I’m in Love with Old Buildings

About two years ago I went to Europe for the first time. I visited Berlin. Being an enthusiast for old buildings, I thought I’d quench my thirst for architectural tourism, but I never enjoyed ancient buildings in Berlin, and I could never figure out why until last year when I visited the ancient towns of Vence and St. Paul de Vence in France. At first I thought the buildings in Berlin were not old in the strict sense of the word, since the city was obliterated during WWII and many sites had to be reconstructed, or rebuilt from scratch, but I did not feel any thrill while exploring Vence and St. Paul de Vence.
 
Travelers admire Belvedere auf dem Klausberg,
in Sanssouci park, Potsdam, Germany

I love old buildings, not just because of the fantasy that they might be haunted. Something about man-made structures that have lived for eons captivates me. Each time I see one, I wonder why has it stayed alive all this time?

Bazar street, Tororo, Uganda, where I grew up.
I grew up in one such house, in Tororo, not old in the way someone from Europe or Asia would think of old, for Tororo was built in the 1920s by migrant Indian traders who came to profit from the building of the Ugandan railway. It was among the first urban centers in the modern (colonial) history of East Africa. Maybe that’s why I’m fixated on ancient sites, and maybe that’s why whenever I travel I look out for those things that have stood since before my great grandfathers were born. 
 
 
A sadhu, holy man, in Pashupati temple, Nepal
Nepal is a haven for relic hunters, especially Kathmandu, where it seems like every building is over a century old. I lived there for two years, and traversed much of the country, satisfying my quest. Walking into temples that had stood for several hundred years, and still serve the same purpose, was like stepping into a time machine. I saw monks dressed pretty much the way they were dressed five hundred years ago; I saw worshipers lighting candles in the Stupa, an activity that has gone on for centuries; and I saw Sadhus smoking ganja on the banks of the Bhagmati as they await the next fistful of ash from cremated bodies in the Pashupati temple; I saw people doing the same things that had been done thousands of years, worshiping gods in the same way, and I heard of temples where the same fires have been burning for eons. That experience took me to worlds I could only dream of.
 
On returning home, I tried to find similar buildings. I went to Fort Patiko in Gulu and to Fort Jesus in Mombasa, but I was a little disappointed for I could not get the same orgasm as I did from the temples of Kathmandu. I couldn’t understand why. I thought it could be because they were built by foreigners, so their presence was more like somebody else’s history.
 
A view from a windmill near Sanssouci Palace.
When I went to Berlin in February of 2014, I expected to see places with similar emotional histories as those in Nepal. I took a walk from the Brandenburg Gate to check out the Berlin Cathedral, maybe the most impressive building I’d ever seen, and in between there was plenty of buildings to see. I totally enjoyed the art installations in the museum island, and then on the Berlin Wall – that was probably my best moment in Berlin. I visited the Reichstag building, with its stunning views of the city, but I still had a hankering and someone advised that if I wanted to see the real old ones, I had to go to Potsdam, for most of Berlin is a reconstruction. So I jumped on the train and headed off to Potsdam, for a one day trip.
Anything interesting in there?
A woman peeks into Orangery palace.
Belvedere auf dem Klausberg, Sansoucci park
I was disappointed. Sanssouci Palace did not look old at all. It could looked like something the English might have built in colonial Uganda. It felt nice for a picnic, for a walk around the park with a girlfriend, and I saw many people doing just that. I jumped on the bus and headed off to the New Palace, but on the way I saw the Orangery Palace and I decided to stop for a look. The disappointment deepened. It looked like a something set up with a pretentious effort at art, overrated, I should say. I found it closed for renovation the day I went, which is probably why I disliked it.
As I waited for the next bus, which I realized would take over an hour, I decided to explore the wilderness around the Orangery Palace. That was more exciting than the actual palace. I stumbled upon this building, it looked small and alone in the bushes, and strangely out of place. I would expect it to have been in Asia, with its style imitative of pagodas and with it being on top of a hill where you had to go up a steep flight of stairs to get to it. It reminded me of many small temples I saw in Nepal. Curious, I went up the stairs, and entered the building. It turned out to be a restaurant, very warm inside. Almost everyone was an elderly white person. I was the only young man, and black at that. The waiter too looked young, and he spoke a little English. I looked through the menu, and the prices were murder. I couldn’t afford anything in it, so I excused myself and stepped out into the coldness. A sign-post I came up shortly after said this was building was called Drachenhaus (dragon house).

