Berlin

29/02/20


It was a crisp November day, too cold not to be wrapped up, but delightfully warming in the bright autumn sunshine. The leaves were a glittering array of golds and burnt orange, the sky the most beautiful blue-spotted by the odd white cloud drifting along without a single care.

Making our way out of the airport into this foreign land, we faced the usual challenges of navigating public transport in an alien world, and fumbled our way through various kiosks to obtain a ticket, promptly followed by queueing up with the rest of the tourists trying to figure out how the ticketing system worked and which platform took us all into the city center. It wasn't all that long before we were climbing aboard the refreshingly efficient railway system and on our way to the German capital, Berlin.

The year was 2015, but I remember it like it was yesterday, for that was a very special day. This was my second time visiting Germany, but my first time in Berlin and I arrived with the usual feeling of excitement and anticipation. What I didn't know at that time was that this trip would pour jet fuel on my already smoldering thoughts of becoming a photographer, and begin a love affair with this city that continues to this day.

Since that initial visit, we returned twice more before having a break to take in more of the world. As fantastic as it is to see and experience new places, I couldn't help but feel an elusive itch, always just out of reach that was yearning to be scratched. Well, this itch has now been well and truly scratched, and I am elated to be able to share with you the latest installment of 6 in the City. Let's pop over to Deutschland!

A restless night proceeded the day of departure, which meant that the moderately early start was difficult to embrace early on. Still, we were up and out on time and made our way by train to Stansted Airport for a mid-morning flight to my favorite city.

The train journey was nothing short of amazing; a heavy frost had settled upon the Essex countryside and I sat gazing out upon the glistening scenery illuminated by the early winter morning sun from the train window as it whisked before my bleary eyes. Even in my subdued state, the beautiful day was not wasted on me, and I longed to get out and capture some great images.

Despite my desire to want to take photos, I couldn't quite shake this zombie-like status which followed me through the flight and onto the platform of the train station at Schoenefeld Airport. Berlin is like a second home for me, and even so, I completely lost my bearings and somehow was persuaded to follow the advice of a stranger directing visitors to the subway train instead of the national rail, which meant a slightly longer and more cramped journey into the city center.

Check-in at our Air B&B wasn't until 5, so our arrival meant we were a couple of hours early and we had some time to kill before we could properly settle. The sky was clear, and a bright afternoon sun made for incredible light which I was keen to make use of before checking in. I had planned the trip meticulously as the next couple of days looked to be heavily overcast and I wanted to make the most of the limited time of good weather. With this in mind, I marched us with our suitcase to the Holocaust memorial to improve on the shots I had captured there previously.

With not much more than a glance at the map to refresh my memory, I felt like I had returned home, proudly navigating the streets as if they were my own. I was happy to be back, taking in the amazing architecture and subtleties that make this city unique and so dear to my heart. However, despite these high feelings of affection for my surroundings, I couldn't settle myself.


Arriving at the memorial, I got to work, leaving Claire with our case on the periphery I busied myself about this incredible installation trying to improve on my previous attempts, but with so little time, and still feeling somewhat lethargic, it was largely a wasted attempt. The sun was so low and flaring my lense in such an unflattering way, I eventually conceded that this was not going to be my day. Perhaps my next target would bring the satisfaction I so desperately craved.

Claire would, unapprovingly no doubt, acknowledge that there are three individuals in our relationship; the two of us, of course, and Marie. Marie Elisabeth Luders was a German politician who I know little about, save that she was a German politician in the early 20th century, but what I do know is that her name was blessed upon probably my favorite structure. Marie Elisabeth Luders Haus is somewhat of a mecca to me, the interesting and unique design of this building has seen me return now 4 times to photograph it and capture it the best I can, and with the weather conditions blessed upon me at this time, I felt I could finally surpass my earlier attempts and finally feel satisfied that I had captured my not-so-secret sweetheart with the justice she deserves.

