Berlin, 1978.

January 29, 2009

Berlin, 1978.

The walled city forms a pincer around Mitte, the middle.
A great German Russian Alee leads from there to Frankfurt am Oder 100km east to the Polish border. Kreuzberg, an enclave with an elevated U-Bahn now reconnected to Lichtenberg over the river Spree via Überbaumbrüche. Open at the west, bounded to the north by the river Spree, The Wall to the east overlooking Teltow Park, and to the south by Templehof, a now disused airport. Now Kreuzberg is just another part of Berlin. The wall had checkpoints Alpha, Beta and Charlie. There is a monumental Russian figure in Treptow park. The strongest image is a cargo boat held in winter ice. You have to stand on Warsaw Bridge to get a feel for this cold city.
There was a clever open-ness from ‘Radio In American Sector’ and a fantastic air show. They had radar on Teufelsberg, a hill built from rubble. This contrasted with the pettiness of the east German Border Guards.
Leaving on the Dover night ferry we crossed Belgium staying in a Flemish apartment. Then Essen. Then by Autobahn direct to Kleistpark. Andreas Muller, a Berlin photographer gave us a lift in their VW van, and I remember him moving to a Bergmanstrasse appartment in that then great street under the big illuminated white crucifix.
Berlin, frankly had been fragmented, so there were numerous visual experiences like the disused tunnel under Gorlizer Bahnhof now exhumed and a mere blemish in a park. A highlight was gas lit Chamisoplatz, again only understandable by a visit there. And the legendary Frau Mittensweig.
For three winters it was very cold in Berlin with no summer to speak of. Meter deep snow turned solid in the depths of night.
Who remembers Heinrich’s Bar on Monumentenstrase? These are memories no one else has.
SO36 Klub, obviously nihilistic and punk and no place for an Austrian girl in national costume. My girlfriends ruddy face out of place among the damned. She loved Berlin, even if Berlin didn’t love her in return.
Frau Jungkans, eighty-one, who lived on the landing below had vacated our flat so she did not have climb too many steps. Her husband had been killed in the War. She told me she’d worked at the Patentamt in Hallisches Tor, the first target of the Soviet Army.
For a short time I lived on the Factory Floor off Yorkstrasse .
Much of my interest in Berlin were as a student of cities and as a voyeur I.e. To Watch but not participate. So I left Berlin via Wansee for the last time on the train to Hook van Holland.
England from Harwich railway looked stuck in a former age as it still does in Folkestone harbour, where the station remains un-demolished. Beeching did not spend any money on closed branch lines. In the six months I worked on Pinnapple Market in rejuvenated Covent Garden, and delivered garments from Petticoat Lane to the West End out of Foley Street. North Sea Oil made a revival of London possible. Yuppies moved into the former squats. London was so depressed I moved to Aberdeen.

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