 

Drachenhaus in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam, Germany
Well, the jewel in the clichéd crown was supposed to be The New Palace completed sometime in 1769 by Frederick the Great. The architecture of the kitchen was like something you’d find in Game of Thrones. I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the palace. The king apparently did not want the chaos and noise of the kitchen to disturb his peace, so he built the kitchen way off from the main house.
Hitherto, I had not peeked into the insides of any of these palaces. Though I was broke, having lost 200 Euros stupidly (believe me, the money just fell out of my pockets, twice, a hundred euros at a time), curiosity overcame me. I paid eight euros for a ticket. I was eager to see what it looked like inside, and I was disappointed to find it wasn’t any different from what I’d already seen in the movies and the photos. The extra money to take photographs was a complete waste. I could have as well used my phone camera, but because I had a DSLR they made me pay extra and I stupidly did. Idiot. The furniture, the paintings, the décor, there was nothing new I was seeing. Even the history of the individual rooms (this was where so and so died, this is where so and so committed suicide, this king used to have breakfast here, this was the music room) well, knowing all that didn’t move me. I thought it was because I wasn’t German and didn’t know any of the people they were talking about.
But then, in Nepal, I wasn’t Nepali and didn’t know any of the kings and goddesses, yet I still enjoyed Nepal, for I wasn’t visiting museums. The palaces in Berlin on the other hand are just that, museums, huge monoliths without life. In Nepal, I could go to the Kumari’s courtyard and though I would find a group of tourists, if I hung around long enough I’d be lucky to see the living goddess at the window, looking into a mirror, or having her hair combed, or something fun, something that told you the house is still what it was a thousand years ago, a house full of life, not dead and commercialized.
The servant’s section in New Palace was more interesting
than the building where the king resided and hosted parties.
Vence and St. Paul de Vence were a little better experiences than the trips to Berlin. The Grand Jardin was a captivating park, full of life, and the architecture in old Vence was interesting enough, different enough from what I had seen and know about Europe. I enjoyed St Paul de Vence more than I did Vence. I didn’t know about St. Paul until I was on the way to Vence, when I looked out of the bus window and saw a surreal village sitting on top of a rock. For a moment, it struck me like a movie set, something straight out of Game of Thrones, and I wanted to jump out of the bus and go to it, but I had set my eyes on Vence so I stayed in the bus and chose to visit St. Paul’s commune another day.

 

The problem is that both places are dead, not in the museum sense like the palaces in Berlin, but still dead. They have more shops and art galleries than real life. The art galleries are supposed to continue the culture of these ancient cities. Some famous artists, writers, and actors are said to have lived and worked there, and two including an American writer James Baldwin is said to have died there. I went off the main track and explored the alleys where few tourists went, I found people living in the little cottages. One cottage had a sign saying a poet, Jacques Prevert, lived in it in 1940. I wonder if there is a poet living there now. I wonder what kind of people were living in the houses right inside a tourist attraction. St. Paul de Vence and Vence were not as dead as Sanssouci park, and they keep their culture alive with galleries selling really high-end, and extraordinarily expensive art. But I still did not get the thrill for they are not really the kind of places they were at the time of construction. They had changed with the times, and though they were a little better than museums, I did not get into any time machine when as I explored them.

 

Artwork on display in St Paul’s Commune, Vence
In St Paul I came upon a chapel, The White Chapel, that intrigued me. The guide said it was a penitentiary of the White Brotherhood. I paid 4 Euros to enter. It was billed as the Church of Folon. I didn’t know who Folon was, but I was so curious I wanted to see this secret chapel that a brotherhood used. Maybe I would experience something from the Da Vinci Code. So I paid, and went in, but what did I see when I got in? An empty room. Yes, that’s exactly what it was, this chapel that the guide books had said was a penitentiary of the White Brotherhood, that they called the Church of Folon, I don’t know what exactly I expected to see, but an empty room? Come on. Okay, it was not exactly an empty room for there was a woman sitting by the door to make sure only ticket holders came in. But why put a guard to prevent people from entering an empty room? Do you have to pay to see the paintings on the wall and the sculptures? What made no sense was that both the paintings and sculptures had nothing to do with the Brotherhood. It would have been worth it if these paintings were old, or if they were from the brotherhood itself, but they were done by this Folon guy in the 1950s. Charging 4 Euros to enter an empty room to see ridiculous works of art is outright robbery. Maybe it would make more sense if I know who exactly Folon was, a version of Da Vinci?
Inside the chapel, this is all you see.

