a n g e l a

[ 20:30 monday 8 june – liberdastrasse, berlin, germany ]

the front room of timur’s house is a cross between a bicycle repair workshop and a bohemian salon. on one side of the room there’s a big shop window onto the street, currently displaying a selection of linus’ mumpelmonster booklets, badges and political pamphlets. behind this five bicycles stand in various states of undress, two upright, two upside down, one on its side. the other half of the room is occupied by two desks, a sofa (my bed), book shelves and assorted computer and audio machines.

my previous visits to berlin have been in the midwinter fastness. now the snow and heavy skies are replaced with vibrant foliage and street culture. the transformation is marvelous. yesterday i went cycling with timur, weaving around the backstreets from kreuzberg up to mitte and into the north of the city; lapping up his observations and commentary as we went; darting off occasionally to explore an alleyway or buildings that caught my eye. we stopped to visit the courtyard of humboldt university where timur is (supposedly) studying. there we were surprised to find ourselves confronted by a dozen tv cameras and journalists huddled with a solitary figure dressed in a monk’s cowl with a placard on which was written “europa: der kontinent der melancholie”. nothing was really happening. it looked like everybody was waiting for something. the scene was somewhat difficult to understand.

then in a moment of inspiration timur proclaimed “maybe angela merkel is coming here to cast her vote in the european elections!”. scarcely were the words out of his mouth then the lady herself ambled in, flanked by a couple of bored-looking security guards. i grabbed my camera and started snapping. merkel passed the protesting monk and through a door. timur and i were right behind her. a porter muttered at us in german but didn’t seem particularly bothered when we pushed past. so we watched as she collected her ballot paper, went to a booth, cast her vote and reemerged. then she walked past, just a foot away from me, gave a brief statement to the journalists outside in the courtyard, and was gone. i’ve never had any strong feelings about mrs merkel but i found her overwhelming sense of ordinariness rather charming. there was also something friendly about the lack of heavy security or protocol. i couldn’t help but reflect how different it would have been in london.

by some fortunate synchronicity mako and vajra were both visiting berlin (from massachusetts and california respectively). i met mako in an anarchist bar at two in the morning, talked intensely about the struggle between scientific method and intuition, then went off to dance with jan, claire, timur and adeline in a pink-fur-lined gay club in kreuzberg until dawn. vajra i found at a cafe in the north of the city and we cycled out together to the eye-popping soviet war memorial in treptower park.

each time i come to berlin i’m struck by the sheer civilisedness of the place. this afternoon timur, linus and i biked out to go swimming at badeschiff, an open air swimming pool stuck out in the middle of the river spree. what a magical idea. after a chilly swim we reclined on deck chairs, observed warily by a heron and some ducks, and absorbed the comings and goings of the city around us.

: c :

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