Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Find Something You Love and Let It Kill You!" - Expression in the Streets of Berlin

"Find something you Love and let it Kill you!" ... "EMO!"

So many outspoken people here, each with their own unique voice. It makes my heart smile.
We went to three apartment showings today, two in western Kreuzberg, and one in northern Neukölln. This got us out to see some parts of the city we haven't been to yet. It's hard to sacrifice so much time when we both have lots of work to do back at home, but of course it's absolutely imperative that we find an apartment before the middle of March. And it's really an education every time we travel around Berlin. It seems like we learn something around every corner.

At 3 we went to an apartment showing at this really giant, depressing apartment block right out of the 70s, probably, in a strange neighborhood that was obviously in the process of being redeveloped. This building seemed to be one of the eyesores still standing among the brand new office buildings and condo highrises. The property agent never showed up to the appointment, so we didn't even have to bother seeing the place after all. The one thing we'd miss out on by not getting this flat would be the view (although honestly, the windows were too high for any tenant shorter than 9 ft tall to enjoy it), but it was good enough to see it this once, all the while laughing alongside another couple with whom we bonded over a death-defying ride in the cramped and poorly built elevator...

Then we walked around a bit, and had lunch at a great little pizza place on a busy corner of Mehringdamm. I can't find the name of the pizza place now, because Google Maps doesn't list it, and Street View shows an image from 2008 when the location was a laundromat. An example of the fast changing face of Berlin! Then we saw another apartment near the Tempelhofer canal that was nice, but too dark for our taste. So we headed off to the final showing of the day in Neukölln, a district which is often described as up-and-coming, albeit quickly with rents raising every few months.

When we came up out of the U-Bahn station, we found ourselves suddenly in the midst of a standoff between a big crowd of demonstrators and a phalanx of riot police. It wasn't violent, but it was loud, with the crowd alternating between jeers at the police and cheers or chants. Our limited German made it impossible to figure out exactly what they were protesting at the time. However, most of the group was waving flags for the Piratenpartei, a leftist political party that has representation in a few local districts. Looking it up later online, I found some information (through the unreliable filter of Google Translate) indicating that the confrontation was between a small group of right wing demonstrators (whom we never saw because of the size of the crowd), and a much larger group of leftist counter-demonstrators, led by the Piratenpartei. Our best guess then is that the police were there to prevent violence between the two sides.

Without time to see an up-close exhibition of Berlin politics, nor the desire to fuel something that we weren't sure we wanted to encourage, we headed down the street to the apartment showing. This is a really hot neighborhood, so there were at least 20 other people there to see the same place, thus there was a competitive vibe. One woman didn't even look at the apartment, just headed straight for the property agent to be the first to grab an application. And everyone else followed suit, scribbling furiously while hunched over the kitchen counter or whatever surface they could find. Kind of funny, considering that the property guy is really chill and prefers applications by email anyway (we've met him before at previous showings).

On our way back to the U-Bahn after the showing, we again found ourselves in the midst of an off-shoot of the protest. This time a group of youth were blocking part of the street through which the police were trying to move a caravan of vehicles. An interesting observation was that, as one would expect, many people were taking video and pictures of the police action. However, the police also had an officer carrying a large professional video camera, filming everything from right behind the backs of the front line. It was an interesting scene. The police seemed to be letting it the roadblock be for a few minutes, but then they formed up and pushed the group back. For an instant, a bit of chaos broke out as a bunch of teen boys ran from the police formation. They came straight at us (and a bunch of other passers-by; the street was really crowded with people getting off work, shopping, etc.) and we had to dart out of the way. It wasn't all that frightening, though, and actually made us want to live there, if that area is indeed full of action.

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