 

Impressive. St Paul’s Commune in Vence, France
The one exciting thing I remember from the trip to Vence was the sight of St. Paul’s Commune on the hill. It’s a good thing I had not known about it before, so it was a pleasant surprise to look out of the bus window and see an ancient city on top of a rock. I found a similar spectacle in Cannes, this time it was not a city but a castle, complete with a flag waving about. I grew up on literature featuring castles, and so they are kind of romanticized in my head. I had searched for them in Germany, but was told there was none near Berlin and I didn’t have time or money to go exploring far, so when I saw this one in Cannes, I was thrilled for a few seconds, until I remembered that it would no longer be a living place, but a museum. So I went to it without expecting much, and I didn’t find much thrill, but I enjoyed the chapel, where I saw people praying, and I think it’s still used for regular service. It then struck me that if I wanted to find that joy in visiting old buildings as I did in Nepal, I would have to go to places of worship, for they certainly would still be in use. I just hope I don’t find more scams like the Folon Church in St. Paul’s Commune.
So when I heard of a castle in Nice, La Chateau, or Castle Hill, it turned out to be just as unsatisfactory. It sits on a hill, but does not offer any romantic façade like Chateau de la Castre in Cannes, though from the top, just as from the one in Cannes, you get a grand view of the scenery below. I went mostly because I had heard that old town Nice was not only ancient, but still a home to people. I took joy in walking through the very narrow streets, though they were mostly empty, and as I wandered about, I came upon an old church, Cathedral of Saint Reparata, built around 1650. The thing about travelling is to not find out as much about a place as possible before going there, just the basics, and so just as I didn’t know about St. Paul’s Commune though I knew of Vence, I didn’t know about this church in old town Nice, so I got a pleasant surprise. Outside the cathedral a street band was playing some great music. That’s one thing I enjoyed very much about Europe, the street bands composed of seemingly talented musicians, crooning for pennies.
Beautiful music for pennies in front of the Cathedral of St Reparata,
old town Nice, France

 

After the church, I toured the flower market, expecting to see something like Owino, but it did not live up to its expectations. I guess you have to be a flower enthusiast to experience joy at visiting a flower market.

 

As a side note, if you visit Vence, or St Paul’s Commune, or even the Sanssouci park, make sure you don’t miss the last bus or you are screwed. There aren’t any taxis nearby. I’ve heard so much about transport in Europe, how it’s so cool and everything is on time and you can schedule your movements, but I found it a great, big inconvenience. You can’t travel at any time you want, as is the case in Kampala, where you go to the roadside and you’ll be sure a taxi will come along at some point. You have to stick to a creepy schedule, and if a train runs late, then you are screwed. I made the mistake of jumping on the wrong train once, to Grasse, yet I was to going to St. Raphael, and only then did they tell me that there is no train going back the other way. It was 8pm, and the trains had stopped running, the buses as well. My only option was a taxi, it cost me 200 Euros. I guess you have to live there long enough to get used to that system.
Well, that’s it for the old buildings in Europe, at least for now until I learn of better places to go to. I will be exploring more in Africa, and I got a taste of it in Nigeria in November 2014. When I went there I did not expect to see so many old buildings, there was one in almost every street in the cities that I went to, Abeokutta, Ibadan, Idanre, and Akure. I didn’t go to Benin for I feared it was more of a touristy place, and I instead went to little known palaces built using mud that had stood for nearly thousand years, yet still alive. Like the temples of Nepal, they are not relics, people living in them, and they still serve the same purposes as when first built. I have reserved another blog post for my trip to Nigeria. While there, I heard of the wooden houses in Freetown, Sierra Leon, and I think that should be my next stop, if I ever get the chance, but I also want to satisfy my curiosity about the old towns on the East African coast. I’ll definitely be making a visit there later this year.
A market booms in front of Irefin Palace, Ibadan, Nigeria
Tororo Town, one of the first urban centers in modern East Africa

 

New Palace in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam

 

New Palace in Sanssouci Park, Potsdam

 

Where a poet lived, in St Paul’s Commune, Vence

 

A couple explores St Paul’s Commune, Vence

 

An old house in Vence

 

A woman and her dog in ancient Vence

 

A view of old town nice, with the cathedral prominent

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What I Disliked about Berlin

There is an African proverb that says a child who does not travel thinks his mother is the best cook. Well, a child who travels, and still thinks his mother is the best cook, has a point. I was in South Africa for a couple of weeks in 2008. Loved the place, the people, and have planned to go and live there ever since. I went to South Asia, lived there for two years until 2011. Great people. Colorful culture. Beautiful but violent, painfully ancient and slow to adapt to modern laws of happiness. In the end, I couldn’t wait to get back home. I went to Europe for the first time, earlier this year, stayed in Berlin for about two weeks, and I don’t think I was impressed. No, it’s not a place I would ever want to live in!
I loved the trains, and the beautiful architecture.

