Berlin or Berlout?

09Nov11

From the blog that brought you Lisbon or Lisboff and Brno or Bryes comes Berlin or Berlout; your shoddy bible to what’s hot and what is not actually that hot in quite a few ways in Berlin. Which is in Germany.

Please keep reading. It does get slightly better.

The Berlin Wall: East Side Gallery

Paris has the Tower, Sydney has the Opera House, Essex has Lakeside Shopping Centre and Berlin has the Wall. Each landmark is iconic although only one offers free parking when you spend over £25 at Dixons, taking it to the next level. The biggest surviving section of the Berlin Wall is known as the East Side Gallery and looks about 1.3km long to me. It provides a surface for people to express joyous optimism at the fall of Communist oppression. Some take this opportunity less seriously than others.

He's actually bi.

I had imagined my visit to the Wall may be rather bleak but hadn’t counted on the brilliantly incongruous beach bar behind it, offering sand, deck chairs and ‘Essential Ibiza Megamix ’04’ on constant loop. The sun blazed so I decided to kick back with a bratwurst and a few beers in the name of democracy but please don’t label me a hero. As I drained my third Pilsner, something inside me (my bladder) told me it was time to make the ultimate political statement. I silkily grooved towards the Gents, accompanied by ‘Balearic House Beats ’02’ at which point things all went a bit Pete Tong. A woman of about 65 in a white doctor’s coat sat by the toilet door, presumably to provide medical assistance if required. Here was an excellent example of the professional opportunities afforded all ages and sexes in a free democracy. My proud reverie took a knock when I noticed she was carrying a bowl that said ‘Toilet ¢50’. I was no longer convinced she was a doctor. The bar had sold me drinks and now wanted to charge me to function bodily the CAPITALIST PIGS! It may not be fashionable but I did begin to wonder if we should pop the wall back up again? I was going to argue my case with the fake physician but sensed she was less Dr Hilary Jones and more Dr Harold Shipman so just paid up instead.

Verdict: Berlin – A fascinating piece of history. Just remember to go before you visit.

Mauerpark Bearpit Karaoke

I joined a large crowd at the stone amphitheatre in Mauerpark to watch Bearpit Karaoke – a Sunday tradition in Berlin. The sun shone, the atmosphere was joyous and what the warblers lacked in talent they more than made up for in misplaced confidence. I could sense the audience were waiting for that Susan Boyle moment when a contestant not looking the part unexpectedly go an’ put it down. That moment arrived when a dishevelled homeless man shuffled onstage clutching a bunch of plastic bags. With a wild shock of shaggy grey hair and the unmistakable waft of urine, Susan Boyle has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic and this tramp may have been hoping to emulate her. Sorry SuBo.

The spectators were one big collective goosebump as the first stirring bars to ‘My Way’ began. Our hero of no fixed abode raised the microphone to his beard, took a deep breath and began to sing beautifully in German. The pitch was perfect although the Germanic intonation did mercilessly bully air molecules into teary submission. It seems every German song I listen to sounds like a list of orders to follow. As this was the first German song I have ever heard that may justifiably be described as a wild generalisation.

As the final note soared skywards, half the crowd were on their feet. 70% of the audience were standing when he started so this could be seen as something of a rebuke. You really can’t put a price on a magical moment like this so when the organiser came around collecting money I pretended not to notice.

Verdict: Berlin – Scores an unprecedented 46.7 out of 52 on the unnecessarily complicated Gadabout fun scale.

Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights is an annual celebration of illumination with events across the city. I chose to attend the main opening gala at Potsdamer Platz as I calculated this would be the most visually spectacular. My hunch was confirmed when I arrived to find a man on stage dressed in a leotard, spinning two glow sticks.

Robbie Williams denies feeling humiliated by new role on Take That tour.

He was replaced after just 49 minutes by a host with an evangelical zeal that made me feel a teeny bit sleepy. He spent close to an hour introducing various sponsors with an excitement that I’m afraid may have been artificially manufactured.  “Let’s hear it for Michael Richter, Junior Vice President in Charge of European Sales at Vodafone Germany! Yeah! Make some noise people!! COME ON!!!”

"WOW! What a great time we're all having!!" I'll be the judge of that my friend.

It was the sort of build up more usually associated with plaque but eventually the main show did begin. A giant white mask hung over Potsdamer Platz and appeared to come to life as talking faces were projected onto its surface. This was genuinely innovative, creative and very impressive so when the 30ft face boomed “lets begin the show” the entire audience held its breath. A tall building next to the face lit up in pink which changed to green then back to pink morphing to green before returning to pink and finally green. A spotlight shone from the top floor onto the stage where the man in a leotard strolled back on while juggling glowing balls. The audience let out its breath and we all disappeared faster than dirt in a Cillit Bang commercial.

Verdict: Berlout – I know the world economy is in serious trouble as I like to keep up with the news. However, if governments refuse to splurge large amounts of tax payers’ money on one-off events to create a short spectacle I might quite like then I just don’t know how we’re ever going to get out of it.

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