Sadly, I must report this was not the case. I had left it too late which the best of the light had passed, and I just couldn't get my head straight enough to settle on a composition. I was tired, frustrated and longing to be warm, fed and rested. Despite all my wills to fight on, I gave up, and instead headed in the direction of our apartment to check-in.

Wearily, we headed to Alexanderplatz which would be our home for the next few days. The sky was truly incredible, turning the few clouds that lingered a glorious deep pink hue as the sun began to set, whilst I could only gaze longingly is as lugged myself onward in search of rest and refueling. The welcoming committee had gone all out for us retuning, but we just couldn't participate in the party, we were beat.

After the krypton factor'esk task of obtaining the keys to our temporary abode, which concluded with a box in a mini-mart opening once the challenge was complete to reward us with the keys, we made our way into the small modern, but tidy apartment and rested a while. Hunger was truly taking hold, and with nothing much fueling us since breakfast, we ventured out in search of some German cuisine to get us back into the swing of things. The camera stayed in its bag on the bed and stayed there, I was not in the mood for photography.

This dark mood was soon lifted by an amazing dinner at a local restaurant and the opportunity to rest weary bodies. We weren't looking for anything fancy and stumbled upon a middle of the road place that ticked all the boxes. Best of all was the beer, Dunkle (dark beer) is the way forward for me from now on. Dark, sweet, bitter, and oh so good!

Well-fed and watered, it was back to bed with the hope of some decent sleep before the first full day back in this glorious city.

The first time I looked at the time it was 4 am local. For no reason whatsoever I had woken far earlier than needed, even though I knew the weather was going to be lousy and there was no need to rush out the door to capture the early morning light. To make matters worse, there was something akin to a coast guards searchlight beaming straight through the gap in the blinds right into my retina which startled me into a frenzied panic.

The call to nature was forced upon me and encouraged me with much enthusiasm to secure the blinds so that I might recover some much-required slumber. This was short-lived, and I awoke another 2 times before finally giving up and accepting the new day around a quarter to 8.

Normally I would welcome a new day on any trip with unbridled enthusiasm, but this time I could not rouse myself at all. I was tired, compared equally to the evening before, if not more so, and my body ached. The weather wasn't helping, the forecast promised a boring overcast morning, and we were not to be disappointed. With much persuasion, I dragged myself out of bed and put myself together, trying so hard to be enthusiastic, after all, I was back in Berlin.

After a bit of breakfast from the local supermarket, it was time to venture out and see what lay in store for us. My route for this day started with a meander from Alexanderplatz along the Spree, passing the Berliner Dom, the 3 Girls and a Boy installation, before crossing the east side of Museum Island to pass the Deutsches Historisches Museum. You will have to take my word for all of this because I have not bothered to edit any of these images. The thick blanket of grey that loomed in the sky meant that the little available light was heavily diffused which translated very poorly photographically. 

As we walked through to Bebelplatz and Gendarmenmarkt we discovered a small memorial that we had not seen before where the lighting conditions actually enhanced the experience. Neue Wache is a neoclassical building that encompasses a single statue of a mother in a state of distress clutching her child. The installation is described as the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship; the small statue relative to the area in which it resides seriously enhances the impact on the image before you which is enhanced further by the single natural light source above. Now I could start warming up my camera and get into the swing of things. 



Continuing onward we found ourselves back at the Brandenberg Gate and in the vicinity of the Reichstag, which was perfectly timed as we were booked in to visit the Reichstag shortly thereafter. We did have some time to kill though, so what else do you do in this area with an hour on your hands? Pop down and see Marie of course.


Yes, much to Claire's frustration, we were down on the bank of the Spree again shooting this magnificent piece of architecture once again. I was still holding out for better weather but thought that this lighting would force me to look at a different way of capturing the details of the building. Glare from the surrounding glass was non-existent, which meant that the reflections of the circle were clearly visible on neighboring windows. These were a particular focus of my attention, seeking to capture the important details whilst including some human interest for scale. If anything, this did lift my mood.