I cannot understand why so many Africans give up their lives to go over there. I met a Ugandan who has lived there for about ten years. He went as a student, got lucky and got a German wife, which paved way for him to become a resident. But he said it was also easy to become a resident if you learn the language, and that many people get deported because they fail to speak German. There is a place, which the Ugandans call kiyumba, where they take illegal immigrants to learn the language and culture. If you are in the kiyumba, then you are called a kamwanyi. Kiyumba is a kind of asylum, a place to train immigrants on how to become Germans. This kind of contradicts what I hear about how illegal immigrants are treated over there.

Yet, it’s not really this that made me dislike Berlin. I never encountered immigration problems personally, so I cannot speak much about it. Thing is, the place was too clean, too organized, too systemic, too much like a place for robots to live in. What happened to the dirt and randomness and chaos that makes life fascinating? Too cold! I can’t figure out how people live in such a cold country. I went in February, during winter, and they say it was a warm winter. No snow fell during my stay there. But I still hate coldness. It was much like in Nepal, where I had to wear layers of clothing, where I could not get totally naked. Not even while in bed.
Still, the cold would have been tolerable if the place had the human touch. Well, human beings live there, true, but they have made systems to run their lives so much that they have lost what I call the human touch of living. Only robots can be happy in such an environment. 
 
Riding a bicycle seems a better idea than taking the bus or train.
Take their transport system. One morning, I was at a bus stop. A cold harsh wind was blowing. I thought my face was peeling off. There were about twenty other people, feeling the pain of the gale, and there was a bus right beside us. Idling. A bus with air-conditioning. In it we would have been warm and protected from the wind. But the driver did not open the doors. It was not yet time. Nobody complained. I wanted to shout, to scream at the driver to open the doors, but I kept mum because the others waited patiently, braving the cold, until the scheduled time reached. Fifteen effing minutes we spent there in the cold, and this bus guy sat in the warmth, looking at us as though we were — I don’t know what he thought we were. Polar bears?
Waiting for the bus.

I can’t imagine what it is like in the full terror of winter, with snow falling, or rain, and the bus guy refuses to let people in simply because it’s not yet time! Why couldn’t he let us wait from inside the bus, until it is time to drive off?

Then, just as he set off, a woman came hurrying towards the stop, pushing a pram with a baby in it. She waved, frantically, pleading for the bus to wait. Maybe she was shouting, but we could not hear her voice. The driver saw her, yet he had no expression on his face as he stepped on the gas and sped away. He could not wait a few seconds for the woman and her baby, for then it would mean effing up his schedule, ruining the system. Now the woman had to stand in the cold for another twenty minutes for the next bus.

I wondered how far the mother and her baby had come. Though Berlin seems to have systems to care for disadvantaged people, the insistence that buses and trains only stop at designated spots is a nightmare. If your home is a mile from the bus stop, and you have a baby, or a physical disability, you are screwed. The two weeks I spent there, I was limping most of the time, for I had to walk, walk, walk, and it was such a strain. If they do want to help physically disadvantaged people, then they should go beyond making buildings and vehicles easily accessible. They should make public transport be able to stop wherever such a person wants to jump out of. Like in Uganda, and most of Africa, where you simply tell the driver ‘maso awo’, even though there is no stage, and the bus will stop.

Anti-Nazi grafitti and stickers, run by http://www.antifa.de/, litter the streets.
This sadly means there is still Nazism and racism.

I thought this impersonal thing was only in the systems, but even the people have lost a sense of comradeship. If you do not have a phone with GPS, or if you are like me who cannot read maps because all my life I have had to rely on asking locals for directions, and you get lost, you are screwed. I was going to a party. After a lot of trouble, I eventually found the train that would take me to the place. On reaching, I couldn’t find the street. It was dark, eight o’clock. I asked a woman for directions. ‘Oh,’ she said, with a big smile, ‘you are going to F_strasse? Just go down this way, turn left, and there you are.’ I went down the way she pointed, turned left, and I was not in F_strasse. I asked another person, and she gave me directions again, which I followed religiously, only to find that she too had sent me to a totally wrong place. I was lost. They made me walk around in circles for over an hour, with each person I ask claiming to know the place, and then giving me totally wrong directions.

