“In the 1980s a cement wall circled Berlin. The general atmosphere of Cold War paranoia and communistic suppression surrounded the isolated city, turning it into an icon, a glowing fortress for many, the German statue of liberty welcoming fugitives escaping from East Berlin politics or West Germany’s army, harboring extraordinary lifestyles and famous rebels. For me it was love at first sight.
The crumbling façades dyed black by the pollution of cars and coal stoves, the massive avenues lined with old-fashioned parks, chestnut trees, and twinkling weeping willows, monumental buildings constructed in gray ivory, decorated with turn-of-the-century symbols and plaques, remembrances of historic happenings and characters long gone but nearby nonetheless, the many backyards or “Hinter- höfe” in which one could easily get lost looking for friends, calling out to a Berlin Hausfrau hanging her laundry in the cool shade of the adjoining corridor, receiving no answer and delving even deeper into the abyss, plunged into murky depths of backyard alleyways, inhabited by rats, stray cats, old bicycle wheels and lost baby carriages, these were pictures comparable to my favorite childhood story-books.
The lumpy cobblestone streets leading to large, empty squares had generally been cleared of World War II rubble but not restored to beauty, leaving weeds and playing children to do the decorating, swimming in the gray smoke wafting in from the East, interlacing neighborhoods with its soft mesh, harboring an atmosphere of destitution and neglect, reminiscent of Oliver Twist or whispered film noir scenes. The eccentric unconformity of its inhabitants, known for their rudeness to tourists and dry sense of humor, felt appropriate in the end-of-cycle atmosphere. It was comparable to the legendary 1920s, with people celebrating the challenge of their unconventional lives in an unconstrained uproar, flirtatiously tounting conformity, intolerance, death, and insanity, rejecting serious 9-5 day jobs and preferring eccentric scenarios.”
“The Beauty of Transgression-a Berlin Memoir” by Danielle De Picciotto
Photo taken at Anhalter Bahnhof, Nov 2012
© petrov ahner