Before I travelled to Berlin, I had always thought that capitals are like the sitting room where you´d invite your guests for a cup of tea. They should be immaculate no matter how dirty your own bedroom is, and culminate the best of your qualities. But Berlin is an absolute outliner. Rather than celebrating the German spirit of exactness and intellectual acuity, it is more like the kid´s bedroom- messy, incoherent and sparkling with bizzare imaginations.
When we first crossed the border of Berlin from Potsdam, Toni pointed out of the window excitedly and asked me to take a look at the Berlin Bear. I was confused by his words, and wondered if he had simply pronounced “beer” wrongly, even though most Germans I met had made the opposite mistake. By the time I looked out, there were only trees, and I was gripped by a mortal fear until Toni reassured me that there were no real bears in Germany, and the Berlin Bear was just a symbol for Berlin. These human-sized creatures stood on every street of Berlin, mesmorizing us with their cute and cuddly looks. Their smiles were so infectious, that even the American embassy had made some adaptions to the statue of liberty.
Berlin’s concrete zoo
We were really lucky to be invited by Toni´s family friend for a late morning boat ride on Spree. It lasted three hours, and we had to order six glasses of Berliner Kindl Weisse to keep us from fainting in the blazing heat. Exept for a short glimpse of the Berlin Wall, everything that came across my eyes seemed to challenge my common understanding of architecture.
It was during our boat ride in Berlin, when we were approaching one of the many bridges on Spree. The bridge couldn´t be more ordinary, and everyone was trying to dissipate the heat by gulping down some beers which had become lukewarm in the sun. Some guys took off their shirt, and relished themselves with the slightest breeze as our boat slowly moved on. None of us paid much attention to an old man on the bridge. He was watching us intently with his dog, which wagged its tails with an equal ferocity. As we came closer, the dog suddenly started barking, and looking angry, the old man shouted, “Zieh deine Wampe ein! (Suck your belly in!)”. Flabbergasted, all the half-naked passengers on our boat covered their bellies subconsciously, even though none of their “Wampe” were as prominent as the old man´s.
Berliners are indeed extraordinary. In the next three hours of our boat ride, we passed by numerous lethargic sun tanners on the river bank, all indifferent to the shattered beer bottles on the grass and the overflowing rubbish bins nearby. Just when I thought we finally saw an intellectual guy who was actually reading something, he stretched his legs apart and exposed his private parts carelessly.
People make all kinds of livings. There were cheerful and noisy bands performing for the annoyed passengers on the trains, cyclists who picked up beer bottles from the rubbish bins, and people who simply came to us and asked for donations.
The artists pursued their dreams relentlessly for meagre earnings. We had sat among a huge crowd to applaud for the touching performance of a nimble clown, and also laughed at a desperate young man who tried to attract attention by singing with a horse head and stripping off his pants. No matter how peculiar they appeared to the passers-by, they seemed to possess an exorbitant amount of energy, filling the whole Berlin with wonder and diversity.