Largely to do with the fact that I spent a lot of my time with the invincible Max, a very talented young man who performed in a play I directed at UCLA well over five years ago! Thank you Facebook magic for keeping us in touch!
Arriving from Paris at Tegel Airport, once again at the relatively early hour of eleven am, meant that I arrived in NeuKoln at noon. Spending time with someone like Max means that every moment is stimulating, informative and it was in fact, so very good to hear about his adventures since UCLA and how this young man from the Ukraine via California is living it up in Berlin.
Armed with a laminated map and clues on how to travel on the subway I soon went out into snowy Berlin and began my explorations with the historic district. Compared to Paris where I spent a lot of my time at museums I didn’t quite get a chance to do the same here. Instead I walked the streets and Berlin although very cold (it was -4 on Friday) is incredibly pretty at night. During the day the stark nature of the landscape becomes more evident but this too has its own attractiveness that I feel I must explore further at some stage.
On Friday night I met with a former supervisor from University of Melbourne who also happened to be in Berlin and will be here for the next six months doing research. Meeting up with Peter at Eisennacherstrasse for dinner and drinks was a great way to be welcomed to germany and of course initiated into the wonderful German food, beer and of course my favourite heisse schokolade! The next day involved a massive Samstage Fruhstuck cooked by Max (with me as his sous chef) and together a delectable feast was prepared and many an interesting conversation had over a three hour breakfast.
Having been fully satisfied and equipped with various nuggets of advice, I once again headed out into the cold and after heading up to Schonhauseralle walked all the way down Kastienallee towards Alexanderplatz. There are some lovely and unique shops to be found in Berlin – some purely appropriate to escape from the flurries of snow – and others ideal to browse around and spend more time in.
Time was of the essence because that night (Saturday) Max and I were going to see Big Love at the English Theatre Berlin. A very interesting production that gave some strong performances and with the main storyline following the original plot of The Suppliant Woman. The narrative traces the plight of fifty women (represented by three females) who flee an impending marriage contract with their fifty male cousins (similarly represented by three males). With neither father nor country ready to defend them, they arrive in Italy seeking asylum; but their generous host is unable to offer protection and once their cousins arrive, an agreeable compromise cannot be achieved.
Ultimately, tragedy ensues with the marriage night resulting in the death of two of the three men; and the sister who was unable to commit to the unanimous decision to slaughter the men is put on trial; a court session overseen by the mother of the Italian host. The production itself was good; but the narrative had been made too didactic, physical activity was often repetitive and the performances varied across the cast. However, the set was beautiful and used well; there were some delightful moments of comedy and some very powerful and intensely truthful moments that were realized. Nevertheless, a dramaturge would have helped.
On our way to the show Max and I started our night with bottles of good German beer (you can drink on the trains in Berlin!) and after the show this continued as we mingled with the cast and guests before heading out to meet another of Max’s friends, Daniel. Together the three of is went along to a friend of Max’s going away party. From then on, you would need little imagination to guess how the night continued. In true Berlin style we went to the clubs and after a really fabulous night out and come early morning we collapsed into bed at 7am on what was now Sunday!
After four hours of sleep we were up again to have another big brunch (we were also starving) and once again meeting up with another of Max’s friends (honestly, this man is an uber-intelligent scientist but he could equally run social networking activities with aplomb) and then by 3pm I was once again on my way, this time to meet Amelie, the sister of my friend Axel who organized my adventure in Paris (see here for more).
Spending time with Amelie was like spending time with a lovely big sister. We went for a promenade and not only did she show me so many unique little historical sights, but told me so many stories that I quite like the idea of coming back to Berlin…and in the not too distant future.
After dinner and a few drinks, on a whim I decided to message a friend whom I had met in China during my residency in September 2012 (see here for a full update) and completely unexpectedly, he came and met us and we continued our late night rendezvous – until 2am!
And so, as I finish typing this particular account of my time in Berlin, on the train to Duisberg to visit my beste freundin Tihana, I am quite convinced that during the past 72 hours I have well exceeded the number of bars that I would normally frequent within that space of time and surprisingly am still functioning with very very limited sleep.
Indeed, I am glad of this four hour train journey across Germany – because it gives me time to write. Not sleep. What’s that?