Day 147, 148 and 149: Berlin pt. 1

Cast of characters

Con:
Funny, relaxing and good at talking about both categories of serious shit (emotional and world stuff). I like to think we’re very similar but I’m probably getting admiration and similarity confused. If Con was less cool and woggy we’d look alike too.

Bop:
Bop for president. Details. More. Latest.

Harry:
One of my oldest friends. We’ve known each other for two decades but only one counts because we were too shy in the first one. If he was in a high school drama he’d be the second love interest after the Jock turns out to be a boring rapist. Loves Milena.

Milena:
Pretty, energetic and frank. Reminds me of olive from Popeye without the sick and boring bits. Likes looking at nice things and showing them to people. Loves Harry.

Z:
Looks like how artists are depicted in 90s cartoons. Is much cooler. Has a nice, big smile, makes films and looks natural with a beer in her hand. Loves Nye.

Nye:
1 head of a bushman
1 skinny body
Bowl a party
Bagful of artful rags
Sack of interesting stuff
95 percentage points of love for Z
Mix

Sylvana:
A good example of how fairy princesses can adapt to modern society. Not airy blah blah. Just part of the world.

Setting:
Berlinn openly gay mayor once called the city ‘poor but sexy’. That’s my favourite description.

Thursday:

Con’s staying in Berlin to learn about and make theatre so Bop and I crashed with him. The apartment is in Neukölln, a hipster/druggie/Turkish area with lots of dogs and alcohol vendors. We figured the Turks would probably be making the better food than any Germans so that’s where we went first.

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Veal kofte with mint, sumac, tomato, cabbage, chilli and garlic.

The restaurant looks as unobtrusive and remarkable as a convenience store that’s aged into a crowd of red lights. That’s what most Turkish eateries look like, this one just happened to be excellent.

We met Harry and Milena there. I’ve been friends with Milena an Harry for yonks and Con knows Harry from uni – no one had seen each other in a long time and for us to be so suddenly and strangely united in Berlin was very exciting. Poor bop didn’t say a word for about two hours as the four of us talked exclusively in that slangy-joke language good friends speak in.

When we finished lunch we had this funny conversation of what to do. Usually in this situation I’ve been at the mercy and generosity of a local friend or stranger – we’d go to their favourite restaurants, sights and just do whatever people who live in Berlin do – but we didn’t have that, we’re just a group of travelers who only know what the internet tells us. Con had heard one of the nearby streets was famously ‘cool’ so we went there. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do in cool areas – I think they’re only ever ‘cool’ if you have something to do there – otherwise you just end up looking into the windows of things and taking awkward pictures of street art. It’s kinda like trying to enjoy a concert from the outside – you can hear it’s happening but there’s no feeling.

At some point on our voyage down cool street (it’s very long) someone mentioned mini golf so we did that. We all sucked at it but none of us are competitive weirdos so it was fun. After the game I gave my docket to the golf clerk thinking I had a noticeably average score.

“Would you like an eternal reminder of my excellence?” I asked him as I slid it over.

“Wow. I think this is the top score.” He wheeled around and bobbled into the shed behind him.

“Yeah these two Swedish guys had the record but yours is better so I’ll hang it in the hall of fame.”

Well I feel like a dick. What kind of a-hole says ‘do you want an eternal reminder of my excellence’ and means it?

We ate Thai for dinner. I’ve always been hesitant to eat South East Asian food in Europe but no one we asked gave us a better recommendation. My feelings were right – I thought it sucked.

I met Z and Nye that night. They’d locked themselves out of the their house and came to Con’s to crash. Nye explained the difference between house, techno, griz, jungle, dub step and drum and base. I think I like griz. He was a good teacher.

Friday:

The next day started just like the first.

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I don't know why I included this photo. I think I liked the old woman's facial expression

I don’t know why I included this photo. I think I liked the old woman’s facial expression

They were Turkish markets. We met Harry and Milena there. While we were sitting down enjoying the tail of our spoils we interrogated Bop. This is what we learnt about Korea.

After 7th grade most students study from 7-12 (morning till night )five days a week
Most people have sex before marriage, usually the first time is in middle or high school
Homosexuality is taboo
Some gay guys pretend to have girlfriends
Tattoos aren’t very common
Koreans are not afraid of ceiling fans

We had the same problem again after lunch. I suggested we go to the international beer festival. I think Harry and Milena were afraid of it being touristy trash and left. We had exactly the same fear but for some reason we went – probably because we were unsure of what else to do.

