berlin: a great way to begin

Has it really been over three weeks since I last posted? August has been a whirlwind of unpacking, settling in, and home-focused activities. This past weekend, Ian and I ran off to Berlin for a few days to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. Little did I realize how much I needed to shake loose of the tremendous impact of our big transition and just go play.

View from our hotel in Mitte, Berlin

We chose Berlin over Paris (a sentimental favorite, since we were engaged in Paris), mainly because we wanted a place where most restaurants wouldn't be shut down or venues flooded with American tourists. Instead, we got a city full of galleries on sommerpause and European tourists. But complaining I am not! It was a terrific place to begin our commitment to get away monthly for a long weekend. That is, after all, one of the reasons we made this move: to get out and experience places that otherwise would be less accessible from our home in the US.

Museum Island, Berlin

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin (image: Ian Lowe)Instead of attempting to take in all the major sites off the bat, we organized our exploration of major districts by zeroing in on what galleries we wanted to see. Well, and which ones appeared to be open. It's a fun way to see a city, fueled by something we're both passionate about. Some good resources helped us find our way, including ArtUpdate.com/Berlin and the iPhone app EyeOut.

Over three days, we entered probably twenty galleries, although we peered in the windows of far more. The search for many was not obvious - tucked back in courtyards, down alleys, and up flights of stairs only accessible by ringing a bell and being buzzed in.

Love the colors in the U-Bahn stations, Berlin

U-Bahn station, Berlin (image: Ian Lowe)Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station, Berlin (image: Ian Lowe)U-Bahn station, Berlin (image: Ian Lowe)Once inside, people were generally welcoming, if not eager to tell us about the art. The folks at Figge Von Rosen Galerie were particularly engaging and friendly, and we discovered the amazing photography of Luzia Simons at Alexander Ochs Galleries.

Berlin is, like any major city I suppose, one part gentrified, two parts gritty edge. The energy I felt there, though, was different - a kind of optimistic, happy, focused buzz of people busy getting on with the business of rebirth and reinvention. Huge swaths of the city are still rebuilding post-Wall, morphing from Cold War wasteland to thriving cafe society. This took me by surprise. I guess I didn't realize there was so much active recovery still going on there.

Potsdammer Platz, Berlin (image: Ian Lowe)

Kunsthaus Tacheles, Berlin

One unexpected discovery was what must have been the original inspiration for Art Whino's G40 summit. Since 1990, Kunsthaus Tacheles has been a center for artists of all walks, but particularly street art or new brow. Tacheles is Yiddish for telling it like it is. The venue's website says it best:

After the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989, a subculture which had its main focus on autonomy, spontaneity and improvisation arose in the former East Berlin areas Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg and Friedrichshain. Artists and individualists from all over the world used the plurality of available free spaces to put alternative lifestyles to the test.

Kunsthaus Tacheles, Berlin

Kunsthaus Tacheles, BerlinTacheles' artists are now in danger of being evicted by developers. While certain aspects of the space does the brand no favors (the stairwells were pretty rank), it would be a shame to see what Tacheles represents be pushed underground or marginalized.

Ian Lowe at Alexandr Rodin's Global Warning exhibition, Kunsthaus Tacheles, BerlinAnother delight was the road trip between Königstein and Berlin through endless wind turbine farms. What is it about these giant sentinels that mesmerizes me? Surely there's an artist book about them in my future. For now, I'm delighted with some of my images and am seriously considering a road trip expressly for the purpose of chasing them up close and personal. We got pretty close at a rest stop or two.

Wind turbines enroute to BerlinWind turbines enroute to BerlinWind turbines enroute to Berlin