Arriving a little earlier than scheduled, we presented ourselves at the Reichstag security and was quickly processed and placed in the security hut holding area where the next group of visitors was gathering. This visit only includes a trip up to the famous dome for a view across the city, but it is free after all. I generally find that high-level viewpoints within a city aren't generally that interesting, and certainly do not translate well on camera unless perfectly timed with a great sunrise/sunset, and on a day like today, this was certainly not the case. Not wanting to waste the opportunity, I turned my attention here the structure itself and the people visiting the dome.


The dome has two concentric sloped walkways that wind around its perimeter to a central viewing platform at the top, surrounding a large mirrored centerpiece, a little like a lighthouse. The strong sweeping lines and occasional patches of horizontal grates gave me the idea of strong black and white processing, blowing out the messy highlights not bring out these strong details and silhouette the visitors unaware of my micro project. 

With the dome done, it was time for a spot of lunch; top of the list of local delicacy's to track down was some Currywurst! Best served from a street vendor, and consumed in a standing position from a high top table, washed down with a cold pilsner; this is a ritual for our visits and something we very much look forward to. Our venture for the evening would be towards Potsdamer Platz, which is a fairly commercial area and I was worried that we would not find a stall en route, so we turned to a restaurant near the Brandenburg gate which looked good and settled in there. My previous statement regarding how this dish should be served was completely reinforced by this meal, as the restaurant's serving was nice, but not quite as good as you get from a street vendor, but at least we were fed and ready for some more walking.

The route to Potsdamer Platz is fairly uneventful. Leaving behind the political district you pass through an area of mixed-use which doesn't present anything of particular interest. This is quickly transformed however as you approach  Potsdamer where stylish modern buildings suddenly shoot out of ground and tower above like a tiny slice of Manhattan Island. I had so many ideas for shots in this area, but they were all planned for after the natural light faded, so we grabbed a coffee and waited for dark to settle.


After dark, the buildings really come to life. The entrances to the underground station, the towering buildings and the domed roof of the Sony Centre all make for interesting subjects, and I busily bounced from one scene to another making the most of this short visit. I had hoped to recapture an image I took a few years before one of the boxed entrances to the underground station, capturing the lights in the darkness and the travelers busily coming in and out of the station, whilst at the same time taking home something different to enhance my portfolio from the city. 



Moving into the Sony Centre your focus is immediately drawn to the huge white roof panels which are stitched together to form a dome, on to which different colored lights are washed making a stunning display on the interesting shapes above. A wide shot of the whole roof is not particularly challenging but it is essential to tell this story, so after I had captured that I kept hunting around for more interesting detail shots, incorporating the fairy lights adorning the line of trees leading into the center.

By this time, it was getting late, and it was time to grab some dinner before heading back to base for some rest. We headed into a bustling pub in the Sony Centre, which ironically was the sister pub to the one we had had lunch earlier! This turned out to be a fantastic choice for dinner, as the atmosphere was incredible. It was time now to tick my second local delicacy off my list, calves liver - Berliner style! I know that the liver isn't to everyone's taste, and I cautiously suggest that is because a lot of the time the dish is not carefully prepared and ends up as an unusual tasting piece of offal, which I agree is not the most appetizing of dishes. However, when done properly as it is in Berlin, this dish is lifted to heights of eminence, fit for Kings and even gods. The liver is fried giving the outside an almost crispy coating, whilst maintaining a rich tender center, topped with fried appel slices and a mouthwatering gravy. Fantastish!

We made a friend on the adjoining table where a group of international farmers and food producers had congregated for dinner, taking a break from the conference they were attending. The guy sat closest to us, as it turns out was from a town near to where Claire grew up in Scotland, and so ensued an hour of hearty banter and a couple more large Dunkle. A perfect way to finish the day.

Beers cheerfully drained, we headed in the direction of home via the underground from Potsdamer Platz, but not until taking advantage of the lighting down there. I had earlier seen the wall of light which I thought would make for a great silhouette, but the execution wasn't quite as I had in mind, quite possibly due to the state of intoxication I now found myself in.

