Published: April 29th 2010April 27th 2010
Funny how with just a few clicks you can access some of the most valuable and imperishably important information on the internet. The motivation behind these, in that case, was to find out whether I'm deviant or completely normal. I was most happy to find out that in 2001, Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki of the University of Sydney, undertook a systematic survey about navel lint, otherwise known as belly fluff. His primary findings were as follows:
• Navel lint consists primarily of stray fibres from one's clothing, mixed with some dead skin cells and strands of body hair.
• Contrary to expectations, navel lint appears to migrate upwards from underwear rather than downwards from shirts or tops. The migration process is the result of the frictional drag of body hair on underwear, which drags stray fibres up into the navel.
• Women experience less navel lint because of their finer and shorter body hairs. Conversely, older men experience it more because of their coarser and more numerous hairs.
• Navel lint's color appears in a characteristic blue-grey. The color is most likely an average of all clothing colors worn.
And finally, and most importantly (I was greatly
relieved to read that):
• The existence of navel lint is entirely harmless, and requires no corrective action.
Navel lint appears to be of significantly bigger importance in Australia, where it enjoys huge popularity. The record holder for collecting navel lint is Graham Barker of Perth, Western Australia, who has been collecting his navel lint every day since 17 January 1984. His hobby won him a spot in the Guinness Book of Records, as well as multiple appearances in late-night talk shows in Australia and the US.
He states that "Some people gaze into their navel for inspiration: I look into mine and see navel fluff. Also known as navel lint, it is that fascinating fluffy substance that forms mysteriously in the belly buttons of special people."
+++back to basics+++
After leaving Tristan and Leila's place, I make my way to Alexanderplatz, where I meet up with Dunja. Her flight is only one out of two flights carried out by Germanwings to Berlin that day, the other one being from Split. All other flights have been cancelled due to volcanic ash hailing from Iceland, an occurrence that managed to shut down half
of Europe for a week or two. Looks like they use two planefuls of Croatians to see whether or not it is really dangerous to fly in those conditions.
We head for Wedding, the borough where our new host Alex lives. When he opens the door I'm surprised to see how old he looks. He's 42 but already grey and slightly overweight. We put down our bags and sit down for a chat. He asks us what our plans are, and after listening to everything, he just scratches his chin and stares into space, even now and then smacking his lips while apparently deeply reflecting about what we just told him. I just look at him, unsure whether he is about to reply and if by saying something now I would be breaking his concentration and confuse him. After about three minutes he finally says "I think you could do this and that, and on Friday we could go to x together, and on Sunday to xyz, and..." He seems to have made all those plans for us, and doesn't appear to be interested in our opinion on this particular subject. I just try to be vague and say
"Yeah, maybe, we'll see..."
We go on a little bike ride to a nearby hill surrounded by a park. I realize there's only Turkish people prancing about, the men sporting mustaches and the women wearing headscarves. A father shouts fiercely at his son not to climb up a fence in stereotypically wrong German with simplified grammar.
The following morning we have polenta with yoghurt and sunflower seeds for breakfast. Alex eats with us, constantly staring off into the distance towards some mysterious entity that only he can behold. When he finishes eating, he immediately jumps up and hurries off into the kitchen to wash his bowl and spoon. Then he goes back to bed to watch television. He says he's been without a job for a while, and has been living on welfare.
We head to Mitte and I take Dunja around, showing her the touristy sites of the centre; i.e.: Alexanderplatz, Rotes Rathaus, Neptunbrunnen, Fernsehturm, Berliner Dom, Museumsinsel, Bebelplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, Unter den Linden, Brandenburger Tor, Holocaust Memorial. When we find the place where Hitler's Bunker used to be, I'm a bit disappointed to see that there only a parking lot with an information sign in front. We
learn that it was detonated by the Soviets a few years after the end of the war.
We walk to the Jewish Museum, which is hugely popular with school groups and all kinds of tourists. We spend a few hours walking through this highly complex building, learning in great detail about 2,500 years of Jewish history. I am quite surprised to see a small section on the Jewish populations of medieval Mainz, Speyer and Worms. Following the Black Death, Jews were accused of poisoning the wells and causing the plague, and multiple pogroms occurred and whole communities were obliterated or kicked out.
One of the most interesting and harrowing parts of the museum is a section with thousands of heavy steel plates with faces cut into them piled up on the floor. Visitors are encouraged to walk on them, and listen to the diverse clinging sounds the steel produces while everything else is silence, surprisingly quite a gut-wrenching analogy of the Holocaust victims' unheard cries.