At one point, I was angry and frustrated, and thinking of going back to my hotel, and then I approached a man, who ran away from me, screaming, ‘No money! I have no money! I’m just a German! I have no money!’ What the f**k was that about? He probably thought I was a beggar, or that I wanted to mug him.

Finally, I met an old man. I asked him if he knew F_strasse (I can’t remember how the name is written), and he told me why I had walked around in circles all night. ‘Don’t you have a phone with GPS?’ I did not. He had a map in his pockets. An ‘analog map’, as he called it, and he was kind enough to stand with me for nearly ten minutes until we figured out how I could reach the street I was going to.

As I made my way to the party, already tired and pissed off, I kept wondering why those people (six of them) gave me totally wrong directions. Did they do it deliberately? Why? Did they just not know their own neighborhood?

I could not help but compare it to a time I got lost in Nepal. When I asked for directions, I ended up in a conversation with the locals. They wanted to know my name, where I came from, what I was doing in Nepal, whose house I was going to, what I had for lunch – and I got to know about them and their families. In Uganda too. You get lost, the locals will give you all the directions you need, and if they do not know, they will tell you so. Sometimes, they will offer to escort you right up to the door you are searching. Asking for directions is an opportunity to socialize, a chance for the traveler and the local to get to know a bit about each other. But apparently not in Berlin.

The trains really fascinated me.

I must say that after that terrible experience, I had much nicer encounters with Germans. A woman saw me at a bus stop, reading the information board, and she asked if I needed help. I said yes, and she did help. Another man saw me puzzling over a map, and he offered help without me asking. It happened more than twice, but the first experience was deeply etched in my head. I never asked for directions again. I instead tried my best to learn how to read maps. One time, I was going to the Neue Synagogue from the Berliner Dome. It was just around the corner, but because I did not trust them anymore, and decided to use the map, I found myself taking two trains and a bus. Its only when I reached the Synagogue and recognized the buildings around the Dome in the nearby distance, only then did I realize what a dork I had become.

Other than the inhuman systems, and the inability to socialize with strangers, the impersonal relationships, the place is bloody expensive. It costs one euro to take a pee! That’s the price of a cup of Turkish tea at the Donner Kebab place I frequented. That’s the price of a decent meal in Kampala. A French woman who now lives there says she makes sure she goes to the toilet before leaving her home, otherwise she won’t be able to afford peeing in the public toilets. 
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The Delights of Berlin

Early this month, I went to Europe, for the first time in my life. It’s an overrated place. I never understand why people kill themselves to go there. All the time I was there, questions from a folk tale kept ringing in my head; anansi the spider went to paradise, but why did he not talk about what he saw there? More important, why did he return to earth? Before I offend my German friends with a list of why I hated their country, I’ll tell you about the things I enjoyed. I was in Berlin, for about two weeks, hardly enough time to form an opinion of a place, only enough time for me to learn four words, nein, tanka, nikut and kut. Or they sounded like that. I checked with google translate, and the words are probably nein (no), danke (thank), nix gut (no good) and gut (good).

Grafitti art on the East Side Gallery, on what once was the Berlin Wall

The last two words I learnt from a Kurdish guy. I forget his name. He ran a chicken doner kebab place near the central railway station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Doner Kebab is a Turkish fast food. This guy made it with chicken cooked on a vertical rotisserie, and wrapped in a flatbread. He called it Turkish Pizza. If you ever visit Berlin (or Europe), a doner kebab is one of the delights you should look out for. It’s often sold in roadside fast food stands, which are run by Turkish immigrants. There is a whole lot of them in Germany. I heard that they are the largest group of immigrants into Germany. It’s one reason the EU doesn’t want to accept Turkey into their community, for they think there will be a deluge of immigrants. I think the best thing to do is to open the gates. The spiders will flood in, see that Europe is not the paradise they believe it to be, and go back home.

Outside the doner kebab, Berlin Hauptbahnhof

And this kebab guy taught me two German words. He said, ‘Deutsch nix gut, Turk gut’. So I’m not the only one who thought Deutschland wasn’t heaven, but more of that in the next post. In this one, I’m telling you about what I enjoyed there. The delights of Berlin.

The Kurdish guy and his rotisserie

I wouldn’t have found anything more than doner kebab if I had not run into a french woman who has lived in there for six years now. Marie. She is an artist, a theater practitioner. We met at a party. I seemed to be attending a party every night. I told her I wanted to see the non-tourist places in Berlin, and she was kind enough to be my guide for a night.