A quick tube journey and we were back to Alexanderplatz, and our apartment. Laying our tired frames into bed, we were almost certain that tonight would be the night we got some decent rest, and would return tomorrow refreshed and match fit.

Pa, would we bollocks.

Claire awoke at some ungodly hour complaining of banging noise, and as she couldn't sleep because of it, neither could I. I focused in on the noise and put it down to pressure in the pipes, and with nothing I could do about it rolled back over. Claire was somewhat more invested in the problem and arose to locate the source of the annoying sound, which as it turned out was coming from the kitchen extractor fan. I was then prompted (perhaps ordered) to do something about it; it being in the middle of the night, with no way of properly reaching the unit, and with no tools to do anything to it, a staggered over to take a look.

I could just about reach the bottom of the fan enclosure and lift it up to peek inside, which gave me absolutely no indication as to what was going on. With one hand lifting the cover, I attempted with the other to pull out the filter and fiddled with a tab at the bottom which seemed to be the release for it. After a minutes fiddling, this tab fell off in my hand (oops), but the noise stopped! Victoriously I climbed back into bed and continued a restless uncomfortable slumber.

Awaking eventually the next day, I felt completely exhausted. I would hardly say we had been pushing it, but the lack of sleep wasn't allowing our bodies sufficient time to recharge. It was becoming increasingly difficult to stay motivated, a feeling that was compounded by the second forecasted day of overcast sky's. Still, we got ourselves together and ventured out to see what we lay in store for us this time.

Claire had discovered a new area in her research of the city that we had not discovered previously, and it was only a short walk away from where we were staying, so we decided to swing by there our way towards the RAW district. Nikolaiviertel looked very pretty in the pictures Claire had shown me, a little quaint area perched on the bank of the river filled with interesting architecture and flowers.

On arrival, we were greeted by a lifeless space, exasperated by the continuing grey skies above. All the business were closed, and none of the colors we had previously seen in photographs were present; not what we had imagined, so I suppose this would be somewhere to visit on a bright summer afternoon. We decided to stop at the only place open serving food to have something to eat, then headed back up to Alexanderplatz to grab the train out to Warschauer Straße, in search of the other side of Berlin.

After the short train journey, we arrived on the east side, where the feel of the look of the city takes a dramatic shift. The grand buildings which are clinically clean are replaced by rough and ready warehouse-type buildings, almost appearing derelict and covered, literally covered in street art.

RAW is a district that is hard to describe, especially as it seems to have now changed considerably since we last visited. The street art was the same but different, with new great murals and interesting pieces sprayed and pasted over every single surface; but it was the nature of some of the buildings that had changed the most. Before, the area seemed to be purely an area full of drinking venues and clubs, which during the day gave the appearance of a ceasefire during some kind of brutal battle where bottles are used instead of bullets. Some of these places still appeared to exist, but now there were new, or repurposed buildings used for commerce. It was a strange sight to see, but no doubt these businesses were drawing upon the edgy nature of the area which is still in abundance, for now.


It's easy to lose yourself here, wandering around the various dead ends and studying the artwork. Generally speaking, I wouldn't say I am a massive fan of street art, particularly as at home it appears to be nothing more than tasteless vandalism, but here the good massively out ways the bad, and the creativity is on another level. I don't know what the official stance on street art is in Berlin, but you definitely get the sense that anywhere South East of Check Point Charlie is fair game, which means that all of the business and political areas are off-limits, and these rules seem to be adopted by all providing amazing contrast between the two areas.


It would be a terrible shame to come over to the East Side, and not visit the East Side Gallery. Even if you have not been to Berlin, you are likely to have seen some of the images from this gallery as it is one of the most popular and well-known sites in the city. The East Side Gallery is a stretch of the original Berlin wall along the river which was commissioned for artists to produced large murals along a 1,316 m stretch; these pieces are some of the most interesting and instantly recognizable pieces in the city. Having been here a few times before, I was not interested in capturing everything, but this time I was keen to make my own tribute to the most famous artist in Berlin, Noir.