Back home, Dunja cooks a nice, heart-warming lentil soup with salad. Alex tortures us with a Bavarian ska band who sings in dialect, and I feel there might be better music to accompany a
beautiful vegan dinner out there.
The following days we take the bikes and ride around for hours through the city, stopping at various points of interest like the Berlin Wall Memorial Centre, where a stretch of the Wall is still preserved originally, including death zone, barb wire and watchtowers. There is heaps of information about the lead-up to the construction of the Wall, about people who lost their lives trying to cross it, as well as everything about the events that surrounded its fall.
We also head to Dahlem to see the Ethnographic Museum, which includes exhibitions on Asian, Native American and South American art, and many of the artifacts look quite familiar from my travels during the last couple of years.
We also visit the Turkish Market, buy loads of yummy feta spreads, hummus, olives, peppers and bread and eat everything by the riverside while a fantastic Spanish busking jazz band plays just next to us.
In the evening Alex asks us if we wanna "go to this club called Super Molly", he says there's an "alternative solidarisation party" with "some bands playing, the first one is Occasional Polka Dot Balkan Party Music, and afterwards there's music
playing, it says here on this website The Ragga Gagga Gang with DJ Paulano and DJ Pilo." He doesn't seem to realize how ridiculously stupid all of this sounds, especially when pronounced in colourful Denglisch, and we try hard, but somehow fail, not to laugh. We decide not to go, and he stays at home watching TV.
On Saturday, we go on a little excursion to Grunewald, where we make our way to Teufelsberg, an artificial hill rising 80 metres high, comprised of what is estimated to be 400,000 buildings worth of rubble. Once it served as Nazi military-technical educational institution, and after unsuccessfully trying to bomb it during WWII, the Allies occupied the place and transformed it into a National Security Agency listening station. After the Wall came down and the Allies left, investors built several impressive high-rise buildings, which were supposed to be a luxury hotel and appartment complexes. However, the construction process was aborted after Berlin experienced a huge building boom and the Teufelsberg project became unprofitable amidst rumours of radioactive traces in the hill.
We have to walk for a while until we find the 'entrance'; a fence where two of the steel bars
have been bent just sufficiently for people to cram through, which is great, for it adds to the semi-illegality of it all. Inside, there are piles upon piles of rubbish, broken bottles, smashed windows, rusty steel constructions, dilapidated lifts, and everything seems to be covered in graffiti. There are several towers crowned by fabric-covered domes, and the further up we go, the more adventurous we feel. There are no boundaries, no guard rails, and you really have to watch your step.
On a terrace towards the top, we are greeted by a familiar torrent of words in a nasal tone of voice - Americans! They sit there eating salami, so we move to the very top, the inside of the biggest dome, which has some of the best acoustics ever.
We sit down, enjoy the view over Grunewald and eat a nice lunch consisting of pasta with lentils and salad.
We venture back into the city to have a look at the East Side Gallery, a long stretch of the Berlin Wall that was left standing for artists to paint. The quality of the art is quite high, so is the diversity, and as a consequence it is very
popular with tourists, who come to marvel at this important piece of history and to get authentic GDR stamps into their passports at the souvenir shop.
Later, at Alex's place, he wants us to come along to the famous Russendisko, saying that "you cannot go there without being drunk. We should go at around 12 until maybe 3 or 4." Luckily, before we can go, we pass out into a well-deserved sleep.
In the morning we get up early to go to Museumsdorf Düppel, one of those traditional medieval villages where everybody is clad in traditional costume but, fortunately, doesn't pretend to speak only Olde Tyme German. The weather's nice and it's all quite interesting, but in the end, it's nothing special. We head back to the Mauerpark flea market where we find Alex on a blanket, roasting in the sun.
We move on to see one of the most touristy party of Berlin, the Potsdamer Platz with the Sony Centre and its famous canopy, as well as yet another Wall memorial. Close-by, there's the former Nazi-Reichslustfahrtsministerium, or Air Ministry, where fat bastard Hermann Göring reigned supreme. It is one of the few Nazi-era buildings that haven't been destroyed.
Today it houses the Federal Ministry of Finance.
Later that night, we have a nice farewell dinner with Alex, and he seems to be a bit more cheerful and accessible, and less contemplative than usual. In the morning, we say our goodbyes and thank yous and head to the Ostbahnhof where we take the bus to Hamburg.
There are more photos below