Turkish pizza and Turkish tea.

According to her, Berlin is the cultural hotspot of Europe. Artist love it for it has a vibrant underground art culture, plus it is a cheap city, which makes it easy for artists to survive on their dreams. I must say that I met more non-Germans than Germans in Berlin, maybe because I was moving in the art world. They come from all over the place, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy. I sadly never met any African artists while I was there, but I would have treasured such a meeting.

Seeing that I was eating nothing but doner kebab and the horrible currywurst, which is something of the national fast food in German (a sausage, basically), Marie took me to a place that blew me away, and that made me, for a moment, wish to live in Berlin. A restuarant called Clarchens Ballhaus. They dance there every day, starting about ten pm, but we were both too tired to try it out. I had a German meal, Kasespatzle, which is paster served with cheese, roasted onions and apple compote. I didn’t like it a bit. But I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant. It reminded me of OR2K in Kathmandu. The old building, the candle lights, the music, the hum of conversation. Too sad it didn’t have the kind of aphrodisiac menu and the whiffs of marijuana that made me fall in love with OR2K.

The Clarchens Ballhaus is in an old building, with an old style facade. One of the few that survived the blitz of the second world war. The whole city was destroyed at that time, but some buildings survived, and  this was one of them. Or so I was told. Being a freak for architecture, these old darlings made me like Berlin.

The building housing Clarchens Ballhaus.
Below, inside the Ballhaus.

After dinner, as we walked back to the train station, when I told her that I was in love with monsters and all things fantasy, she took me to the Monster Cabinet. A bar. I was curious about what kind of bar would be called a ‘monster cabinet.’ Outside, it had a huge monster. You drop a coin into its belly and it performs a weird robot dance, with its eyes rolling out of its head in a grisly fashion. Total fun. Marie said arty bars in Berlin has something unique about it, a thing to set them apart from the others, and for this bar, it was monsters. I’d recommend visiting such a bar. There is lot of them in the city.

Inside the club, the atmosphere again was nothing like what I had seen before. I can’t describe it. Take a look at the pictures. It’s worth a thousand words. They had a bicycle pinned onto the wall, and there were faces of monsters all over the place. The lights, and the (was it wall paper or just paint) gave the place a feel of a sci-fi movie set. In fact, it reminded me of one of my favorite fantasy films, The Mirror Mask. We sat down for a drink, and were surprised to realize that there was a projector beaming a film onto the wall. Cartoons. No sound. We had to listen to the electronic music. I thought that very weird. Why would they show cartoons in a bar? 

Maybe they noticed no one was watching the cartoon, for they switched to erotic music videos, and we got our cue to leave the place. I’m sure later in the night, the videos changed into something pornographic.

Like I said before, this Monster Cabinet is in an old house, a relic, called the Haus Schwarzenberg. There was a notice asking for contributions to keep the place afloat, for it was supposed to be an important place for artists. We went there in the night, so we couldn’t visit the gallery, but the corridor leading to the bar was covered with graffiti art.

The street to Monster Clarinet. While in other cities this might be
an unsafe place to walk at night, Marie said Berlin is such a safe city
she feels comfortable walking alone in such streets at midnight.

I like Berlin for it’s graffiti art. I was told there were works of Banksy somewhere. I went hunting for them, but couldn’t find anything. Or maybe I saw it but just didn’t know it was Banksy. Still, to crown off my visit, I went to see remnant of the famous Berlin Wall. There is a gallery on it, called the East Side Gallery. As the Wall came down in 1990, some one thought it would be a wise idea to preserve a section of it. And of course, looking at a plain wall, inspite of its hostirical significance, wouldn’t be fun, so they invited artists from all over the world to paint. It makes a visit to the Wall worth it. Of all the tourist places in Berlin, I totally enjoyed this, partly because I didn’t have to pay anything, but just walking down the street, looking at the fabulous paintings, and at people posing to take photos, brought a smile to my face.

The most famous painting is that of two men kissing. Its based on a photo of two communist leaders kissing in 1979. One is Leonid Brezhnev (Soviet Union) and the other Eric Honecker (East Germany). The painting is by Dmitri Vubel, and is titled ‘My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love’. The painting has been defaced by both sides in the gay debate. When I visited, I found a man and a woman kissing in front of it, to the delight of spectators. I don’t know if they were trying to make a statement, or if they were just having fun. 

A couple kissing on the Berlin Wall, East Side Gallery.
 
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