Thierry Noir is a French artist who came to fame in Berlin as the first to protest against the Berlin wall by painting his now-famous brightly colored cartoons along with it. I wouldn't say I am a massive fan of his work, it's ok, but not really to my taste; I am drawn more to the fact that it was his work that started a revolution in the city, one which continues to this day through free expression at a high standard. The times we had visited before had missed his dedication as it is right down the furthest end from the natural starting point at Oberbaumbruke, but this time we ventured to it first to record this tribute.



Our wanderings then took us back towards the ornate bridge at Oberbaumbruke and beyond into Kreuzberg, an area that I have always enjoyed which sees the grunge level turned down from 11 at RAW to a steady 9. This neighborhood maintains a steady stream of street art and edginess which is again in total contrast to the city only a few streets north of here. I had captured some great shots here on previous trips, but this time they were somewhat allusive. Perhaps I was distracted more by where we were heading to pay attention to what was in front of me, so rather than fumble around, I took the decision for us to grab the train to the other end of the long street and our next destination.

Arriving at Nollendorfplatz we were again entering a new part of the city which we had neglected to visit on previous trips. I had learned that this neighborhood was a great area for street art, and even featured a street art museum. I am pleased to say that my research was correct. One street, Kleiststraße, was actually lined with pieces all the way along it commissioned for the opening of the street art museum, which was most interesting.


Pausing briefly from the work on the street, we found ourselves at Urban Nation, the museum mentioned above, which is free to enter and proudly displays various types of street art and arrangements to the glory of the city's artists. The work here is amazing, and I highly recommend that anyone visits this incredible display. I never would have thought for one second that I would be encouraging the defacing of buildings, but in Berlin, things are just done differently and I find myself feeling far more accepting of the medium.

Heading back out onto the street and continuing with the work outside, we started to notice that something a little off. As we headed along the street east of Nollendorfplatz, it was becoming increasingly more obvious that women were lingering around the edges of the wide street. At first, I had assumed they were waiting for a cab or something, but as we saw them more and more frequently, on both sides at regular intervals, it started to become quite clear that these were street girls. Had the weather not been so cold, then perhaps it would have been more obvious. Once the girls had been recognized for what they were, the men that control them began to become fairly visible as well.

For the first time in 4 visits to the city, I found myself feeling a little uneasy and uncomfortable. There we were, walking along this new and strange area, my fairly expensive camera held in full view in my hand, surrounded by seedy illicit activity. Perhaps this was not a place to be wandering around quite so casually. We continued our walking with a little more purpose to put some distance between us and the seedy activities and soon found ourselves back in the grand and familiar surroundings of Potsdamer Platz.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent taking a casual walk through Tiergarten, the large park to the west of the Brandenberg gate. We had quite a distance to cover as we were heading towards the city Zoo where my next target lay beyond. The park was pleasant, but at this time of year was pretty bleak and bare. When we had visited the first time in November a few years before, the park was awash in golden oranges and browns from the turning of Autumn leaves and was absolutely stunning. This time, the color had long since faded and I was not inspired to capture anything this time.

It was some walk to get from Potsdamer Platz to Zoologischer Garten, but this was ok as I was looking for the light to fade by the time we arrived. On my list for this evening was to capture the great Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and various other scenes at night and build on the work I had previously captured.

The memorial is the remaining shell of a great church bombed during the war that was left in a state of dereliction as a monument to the tragic events that happened across Europe. The interrupted shape of the building where the bomb damage is clearly visible has a strange allure for me and I have always been keen to capture this building, particularly at night when other distractions are minimized.

We had a drink and waited for the dark to settle and talk turned to where we should have dinner. We decided to stay local and find something authentic near to where we were. Claire jumped on her phone and did some research, trying to find a restaurant we had eaten at on our very first visit here. Neither of us could remember what it was called, but I could vaguely recall the arrangement of the restaurant, with the bar in the front and a slightly raised platform towards the rear where we had sat. Other than that, all I could remember was that the food was awesome, and it was super cheap. Claire had a flick through and found something that may or may not be it, and made a reservation for a couple of hours time.

