Berlin; No purple for me; The East Side Gallery; Berliner Dom; Fashionistas don't read; Checkpoint Charlie; An afternoon spent in homage to Wim Wenders

I had run out of purple colour for my head. This is never good. I had found a place in Berlin that sold Manic Panic hair dye, and I’d meant to go yesterday, but we didn’t make it. I hadn’t realized that it was our last chance, or I’d have tried harder - when we got there this morning, we found that the place was closed Sundays and Mondays. It wouldn’t be open again before we left. This sucked a bit, as I think it may have been my only chance. There’s a care package waiting at home with some in it, but it seems like it won’t be able to make it to us in time.

For everyone arriving via Google search and looking for Manic Panic hair colour in Berlin: savage-store.de at Grünberger Straße 17 was the store. I hope you have better luck than I did.

While in the area, we went to the East Side Gallery - the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall. It’s a kilometre of graffiti and concrete that gives some idea of the brutal oppressiveness of the Wall while it was standing. All the tourists were clustered around the hundred meters closest to the S-Bahn station, and walking a little further we had the place more or less to ourselves. We took a few pictures, some with our mascot and travelling companion Spidey.

Berliner Dom, the cathedral of Berlin, is very impressive - a huge pile of dark stone and copper dome roofs, covered in dramatic statuary. We didn’t go inside, but contented ourselves with the outside. There were no really good angles for photos, unfortunately - the building is crowded on all sides with poles, street-lamps, signs and other buildings. Oh, and tourists, lots and lots of them. I really hate standing in the same spots as everyone else and taking the same photos, but the alternative is to have none at all, sometimes. Ditto for shooting architecture with an SLR, but I’m certainly not going to carry a view camera while backpacking.

Down the street from the cathedral, in Bebelplatz, there’s supposed to be a memorial dedicated to the memory of the book-burnings that the Nazis engaged in. Try as we might, however, we couldn’t find it. It’s supposed to be a transparent sidewalk tile with empty bookshelves below. We couldn’t find anything anywhere around Bebelplatz that fit the description. There was a giant white tent in the square, though, housing the main events for Berlin Fashion Week, and we finally decided that the tent must have been erected over the memorial. I had to laugh, since it seemed more or less fitting since those who create and follow fashion aren’t really known for reading much.

After that we headed out to the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the crossing point between East and West Berlin, when such places still existed. It was interesting, but certainly the most tourist-oriented place in the city. There were people at the former checkpoint building in costume as American border guards, who you could have your picture taken with for (probably lots of) money. They’d also stamp your passport with an East German visa stamp, which was a lot more tempting. I decided not to finally, since I didn’t know if the stamp bore any resemblance to the real stamp that was used, and also because I need all the empty pages in my passport or it’s going to get filled up before this trip is over.

The main focus of the day, tourist stuff aside, was to find as many of the filming locations of Wings of Desire as we could. I had pictures of a map from the Film Museum, showing various locations. We first tried to find the restaurant that was used as Damiel’s restaurant (Casa d’Angelo) and the courtyard where Cassiel flies on the trapeze, but with no luck for either. It’s been twenty-five years, after all, and cities do change - especially Berlin. We did find Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower, of course, and we found the stretch of sidewalk where Cassiel becomes human after saving the life of a falling girl. Also we found Gleisdreieck S-Bahn station, which I didn’t remember from the film but which was on the map. It was pretty interesting visually anyway, with its grimy elevated train bridges, girders and graffiti, it was the only place so far which looked like it really belonged in my mental Berlin. We didn’t, unfortunately, find the spot where Cassiel meets Peter Falke for the first time. I hadn’t really expected to find it, since it’s an anonymous stretch of street with a warehouse behind that was undoubtedly demolished years ago. But it would have been neat. There were two locations that we did find, without doubt. The first was a small park which, in the film, was where Circus Aleikan was set up. In the movie it’s an empty dirt square, so there’s been some urban renewal, but the distinctive shape of two of the flanking buildings was unmistakable. The other place was a location from the first part of the film: a small bridge where Cassiel comforts a dying motorcyclist. It’s Langenscheidtbrücke in the south part of the city, and I was able to exactly reproduce the shot that was used, which was very cool. I got Sheryl to sit in Cassiel’s place and try to look moody. She got a fit of the giggles, which is was she does anytime she has to try and look serious, so in the photos, rather than looking pensive and brooding, she looks like she’s about to sneeze.

After the Wenders homage, we explored a quiet little cemetery nearby, trying to find a particular stone angel that was marked on our map. It took quite a while, but in the end we found her - a life-size sculpture in white stone against a dark wall, half kneeling with her wings folded and her head turned down and away from the viewer. The rest of the cemetery was peaceful and quite old. The perimeter walls were all lined with mausoleums and what looked like the false facades of mausoleums, and there were lines of these walls running through the interior as well. We spent an hour there, and left just before the grounds closed for the day.

We were tired, and didn’t really want to spend a third night at a bar, so we dawdled a bit in the city, found a chicken restaurant at Ostbahnhof and ate there. We’ve spent a horrifying amount of money on food in Berlin, we really have, but the chicken restaurants are comparatively cheap. When we judged that enough time had elapsed, we took the train back to Zehlendorf. Sheryl went to bed as soon as it was polite, and I stayed up another half hour talking about angels with our host. Our views on the subject differ significantly - my interest is scholarly while his is spiritual - but it was interesting listening to him nonetheless.

Flourish

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One Comment on this Dispatch:

July 26th, 2008

I HAD CONVERSATIONS WITH BOTH YOUR GRANDFATHERS ABOUT THE WALL. SUPRISINGLY SIMILAR THOUGHTS. WOULD HAVE LIKED TO HAVE BEEN THERE WHEN THE FIRST SLEDGE HIT. PART OF MY JOURNEY DOWN THE ROAD.

GRAND BABY MADE MEATBALL SUBS FOR DINNER THIS PAST WEEK. SHE IS ABSOLUTELY THE MOST GORGEOUS CHILD IN THE WORLD.ANOTHER PART OF THE JOURNEY. GERMAN BEER IS GOOD ( HENCE OCTOBERFEST ) BELGIAN IS BETTER.
BOTH OF YOU STAY SAFE AND SLEEP WARM.

¬ John sometimes known as Dad
August 1st, 2008

Definitely agreed on the subjects of A. and Belgian beer - Chimay is one of my favourites.

¬ Chris
Flourish
Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
This travelogue comprises 16,426 photographs and 402,515 words in 307 dispatches written from 335 places in 52 countries on 6 continents around the world.
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