Sunset over Rosenthaler Platz. Photo by the author.
How can one convey a complete upheaval of comfort and routine, a loss of language and comprehension and direction? Is it possible to put into words the magic of discovering a new place for the first time? So have we, the Bard in Berlin cohort, experienced a complete cycle of disorientation and reorientation in moving to Berlin for this fall semester. The sixteen of us hail from Bard College, Al-Quds, Simon’s Rock and the Kansas City Art Institute. We are proud to join our fellow Bardians in a place that feels like home, but is really nothing like it.
As each in our group goes on their own adventures, works their internship, discovers a cool hole in the wall café or can decidedly say they have eaten the best Turkish food in the city — we expand our reach, taking in all that we can and are constantly searching for more. This city is monumental and massive, old and new, kinky, concrete and just plain crazy. One could only dream of seeing it all.
To get a grasp on our first few weeks in Berlin, I have composed a collaborative poem using language gathered from several members of the Bard in Berlin cohort. Our journey through the semester is both an individual and collective experience. This poem is an attempt to coalesce some of our best moments thus far, and to look towards our next three months studying, living and working in Berlin.
Theadora and Amelia looking out at Budapest from a cog train (photo by Eleanor Turrell)
I woke up early and packed my bags. My flight was at 14:35 and my destination was Budapest, Hungary. I navigated to my terminal and fell asleep there. I boarded my plane via a metal staircase and enjoyed reading my book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggars, for the duration of the 1 hour 20 minute flight. Eggars wrote about his family mostly, and how his parents tragically died of cancer four months from one another. He wrote about what it was like to raise his younger brother. The more I read about his relationships with his family members, the more excited I was to see my older sister, Theadora, who has been studying in Budapest for the past months. I walked off the plane and there she was. Sitting in my terminal, short blonde hair and big blue eyes. We hugged and I bought myself a monthly student bus pass, something I would recommend to any student staying in Budapest, as it is cheaper than the five day pass purchased by most tourists.
The ride into the city was long, and my sister and I talked quickly with the kind of secret language that only exists between siblings. Finally we arrived at her stop. I rode the long (I mean really long) escalator from the underground up to the daylight. As I stepped up to the sidewalk, I was awestruck by the beauty before me. The Budapest Opera House is something worth seeing, and the ornately carved outside of the giant structure was nothing compared to the beautifully painted ceilings within. Theadora’s apartment was right across the narrow paved road in a tall, stone building. Immediately I could tell that Berlin and Budapest were two very different cities. While Berlin is inspiring and gorgeous in its own way, Budapest has a much more obvious beauty; it is almost glamorous.
Tahrir Square, Egypt, 2011 (photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy)
As an Egyptian living abroad for the past couple of years, I have realized that my daily morning routine has come to be something like this: click the snooze button a dozen times, get up, shower, brush teeth, get dressed, attempt to eat breakfast in three minutes and run out to catch the Subway / U-Bahn / Soviet-style tram to school or work, and finally––refresh the BBC Arabic app on my iPhone with a single thought “I wonder what the Egyptians have done today?”.
Watercolor by Amelia Walsh
Living in Berlin for the past four months has given me the unusual perspective of someone who is not from the city, but has had far more time than any tourist to explore and discover its interworking. During my studies, I have had many guests come and stay with me, everyone cherishing their excuse to visit one of Europe’s coolest cities. As a result, I have put together this useful guide for a quick visit to Berlin.
The virtual tour starts at Eberswalder Straße, a street full of shops and cafes, and one of the stops along the U2 U-Bahn line, and tram M1 and M10. From here, you are within walking distance of many treasures. If you wish to enjoy a cheap and tasty pizza, go to the San Marco restaurant at Schӧnhauser Allee 102, where you can get an entire pizza, toppings and all, along with a cocktail, for under €5. I recommend exploring the area and looking into all the little shops. Tourists tend to be particularly interested in a bar called Druide, at Schönhauser Allee 42.
If you walk southwest down Kastanienallee, one of the intersecting streets at the Eberswalder Straße U-Bahn stop, you will come across a pretty boulevard called Oderberger Straße. If you take a right on this street, you will pass many nice restaurants, as well as a delicious ice cream and waffle parlor, which is much larger than one would expect at first glance, called Kauf Dich Glücklich, located at Oderberger Straße 44. Just beyond this place, the street comes to an end and turns into Mauerpark. This park is always packed with people on Sundays, as it holds a large flea market, where you can shop for just about anything, from clothing to silverware and to food. For those interested in Berlin’s history, you may be surprised to learn that this park used to sit along the line between East and West Germany.
The premiere of “Spectacular!” written by Madison Christ (photo by Inasa Bibic)
Read If You’re a Theater Kid… (Part 1) here.
For me, art tends to be very personal. It comes from within the artist and is put on display for others to see, whether it is an idea you’ve had, an experience, a conversation, a picture. In Bard College Berlin’s Poetry and Poetics course, we recently studied Confessional Poetry – a genre of poetry dealing with very blunt, personal experiences, making it difficult to distinguish between the speaker and the poet. But to me, all art is in some way confessional; you can mask it as deeply as you want with metaphors, imagery, colors or characters, but something of your art has you in it because there’s no way to be certain of anything else. Even the painting of a portrait is the painter’s perspective of that person. As someone who likes to write, the greatest anxiety and the greatest happiness comes from others reading or seeing my work and liking it, because that work is a part of me. Were it not, I shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of it the same way I don’t care what people think of a rock we pass by on the street that I have no attachment to. Art is special because it lays a piece of your mind bare for others to experience.
It is finally weekend time. Tired of city life and daily errands, the civilized and sophisticated you yearns to break free from the chains of the metropolitan lifestyle and “go back to the roots”.
Luckily for you, we have discovered the epitome of country life in the big city – with animals to pet, huts to admire, and cooking on an open fire. Welcome to the children’s farm (Kinderbauernhof) Pinke-Panke in Pankow! The farm is just slightly past the beautiful Bürgerpark, through which you should stroll too, for a remedying-via-laughter view of the lovely playful goats that entertain passers-by on a daily basis.
Pinke-Panke has existed in Pankow since May 1991. It is now home to three timber-framed buildings with animals, a large playhouse with kitchen, and a game room. All buildings are traditionally built as wooden structures, with a framework from clay or mud. Ecological principles represent the forefront of this farm. As a place of adventure and play, meetings and joint projects, Pinke-Panke is open to all interested children, adolescents, and adults alike. The founders of the farm believe that the care for animals and the engaged observation of nature let the children see the interrelationships between natural cycles – and consequentially plant the seeds for a (an even) more nurturing character in them.
If you wish to know more about Kinderbauernhof Pinke-Panke, visit here.
Below you can see some glimpses of the atmosphere captured at Pinke-Panke on a Saturday afternoon:
Click here to see the photo gallery!
With you I share
this little piece of self,
for the temporality
of days in which
lacks and lingers,
slithers and soothes,
smiles in remembrance—a game:
‘One plus one is two.’
‘I promise you.’
And this self I share with you, I share
with none other.
Do you know?
The truth—for only you,
In the temporality to come,
already, within you—
it spreads, hatches and multiplies.
‘We will meet again.’
Though it hovers, lingers
between us two—the shape
of the eye; the line of the lip;
No need—there is
no need, dear—
With you I share this
tiny piece of self.
In flight I
am setting you, till again
And when we do,
these two halves that are you
once more into
that self we were
some very ancient ages ago.
Oh, don’t you know?
We’ve been sung.
We’ve been sung longtime.