We finished our drinks, Claire headed into the Bikini Berlin the fairly new and glamorous shopping center, whilst I got to work with my camera. This time, I wasn't going to be satisfied with just one side of the building, and instead worked it from every single angle. I had wanted to capture tidy light trails juxtaposed against the tired relic, but the traffic here at this time of night is very sporadic with lots of stopping and starting by the traffic lights along this straight. After an hour or so of trying the various angels, I didn't feel as I was capturing what I had in mind and turned my attention elsewhere. This was a race against time, as the clock was ticking down to our dinner reservation, and having made us rush for more reservations than I care to remember, I wasn't intent on doing it this time.

My attention was turned to the subway station for Zoologischer Garten which sits with Hotel Motel One and the Waldorf Astoria as a backdrop. I had originally sought to capture the Wilhelm Memorial from inside the subway entrance to improve on a shot I captured years before, but now, I found this composition far more interesting and a new scene for my collection.

Claire had contacted me to say she was coming to meet me and it was time to move on, and so while I waited for her to arrive I took one last glance around the area to see if I had missed anything. This is when I noticed the bike rack in front of the subway entrance which looks over to the memorial. Quickly flipping my tripod around and setting it down between the bikes, I had to guess where angle and settings, but plonked my camera down and cracked off a shot. A quick check saw that I was on to something, but because the bikes obstructing my access to the camera, and the angel of the screen meaning that I was unable to see exactly what I was doing,  I had to guess at the adjustments required then plonked it down again and cracked off a few more shots before noticing Claire waiting for me by the subway entrance and darting away to meet her.

I am kicking myself now. This would have been a perfect addition to my collection, one that is a little different from the norm and creative, but with so little time available to perfect the shot, I had to make do with what I had. Oh well, I now have a legitimate excuse to come back again.

Heading to dinner, tired and weary with a sense of defeat having not quite achieved what I had hoped to with the memorial, we headed down the road to take up our reservation. We turned the corner and walked beneath a railway bridge which had a fantastic lighting display, and I made a mental note to stop here on our way back.

Arriving at the restaurant, my previous feelings of defeat were washed away, as we walked into the warm and inviting eaterie. At the back of the reasonably sized establishment, there was a slightly raised platform beyond a bar in front of us on the left-hand side. Claire had done it and found the restaurant we had first visited back in 2015! I couldn't help but crack a smile as we were directed to a table on the platform next to the one we had occupied previously. This was my first experience with Berlin's awesome liver, but having had it the night before, opted instead for the equally local Schnitzel, served with a mushroom sauce. Exactly what I needed and made for a great end of the day.

After enjoying the great food, service, and atmosphere of Café Bleibtreu it was time to head back to the apartment and rest one last time before heading home. There was another full day ahead, but that would conclude with a homeward flight. Normally I would start feeling a little sad to go home, but this time I was yearning to be off my feet and comfortable so I was not too disappointed to be heading back this time. Before jumping on the train back to Alexanderplatz, I whisked my tripod out again and lined up the light display under the rail bridge, and waited for the right muse to come into the frame and complete the shot before jumping on the subway above. 

Saturday morning, and our final day. I awoke slightly before 7 and glanced out of the window to see if the forecast maintained it's streak of accuracy, and to my amazement, it had. Today, the clouds had disappeared without a trace, and nothing but a clear sky remained! For the first time since arriving, I felt excited, invigorated even, and was keen to grab some great shots.

