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Berlin, Everyday’s Like a Sunday Here

bauhaus posters

One of the reasons I ride a motorbike is that I don’t like sitting in traffic, and when sat in traffic in Exeter I may well rant,

“if I am sat in traffic at least it could be because everyone’s going somewhere interesting!”

No such problem in Berlin, the argument falls over on both sides. It is difficult not to find somewhere interesting but if you are in traffic you are unlikely to get stuck: these roads are wide, really w-i-d-e. As a pedestrian it is wise to plan your journey across one well, there’s not a huge amount of traffic but you will need to cover ground at pace.

But these wide empty roads are one reason why it feels like everyday’s a Sunday here.

I like Cycling – but

Now I like cycling but I’m not sure about the Berlin cycling scene. I did go into a seriously cool little bike shop but, if I may refer briefly to the exhibit to the left, WTF?

There is an overland gas pipeline in Berlin, a rather jaunty pink affair, it travels throughout parts of the city, up and over roads, along the central reservation. What we are looking at here would seem to be a fairly close relation, indeed the lovechild of the gas line. This ‘bike’ is not so much a ‘step-through’, more a ‘trip-over.’

Part bike - part gas pipeline

Part bike - part pipeline

The cyclists here are seriously militant too. Once you have acclimatised to the semiotics of the cycleways (basically a tone or two darker than the host footpath) things aren’t too bad, but stray onto the dark grey stuff as a pedestrian at your own risk and when the bicycles are made out of gas pipeline they will hurt.

However these upright cyclists are well dressed, not in lycra and are another reason why every day feels like a Sunday in Berlin.

Sundays are for Visiting Galleries

So to the main reason why everyday’s a Sunday here, there is so much to do.

In the last few days I have vitnessed artworks from most of the last century, but it’s the way that I have been able to see them that impresses.

Starting at the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin (designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) I have seen works by Dix, Beckman, Moholy-Nagy, Kandinsky. I have then seen (in the next gallery along) exhibitions about type and graphics. These showed again yet more works by some of these artists and other’s including Herbert Bayer’s 1925 experimental type designs. There were artefacts to view: invoices from the greats for the greats, posters advertising the good (and the bad). Much of this work was united on a subsequent visit to the Bauhaus Archiv, a quick trip down the road.

Then there was the Hamburger Bahnhof with an extensive collection of Joseph Beuys (as well as Warhol, and Rothko). I’m not certain about the 12 castrated Reindeer currently resident in this galley. So on to the Colour Fields exhibition at the Berlin Guggenheim. What has been really good is to see all of this together. It really serves to unite and clarify. It also adds dimension and locates the works.

Berlin is job in progress, large parts of it ceased to be at various stages of its history, others are in serious need of care and restoration. Building work continues all over the place. Much of the architecture is awful, there are some gems though. There are buildings on a different scale, old and new, good and bad. However awful it looks in places there is no mistaking the fact that the place lives.

Yes, what there is in abundance here in Berlin is life and to use that awful ‘C’ word culture, this wouldn’t be apparent on a quick sighting. I once heard the Centre Pompidou described as a big people processing machine: they go in at one end, rough and ragged, and get processed by the experiences within the area.

I have been well and truly processed by Berlin.

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