Berlin is a wonderful atmospheric city that captures the best of urban living. It only takes a little detour off the main streets and you'll discover street art on epic proportions, brightening up the grey. The Germans have a reputation for being excellent designers which is reflected through their architecture and well designed city. It's almost surreal to walk along spacious streets of a large city without being jostled about by irritable crowds.
There is also plenty of opportunities to delve deeper into Berlin and Germany's history. Although their recent history is tragic and difficult to fully grasp, memorials and museums commemorate those events and all those lost, often in thoughtful and powerful ways. Parallels between the refugee crisis and the plight the Jewish community has suffered were made through powerful and moving exhibitions. I will dedicate a separate blog post to these exhibitions.
On our first day we explored the lesser known streets of Hackescher Market. Here we were led through an archway; covered in graffiti, stickers and posters. Beyond the arch was courtyard dedicated to all manner of street art every inch of reachable wall was covered and decorated. At the other side of the courtyard tucked into a corner, camouflaged by stickers and posters was an intimidating door. On entering we discovered a stairwell covered in, you guessed it, graffiti and stickers. Unsure if we were really supposed to be there and if this entrance was meant to be open to the public, we discovered a haven to illustration. A bookshop and gallery dedicated to graphic novels, comics, zines, picture books and all manor of books on art, design and illustration. In the afternoon we explored the Pergamon museum and enjoyed views from the Fernsehturm TV tower.
On the second day we visited the Hamburger Bahnof museum, filled with fine art which, was mostly unappreciated by us illustration students, struggling to understand its meaning. On our way to Berlin’s technical museum we stopped by Brandenburg gate and the Reichstag building. We also took a moment to reflect in the Memorial to Murdered Jews in Europe. The memorial is designed so that as you step further into it, the ground gradually slopes down and the concrete pillars tower above you. The pillars are arranged in a grid formation, one minute its easy to see those around you but, by simply turning a corner you can quickly loose track of everyone around you and find yourself alone. Although you are aware of the possible ways to exist it’s easy to become disorientated and loose all sense of direction. Upon emerging I was struck with an element of guilt, I had experienced a small and (in comparison) pitiful amount of the emotions and sensations that many jews had faced but, unlike them I could walk away and leave that experience within the concrete pillars of the memorial. We spent the rest of the day at the technical Museum.
The third day we visited Staatliche museum Berlin full of all sorts of artefacts from around the world, a perfect place for lovers of nick naks and collections. In the afternoon we explored a section of Berlin’s botanical gardens. Due to its vast scale and our mission to capture the wonderful and weird plants through sketches and photos we were enable to see it all within just one afternoon. (sketches of the trip to follow)
Our final day we were given free reign. I decided to have a wonder and an explore on my own. It was only at this point did finally grasp how the S-bahn worked and could at last navigate my way. I started my day at the jewish museum. The architecture created atmospheric spaces giving visitors an insight into the mentality and emotions of how many jews felt suffering under the nazis. I then made my way to the Kathe Kollwitz museum, it was fascinating to see how her work developed through the years and her influences. I wrapped up the day at Brohan museum, their collection includes art nouveau, art deco, functionalism and paintings and prints from the Berlin Secession. I don't think I've been so excited over vases before.
What I appreciated most about my time in Berlin was the opportunity to learn and connect emotionally to the history. Something which is hard to pick up in a text book. The Parallels made between refugees of the past and the refugees of today were thought provoking and powerful. I will explore this further in my writings another day.
Looking forward to sharing some of my sketches of Berlin with you as well my time at the London book fair. But that's all for now.