Claire wasn't quite as enthusiastic this early in the morning, and I shared her lethargy as the preceding days had been grueling on the body, which had not been helped by the cheap Ikea bed in the apartment preventing even a half-decent nights sleep to fully recharge and recuperate. Still, I couldn't miss this fine morning and dragged myself out. A further issue raised it's head when I discovered that my phone didn't charge, and wouldn't due to a mysterious fault that had developed overnight with no indication as to its origin. This meant that I would be heading out without any form of communication, so Claire couldn't catch up with me later, and I would have to eventually turn back. This limited the range of my early morning exploration, but no matter, at least I would get out and make the most of the early morning light.



Out I ventured in the direction of Alexander Platz, one of the main focal points of the city and the seat of the ever-present and imposing Fernsehturm (TV) Tower which majestically punctuates the skyline. It was hard to get my head straight, and wandering around, I had this feeling of not knowing what I was meant to be doing. The sun had not yet risen above the horizon, and the buildings around me were flatly lit by the glow of the pre-morning sun. I walked frantically and randomly trying to gather a single thought or notion that would justify the effort, trying to see what would be when the sun eventually arose.

After 15mins of this inane senseless wandering, I started to see potential in my surroundings and began snapping away, still waiting for something to happen with the light. And then, everything was different.

For the first time in 2 days, I saw the light, the golden life-giving glow silently bathing the structures around me. I felt the warm light wash over me and ignite a sense of purpose within that I had been longing for. It was showtime.

All my negative thoughts and ailments that had been gathered over the preceding days were dumped out of sight and I got to work. Running around now with a sense of purpose I watched in awe as the city sparkled and came to life before my eyes, and I worked tirelessly to capture these moments.

Heading back to the apartment with my new found rigor, I stole a few shots down into the rising sun capturing Berliners going about their day oblivious to the long-reaching shadows of their form upon the ground. I was desperate to stay at it but knew that this was the right time to get ourselves out of the apartment, dump our case at a luggage store, and make the most of this final day.

I was greeted with Claire up, dressed and packed and ready to roll out, which was a delight to see. With a final sweep of the apartment, we were out, bag dropped and ready to find some breakfast. We grabbed a croissant and an iced coffee and perched on a bench outside a dormant pub in the sunlight and discussed the events of the morning and the plan for the rest of the day. We decided to repeat much of our first couple of days and retrace these steps in these glorious new conditions, and with that headed off in the direction of Fredrich Strasse.


Our meanderings followed the main train line, which we ducked either side of when an underpass presented itself. Making our way through markets not quite bustling yet, but heading that way. Berlin had taken on a familiar form, one of contrast, incredible architecture both old and new, amazing and creative street art and great people. Of course, none of this was missing from the first couple of days, but with the weather conditions compounding a constant state of weariness, it was so difficult to properly appreciate. Now, everything sparkled. 


We took a slightly different route to that previous to see if we may find more hidden gems that had previously eluded us. It was so satisfying being able to walk the streets entirely unaided. At no point did I lose bearing and begin wandering in a completely different direction to the one intended. As before, we approached museum island where landmarks such as the installation 'Three Girls and a Boy', The Berliner Dom and Deutsches History Museum now took on an entirely new appearance and made for much better subjects. I felt my creativity slowly return and I was able once again to shoot from the heart instead of frustratingly fussing about each shot.

Since our last visit, the James Simon Gallery had been completed which provided an excellent opportunity for semi-abstract images with the multitude of sheer white surfaces and small tidy columns. The low sun creating long shadows made for interesting contrast on both the steps leading to the gallery and amongst the covered walkways beside it.





And then we were back to ground zero. Marie stood upon the bank of the Spree glistening in the warm winter sun more beautiful than ever; I couldn't possibly say that I would ever tire of this view. I set about making the most of this encounter, shooting various angles and capturing many variations of people to include in the final image. The design of the building gives so many different opportunities, and yet most commonly the image produced is straight onto the river-facing circle. I was keen to mix things up and break from this view, and instead capture alternative angles that give a sense of scale, shape, and substance.

One view I had not featured in any of my previous work was the expanding stairway at the front of the building which creates a zig-zag effect to ground level. A smartly dressed gentleman sat upon the bottom of the stairs punctuating the white finish, and I turned my attention to this detail, but alas he moved on before I could take enough frames to produce a clean image. Claire was promptly enlisted to act as my muse and merrily made her way across the water to take up the spot and complete the image.


