Published: June 3rd 2011August 25th 2010
Charred remains in the former Iraqi Embassy of the GDR, abandoned in January 1991
Last year I ended up living in Berlin for about six months. I'll spare you the boring details of why, when, how and where, let's just say that it was a step I needed to undertake, for personal reasons, mostly.
Living in a tiny room in a shared flat with three guys my senior wasn't necessarily the most pleasant thing, ever, but I learned a lot about myself in the process, and how my interactions with other individuals nurture and affect me. I had to learn to accept my flatmates' peculiarities and weird or annoying habits, and so did they. Plus the rent was cheap, and the location great.
I spent most of my time running, bike-riding, going to shows, reading, watching films and cooking. I also started participating in running competitions, something I'd set myself the goal to getting into for a while. I ran my first half-marathon after training for it for about three months. The finish time was nothing to write home about, but I completed the run, that's what's most important.
The city has been much-hyped, and gets more tourists these days than is healthy. In the German print media, more and more articles
are being written denouncing the ever-increasing commercialization, gentrification and noise pollution that the inhabitants have to battle with, as their city is 'the place to be' for too many people who shouldn't be there in the first place.
Still, Berlin has this anything-goes feeling about it that you can't find anywhere else in Germany. Especially non-conformists and people who don't seem to fit in anywhere else will be more likely to carve out a little niche for themselves somewhere in Berlin. Yet, despite the fact that I'd travelled around the world twice, I sometimes felt and was made to feel like a country bumpkin there. The reason for that is, I come from a small town in 'the West'. Every self-respecting Berliner will think of you as being from 'the West' when you're not from Berlin or the former German Democratic Republic, also known as 'the East'.
Anyway, it didn't take me long to feel at home and comfortable in Berlin. As a resident, naturally I got to see and experience things that most tourists and casual visitors don't. My extensive bike-trips took me to all types of squats, pubs, hidden corners, lesser-known museums and monuments, lakes and
forests. Almost everywhere I went during my explorations through the city, I saw street art. It ranged from stickers, simple stencils and quick political or cultural statements sprayed on walls to commissioned graffiti covering entire buildings, artistic and innovative paste-ups, the newest pieces of underground scene heroes and provocative installations that were removed by the authorities all too soon.
I photographed and documented the best and the ones I liked the most. In a city that is as dynamic as Berlin, individual pieces are usually not here to stay; sometimes other street artists or vandals 'enhance' them, other times they are painted over or removed. Thus, taking a picture is capturing the moment.
Just as the street art scene is in constant flux, so is my life. I'm not living in Berlin anymore, but I recently went back on a short trip, and was reminded of how much I liked it there. Currently I'm forging plans that might have me go back, but it's not up to me this time. What I'm positive about is that sooner or later I'll end up there again.
There are more photos below