Berlin is full of funny things, or at least things that are funny to me. For one, while walking to the East Side Gallery, I found what I would call a beach, tucked away behind two tall walls. Completely confused by the presence of a beach in Berlin, I walked through the gate and discovered that it’s part of a complex also containing wooden palm trees, and a skate ramp, and a basketball court, and food stands. With the exception of the sand everywhere, there wasn’t a surface that had been left unpainted; everything is brightly colored and Africa-themed.
After poking around awkwardly (how could we have been more out of place as non-German-speaking, decidedly-unhip Americans in a Berlinese African skate park/beach?) my friend and I learned the name of the place, but not much else. You can walk around, and, I guess, play basketball or buy food at the beach restaurant, and there is no admission fee, but no one seemed to be in charge (Berlin-style egalitarianism?). There were fliers for a Jamaican children’s charity. It was mostly deserted and quiet and everyone seemed detached in some way. Maybe they were just really into their basketball or loitering or whatever they were doing, but it was a weird.
Since I sold it so well, you should definitely visit YAAM on your next trip to Berlin.
2- Squatters. I knew there are a significant number of remaining squatters in Berlin, but it was really cool to actually see them. I assumed they’d be occupying the insides of abandoned warehouses and old apartment buildings, but no place seemed immune: empty lots, trees, garden sheds…
This lot was packed full of overlapping shelters. They varied in impressiveness from tents to multi-tier structures cobbled together with various resources. It seems that they must also have a decor committee to ensure that the front fence is a good expression of the community.
This particular garden plot is not a home (my gracious host makes use of it with her friends) but it could technically serve as one. The plot is one of many in this garden, which is one of many similar community gardens around the city. They each have a shed and most have been converted into something habitable (this one has fully functional kitchen and everything) and squatters have been known to assume control of such sheds.
This is my favorite: Das Baumhaus an der Mauern (‘The Treehouse on the Wall’). I suppose that it’s not so much a treehouse as a house with a tree growing out of it.
3- Berlin’s Wallstreet
4- Here, the path of the wall (line of bricks coming up from the bottom right corner) runs straight into a Starbucks.
6- The Indischer Brunnen, ‘Indian Fountain.’ It’s not so much funny as oddly placed in the middle of a park. The detail is really interesting: the edge of each of the stacked disks has some repeating pattern. The uppermost level is rimmed with human noses. The middle levels have lions’ snarling faces. And the bottom has figures similar to the one on top, but they’re not all the same.
8- Guided Trabant tours, exploiting the popularity of the old GDR car.
9- And finally, these guys: