I stayed well out of the red light district while I was in Amsterdam but in Berlin, sex is ubiquitous.
Today I visited the impressive Berlinische Gallery in Mitte where they were showing a major exhibition of the work of American, Dorothy Iannone who basically depicted society as clusters of genitals over a career that has lasted 50 years. When room after room of legs-wide-open became tedious, I climbed the crossed staircase* onto the level of the Berlin artists permanent collection. The downstairs theme continues… (please excuse the pun). Is it me? Have I been away for too long?
At lunch I purchased a copy of ‘EXBERLINER’. As far as I know this is a mainstream magazine for English speakers in Berlin. The first article is about an English gay club that has opened. The title of the article is BEST MOUTHFUL OF GERMAN(S) and it reads like this: “A little bit nervous when it comes to the legend of the giant German Schwanz? Having trouble saying ‘Ich finde dich geil’ while gobbling down schnitzel? Fear not: there’s a new sex party for horny homos who want (or need) to speak English. Not subscribing to the adage that love is a universal language, EXPAT MEAT (yes) at Prenzenlauer Berg gay sex club Stahlrohr 2.0 aims to fill a hole for the Teutonically timid.” Case in point! Ha!
I spent the afternoon in a completely different dimension at the Jewish Museum. I barely have words for this. The building itself is completely disconcerting: narrow corridors file off in various directions and the floor appears to be slanted (which I believe it is - ever so slightly). The effect upon the visitor is a sense of vertigo – intended by the architects to express the sentiment that nothing makes sense after a tragedy such as the holocaust.
Tears began when I read this letter from a mother to her son who has managed to organise passage to South America at the beginning of the war to stay with relatives there.
“My Darling Son,
Tomorrow I am being evacuated to a place called Auschwitz. I do not know what will become of me. If by chance you do not hear from me again, please know that you have been the light of my life and I am so relieved that you are safe away from here. I will love you always,
Another was a letter from a 10-year-old boy to his aunt. He had been separated from his parents and has managed to hide, alone, in Nice for one year before he was caught. He pens this on the train. Looking at the actual letter you can see how young he is by the immature handwriting, though his words are eloquent.
“The heat, the stench and the crying of men, women and children who are crowded into this train, defies all description. We do not know where we are heading. Escape is impossible.”
There was a little notation from the museum saying that he was taken to Dachau where he was murdered.
I had to leave. With tears running down my face, I tried to find my way out of the labyrinth. The museum is largely underground so that by the time I burst onto the street I was able to recognise what an incredible museum experience it was. For a millisecond of my life I gained an insight into the terror of the holocaust. But escape was possible for me.
I shifted into a third dimension for the evening when I met up with a friend of a friend Ilona, Kat. We had spoken on the phone and arranged to meet on a street corner near Alexanderplatz. She was going home after work to collect her dog, Winnie, who joined us. Not knowing what Kat looked like I approached a girl with a dog who was standing on the corner. “Kat?” I said. She looked at her dog then back at me, frowned a meaningful frown and said “Nein”. I decided to wait for Kat to approach me.
We went to a Vietnamese/ Japanese restaurant (apparently this combo is a very Berlin thing). We did have miso soup and sushi and chatted our faces off. It was so lovely to meet Kat and I know our paths will cross again. Winnie is divine and I hope to get more cuddles from her some time soon.
On this note (aware that this is a very long diary entry)… my host, Eva, is a yoga teacher, energy healer and editor of Art Berlin. Her apartment is a retreat with beautiful little shrines in every corner. I feel like the universe is getting involved in my journey.
*This is German design ingenuity at its best – the sleek staircase runs diagonally across the enourmous double-story-high gallery space. The staircases run in opposing directions. Where the staircases meet (in the centre of the room, mid-air), there is a landing so you can redirect to any corner of the upper level (or lower level if you are Christopher Robin – please, someone get that reference).