostalgia.
Eastern nostalgia is tangible here. If anything, I noticed that the East is the place to be. The West thrived during the Cold War, but the East has now taken over since the wall came down. And I’d imagine partly due to the retro throwback. With tourism and the fact that retro is once again the new cool, all this Stalinist stuff is all the rage.
The clothes. Cotton for some reason wasn’t readily available/too expensive for the Communist State, so most of the stuff was very synthetic. Think crimoplene, nylon, polyester. In the steel factories they must’ve schvitzed a bead.
Then there was Levi’s. Of all the items top of their list to be smuggled in from the West, East Berliners had bunfights over Levi’s. Mostly because their brand jeans looked like a denim sack and ran in the wash. They really got the raw end of the deal there.
Retro Livingroom 101. With the obligatory Soviet tv show running, Stasi spying microphones behind the pictures, and textured wallpaper. What a treat, I was mesmerised.
Later on, we went to a pub where there was a fucking Hoff Shrine. You can’t make this shit up:
With candles and everything. David Hasselhof was a large constituent towards the fall of communism. Or so he thinks.
Berlin is cheap. Cheap at least in comparison to other European cities. We ate Asian food at a cool eatery down the road, and for a large plate of Chow Foo Yong or whatever - four euros.
Long live Hasselhof. And Commy Bastards with their retro style.