Monday, November 18, 2013

So much for saving the East Side Gallery

Last Sunday I went to a demo to save the East Side Gallery. I was too late however. The demo was the day before.
Turns out that was probably too late too. Construction of the 14-storey apartment block is very much underway, and it already looms over the “protected” monument that they cut through for building access.
I’ve written about East Side Gallery before. My feelings are well known.
Even if you overlook the fact that another part of Berlin’s history, a major tourist attraction, is being damaged for short-term gain (and whose exactly?), the city has made a monumental fuck-up by allowing these monstrosities be built by the riverside. Maik Uwe Hinkel’s luxury apartment block won’t be the only eyesore blocking what should be a public amenity.
Crown eyesore among them is the O2 Arena which commands attention along the whole riverside at night with its obtrusive giant illuminated advertising hoarding. Its ads are a who’s who of evil multinational corporations – Coca-Cola, McDonalds, BMW et al. They’re impossible to avoid as they force their way into your line of sight even if you try look the other way.
So in short, the whole area is already fucked. Maybe Hinkel’s luxury apartment block can’t make it any worse. He plans to open a café at the bottom so the very tourists whose attraction he has damaged can be ripped off after they’ve taken their snaps of what remains of it.
Yesterday it was confirmed Hinkel worked as an “unofficial employee” of the Stasi from 1982. He brought legal proceedings in an attempt to prevent the Superillu newspaper from publishing details from file XVIII-1493/82 but his arguments were thrown out by the court.
The file has plenty of reports of Hinkel grassing out college mates, neighbors and visitors from West Germany, and his briefings to the Stasi led to the arrest and conviction of a married couple and a student for "propaganda against the state" in September 1985.
None of this changes anything of course. It has no bearing on the East Side Gallery. All it does is confirm the type of person Hinkel was. But we already knew that.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Buzludzha bound

This time next week I hope I’ll have reached my goal. I’m going to Buzludzha, the former headquarters of the communist party in Bulgaria
As soon as heard about this place I said I’d have to find it. It’s a mad-looking UFO-shaped building with a massive tower to the side perched atop a mountain in the middle of nowhere. In Bulgaria.
My flights are booked, I bought a new rucksack and all I need do now is get there. I’ve no idea how to get there. My plan is to fly to Sofia, the capital, and figure out the buses from there. Obviously there are no buses directly to Buzludzha but hopefully I’ll be able to get close enough to hike the rest.
Hopefully I’ll be able to get in there too. Apparently it’s all sealed up with unwelcoming bricks and visitors are dissuaded from entering by unfriendly warning signs. If I do get in I’ll have to be damned careful as well. It’s dangerous.
I leave on Tuesday. Can’t wait!

The pictures here are kindly provided by Tom of the excellent Soviet Storm blog. Soon I hope I’ll be able to update this with my own.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Eisfabrik losing its cool

As the nights turn chilly, the ice factory’s coolness is paradoxically cooling. Not only is it getting too damn cold to sit on the rooftop and drink a beer, but the view is compromised by new apartments springing up beside the river.
Apart from the fact there’s nothing much of the original factory still to see – the insides are gutted but for the remains of the iconic machine with the giant wheel – the entire thing smells of piss, is overrun with rodents and even the street art no longer seems to be of a quality it once was. Perhaps I went back on a bad day...
Last month a group of around 20 youths who wanted to hold a party here got a nasty surprise when they were confronted by two men and two women. One of the men had an iron bar, and the victims were apparently dragged to the roof where they were beaten. Three girls and four guys received head and body injuries before the alarm was raised.
Three of the perpetrators were arrested, the women 37 and 40, and a 40-year-old man, all from Bulgaria. They face charges of causing grievous bodily harm. The guy with the iron bar got away.
But it turns out they weren’t squatters as initially thought. I presumed they were people living there who had been disturbed by the raucous party animals but no – not according to the Polizei. So the circumstances behind the attack remain unclear.
There are squatters living at the Eisfabrik as I wrote before, both of a German variety and an East European one. My general approach to squatters is to leave them the hell alone – I wouldn’t like people coming in and wandering around my house unannounced – but some of the Eisfabrik inhabitants are turning the building’s popularity to their advantage.
When I walked in last Friday there was a dude sitting on a chair with a cup chatting to another sitting on another chair. I went past and took photos of the machine with the giant wheel and when I was I was going back outside, the dude asked for money. He was begging really. I shook my head, didn’t give him anything and walked on.
I briefly roamed around the rest of the building, noted some of the best artwork had been painted over with inferior stuff, the new apartments blocking the view from the roof, and made by way back out – it was Hallowe’en and I had other places to go.
As I was leaving a group of three tourists arrived and the dude started shaking his cup with authority, demanding money for entrance. The tourists looked at each other in alarm and yanked their wallets out, throwing money at the guy to appease him.
Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to beg for money, but of course he doesn’t own the Eisfabrik and he has no right to charge admission. He’s just another in this city making money however he can. He’s certainly not as bad as the fuckers charging admission to Teufelsberg – they have hired goons to ensure people pay.
It’s still worth a visit if you haven’t been before. The Eisfabrik is easily accessible, some of the artwork is fantastic, and it’s certainly an experience to experience. It ain’t as cool as it used to be but hey, that’s a given for a former ice factory.

This post originally appeared on the Abandoned Berlin site, where it can be viewed again if you want to click on the images to see them in a fancy photo-viewer thing.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

You don't fuck with Hallowe’en

Tonight on my way home from work I was confronted by parades of zombies, monsters, hospital patients, deranged psychopaths, ghouls, ghosts and goblins. One fucking eejit was dressed as a fat ballerina. Unless it was a fat ballerina. Apologies if that was you – you looked lovely.
They were all out roaming the streets around Eberswalder Straße, presumably on their way to a party.
Well, idiots, I have news for you – Hallowe’en was yesterday. It’s over, gone. You should have dressed up and gone out yesterday. Tough shit if it doesn’t suit your social plans, if you have to work the next day or it’s more convenient to celebrate on a Saturday or Friday night.
Hallowe’en is October 31. That’s it. You don’t move it. Hallowe’en is All Hallows’ Eve, the evening before All Hallows’ Day, which is November 1. So you’re celebrating All Hallows’ Eve on All Hallows’ Day. Would you celebrate Christmas Eve on Christmas Day? Do you move Christmas to the weekend so you can have a lie-in? No, you fucking don’t! You celebrate Christmas at Christmas, just as you celebrate Hallowe’en at Hallowe’en! Damn.
I hope the ancients are paying attention. It’s Samhain, the first day of the Celtic winter, the Celtic New Year. Hallowe’en is Oíche Shamhna in Irish, in other words the eve of Samhain, when the spirits of the dead come into this world. You sure as hell don’t fuck with it. The dead don’t put it off until the weekend.
I’m starting to think the Germans should just forget about Hallowe’en altogether. They clearly don’t get it. Joking aside, yesterday someone threw a bottle at my head as I cycled by and there were multiple reports of people throwing eggs at others. Better than bottles I suppose, but still, nothing to do with Hallowe’en. I can kinda understand some of the Germans’ concerns.
I went through Mauerpark with faint hope of seeing a bonfire but there was nothing, not a sinner, while the only “bonfire” I saw was at a kids’ party around the corner. At least the kids dressed up, made an effort even if most of their costumes were shite, and at least they managed to celebrate Hallowe’en on the night itself!