Prising myself away before I became certifiable, we headed in the direction of the Brandenberg Gate en route back to the holocaust memorial. The Gate is an impressive structure, but not one I was not keen to photograph. I had done some OK work here previously, but with so many visitors here due to two different demonstrations (Green Peace on one side and a far-right gathering on the other), I would not be able to improve on this work. It would have been interesting to have stayed and shot the demonstrations, but with so little time, we decided to move on.

The second world war brought about some of the greatest atrocities mankind has had the displeasure to witness, and it cannot be denied that these were at the hand of a faction of the German people. Regardless of whether you forgive them for their acts of brutality or not, it is fair to say that the German people have made great attempts to amend their troubled past, and in no way is it more visible than the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Spanning an entire block just a stone's throw from the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, the installation features equally sized and spaced concrete blocks of varying heights upon the ground that ebbs and flows in level. This means that the blocks appear staggered and from the outer edges are low and in the center, they tower above you.

Even on a bright warm day, being amidst the taller blocks, the imposing concrete creates a cold dark and isolating environment which has the effect of forcing you to think about why this exists in the first place. I personally feel a greater connection to this installation and it's intended meaning, more so than I did walking around Auschwitz were some of the crimes actually took place, but the latter now feels more like a film set than a place of remembrance and reflection. Unfortunately, my feelings of lamentation are not shared by all, and with each visit, the moments of reflection are interrupted by idiots using the installation as a playground. 


It had been a very successful morning, and now in mid-afternoon, we turned our attention towards a late lunch and to begin our goodbyes. We had deliberately left one of our favorite eating establishments until this final meal as a fine send-off. Heading back to Friedreich Srasse, we wandered again through the streets taking in local life heading in the direction of Deponie No. 3, a humble little authentic restaurant hidden amongst the arches of the main rail line. Apart from the great service, incredible food, and charming atmosphere, we were coming here for one primary reason - stuffed cabbage; a meatloaf stuffed into cabbage leaves and boiled in a bacon gravy served with bacon and potatoes. Sheer heaven!

I had been dreaming about this meal since I first had it around 3 years ago, and unfortunately, they had run out the last time we visited. We were received warmly and promptly asked for our drinks order and offered the menu and read the specials. Almost too keenly I jumped in with 'do you have the stuffed cabbage?', the cheerful proprietor smiled and enthusiastically and proudly declared that they did. I can't imagine many visitors ordering such a dish, and he seemed quite impressed that I asked for something so specific without even looking at the menu. Needless to say, the meal was divine, and after it had been washed down by a couple of large Dunkel and topped off with a slice of fresh Strudel (accompanied by custard, cream and ice cream!) we were fit to burst and definitely ready to go home.

There were a couple of hours left until we had to catch our flight, so the walk back to Alexander Platz was far more casual than we had been used to. It was a good job we had the time, now saddled with the weight of a heavy lunch our already aching bodies were compounded to the point of near-immobility. We crept through the main piazza at the base of the TV tower where various groups of teenagers were gathered doing their thing. A team of dancers was most prominent in the throng of crazy fashions and styles; these young guys were dancing to truly horrendous hardstyle music in what could be confused for Michael Flatley suffering from a cluster of seizures. Nothing was familiar, the different styles of dress, the music, the hairstyles - Berlin truly is out there on its own.


And on that final note, we grabbed our bag and headed to the station to catch the airport express train (not the coma-inducing metro we arrived on) and headed home. With close to 35 miles clocked up over the past few days, it felt time to head back and have a serious rest. It pains me to leave a city I love so much, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. There was a nagging sensation at the back of my mind that this trip would see my feelings of Berlin alter as the excitement of discovery and adventure waned, but I can say with hand on heart that that is not the case. If anything, I grow fonder with each visit, and will most definitely be back again, one day.


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