Thursday, February 26, 2015

Operation Schnitzel

I’m on my way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the mountains on the Austrian border. I was on my way to Leverkusen yesterday when I found out. I still went to Leverkusen. I thought I’d be going back to Berlin today. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
But there’s skiing to be covered after I watched Leverkusen out-Atleti Atleti last night. It’s men’s skiing this time, which probably won’t be as glamorous as the women’s but I’m looking forward to it all the same – to the mountain hospitality in particular.
“The hotel has a decent kitchen and makes a good schnitzel,” the chief said as he gave me the assignment. “The bar can get rowdy on weekends when rosy cheeked damsels descend from the snowbound villages.”
I didn’t bring my camera unfortunately as I thought I’d just be going to Leverkusen for the night – there’s nothing to take pictures of in Leverkusen, it’s a fucking hole of a town – so I guess ye’ll have to make do with whatever my phone produces. It’s an old phone though and low on space so it’s probably best not to get too excited.
At least the extra nine hours on a train will give me plenty of time to prepare and catch up on correspondence – it’s allowed me write this blog post for a start. There are other developments developing that I hope to elaborate on soon enough. It concerns a book. But I’ll come back to that. Professional duty is calling now and I have my orders: “Last but not least, you will have to snap a photo of the biggest schnitzel you are eating and share it with (co-workers) and myself. It’s a tradition.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Prenzlauer Berg (slow)

Despite living in a place you’d be surprised how little you know about it. Most people walk the same paths, pass the same doorways, see the same people without every really giving thought for the stories behind them. They only get interested when they see something new.
Today I went on a tour of my neighborhood with Paul Sullivan of Slow Travel Berlin. It was great. We met up at the Kulturbrauerei, home to my publishers, and he brought our little group around and told us why Prenzlauer Berg was built the way it was with its wide streets and large doorways.
He told us of its breweries, why there were more in the area than you could shake a bottle at, of soldiers at the front being sent beer for nutrition, of Jews’ struggle for rights well before the Nazis took over, of the running battles between Nazis and Communists frequenting rival pubs on Danziger Straße.
We saw wartime bullet holes in walls and he told us of punks being harbored by churches, of opposition movements within the GDR, greedy landlords and gentrification, Käthe Kollwitz, windmills and the winds of change. The winds’re still blowing of course – there’s change afoot at Helmholtzplatz. He told us of Jewish kids playing today where bigots once committed atrocities against their ilk, exorcising demons with their freedom and innocence – their very existence.
In short, he gave us an insight into why Prenzlauer Berg is the way it is. It’s been home to struggles of one kind or another from day one. It’s a fascinating place, rich in stories, as is any place when you stop to listen to them. It’s always worth stopping once in a while.