These beers were made my monks. The dark one is 10% alcohol

These beers were made my monks. The dark one is 10% alcohol

Wild boar sausage and mustard

Wild boar sausage and mustard

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We were half right. There weren’t many tourists there (at least not internationally) but it was pretty fucking trashy.

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It was Germanic bogan paradise. Beer guts wobbling and grinning like drunk teddy bears lost at sea, thick wavy grey mullets, singlets, shorts, cleavage clerks, cover bands with baggy pants and enough juicy meat to satisfy a herd of marathon running bears. It was ugly and amazing. We loved it and we wanted to leave.

The beer festival was overpriced and difficult to judge food wise so we didn’t eat much. We weren’t starving but if we saw some excellent offering we’d get into it. We were heading to a free jazz* gig when I got the vibe. It was a bar with plastic plates and outdoor tables – not particularly interesting or cool looking but I felt it. It was calling me.

There was a buffet inside. Sliced meats and cheeses and all the things you usually see next to them. There was no signs or anything so we bought a drink each and helped ourselves to whatever figuring it was free with a alcohol. Con and Bop were wary but I told them about aperitivo and how common it is in Italy. ‘Its probably just the same’ I said.

After the jazz show we walked past the same bar. There was a man inside speaking to an audience. We thought it could have been slam poetry or a story telling night so Con went up to ask.

“Hey, what’s going on?”

“It’s a birthday. The dad is giving a speech.”

Someone at the party must have noticed us stealing their food but what kind of jerk says ‘hey, who the fuck are you guys?’ at a birthday party?

Saturday:

Another morning of indecision with a great result.

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Con and I tried to teach Bop how to float. He failed. I remember thinking about baptism and how weird beach-going Japanese tourists are*. I tried to swim to the other side of the lake. It was stressful and tiring.

Next. Saturday night.

Bop, Con and I are all shit at clubbing. None of us are massive drug users, we know fuck all about electronic music and we love talking. Despite that we went anyway. Having no idea how to go about engaging with one of the most famous club scenes in the world Con called Z and Nye to chaperone. They arrived with a two bottles of club matte and a litre of vodka. Alright then, that’s what we’ll have.

There are few things in the world that become tastier with the addition of cheap vodka – club matte is one of them. I somehow ignored this and dutifully got drunk anyway.

I’m not really sure what happened next. We were all talking about art next to a pond covered in shit and firemen statues and then I was lost. A few hours passed and I said ‘where the fuck am I’ about fifty million times. No one answered me and then we were inside a club. We must have stayed there a long time but it didn’t feel like it.

This is what I remember:
Jumping up and down to some house music. Not dancing just jumping. I must have jumped for a while because my calves were sore later.
Meeting an Indian dude called Shenky. He loomed as if he wanted to fuck us but he didn’t, he just bought us alcohol.
Being surrounded by fog. There was no floor, ceiling or anyone else – just smoke and flashing lights. Then Bop appeared. Just a silhouette of his head and arms pumping in the fog. Pumping, pumping, pumping. It was so joyous. I felt like I was trapped in a Pointer Sisters video clip and I loved it. I remember thinking ‘this is what I’ll see on my deathbed’.

Then I came outside and there was light everywhere. Whatever was mysterious and appealing earlier now looked faded, tired and old. All my friends were sitting in a circle with some strangers but as soon as they saw me everyone got up and we left. When I got home I looked at a clock for the first time since dinner, it was 8am.

I’m not really sure if I enjoyed it or not. Berlin is so famous for clubbing I was expecting something totally mental and disgusting – people indiscriminately butt fucking on the dance floor, fur coat and knicker clad models snorting coke of a midgets’ vaginas, muscly old men dressed only in traffic cones dancing with shaved cheetahs in bubble baths – I probably would have hated that but at least it would have been interesting. It was just a motley labyrinth like building with some couches here and there, scattered clumps of dancers and the occasional couple making out. Everything was dark and the was music was aggressive and robotic. Sometimes I think these experiences are solely designed for drug users. Being drunk just doesn’t cut it and I don’t like being drunk much anyway. I just like to dance. Is it strange that no one designs parties for sober people? Does that exist anywhere? I don’t know.

It’s funny how traveling makes you feel obligated to do things you’d never otherwise do.

*whenever I go to Bondi Beach I always see Japanese tourists running in and out of the water with shoes and jeans on. It weirds me out
*unclear whether it meant without cost or without musical structure

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