Friday, 4 October 2013

Heute, ich bin ein Berliner

Arriving by NastyJet at Berlin Schonefeld Airport, 25 miles south of the city (of course), I found a train into town and got off slightly randomly at the large interchange of Alexander Platz, with no clue how to get to the hotel or even where it was. I searched in vain for some time for a bookstore or news agents to buy a map.
The Platz had a vibrant winter-ish market selling a surprising array of lace, leather goods, tourist knick knacks, beer and sausage, funny pictures and hats. Well, the hats were sure funny.
Eventually I got back into the station and tried without success to find my hotel's address on a graffitied station map of the streets.
I thought at least proceeding further might help, not bothering about such detail as which direction I was travelling in, beaten up as usual by the Gatwick experience. 
(The compulsory binning of many of my toiletries in a lengthy, sullen interview that nearly caused me to miss the check-in, because the bottles were larger than 100mls; take-off delayed by half hour, chicken coop seat between sighing, snorting coughing man and student watching shooter movie on iPad; beer four quid for a warm mini-can).
It turned out I had got on the right line and train and that my random choice of descent was spot-on.

Things were looking up and before long I found the unexpectedly lovely Kunsthotel on LuisenStrasse which runs directly north of the station where I had descended, Friedrichstrasse.
An unpretentious mixture of bold and homely that Berlin seems to achieve so gracefully, of ancient charm and futuristic chic, the building straddles the very line of the wall whose destruction heralded the end of 28 years of brutal segregation between two opposed world political movements across the heart of a single city. 
In fact, one side of it was bricked and concreted over to prevent desperate Easterners gaining access and throwing themselves below onto the train tracks in a hopeless bid for the other side, sometimes jumping onto train roofs or scrambling amid gunfire across electrified tracks. 
It is barely possible to imagine this desolation of the spirit in such a place now. 
The eighteen foot ceilings and the trunks supporting the massive rustic wooden staircase surround a pointed weight, suspended seventy feet on an invisible wire, balanced perfectly at the centre spot. 
The halls are covered in impressionistic or erotic art and the communal bathroom I had so dreaded was in fact a super clean, large, light space with amazing showers. 
Lobby of Arte Kunsthotel, LuisenStrasse, BerlinA giant smooth snake head looms at the over the lobby seats and the deep vine-draped courtyard is silent but for the rhythmic beat of swarming starlings far above.

Tomorrow, Friday 4th is the first day of the first conference of the European Sound Studies Association, "Functional Sounds", the reason for my return here, the first time not in a truck to move furniture up one of those courtyard staircases. Happy happy days!
I will report some of the speakers and ideas in my next post - looking forward so much to this!

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