I have not seen the sun since coming here. In fact, the other two times I was in Germany, it was super cloudy/rainy too. I'm beginning to believe that Germany doesn't have a sun. Apparently it's supposed to be warm(er) and somewhat sunny tomorrow, but I've learned not to trust forecasts here!
So, I have a fifth-floor room in the district of Berlin called Charlottenburg, which is an area mostly comprised of residential buildings and small shops, with a few historical sites around. As you can see, the room is absolutely HUGE. Like. I don't remember the AirBNB advertisement for this place looking nearly as good. I have plenty of space to do artwork and anything else.
I thought the first few days here would involve myself getting straight down to business vis-a-vis art, but nope. When I first got here, though I miraculously managed to find my way to the right place from the airport no problem, I looked at my written instructions for meeting the host and realized I'd written down everything except the actual apartment number and last name. I know that the host told me to meet him "along the Spree" near the Schlossbrucke Charlottenburg, but he wasn't there. I was supposed to use his address and room number as a fallback, and you think I would have written it down, but nope. So I awkwardly walked around the neighborhood over and over hoping someone would see my suitcase and be like, "oh yeah, there you are!" Bear in mind that it was well below freezing and I had all my luggage on my back and in my suitcase. I finally had to go from shop to shop looking for wifi until I found some grumpy gus who could barely speak English (and I could barely speak German), who had a mini internet-cafe in the back. Then I could finally look up the stupid building number XD;;
The streets around Charlottenburg were littered with used fireworks and smashed wine bottles. They were EVERYWHERE. I am now familiar with at least a dozen German brands of pyrotechnics. Obviously New Years around Berlin must have been nuts. Oh, and it gets dark early in Berlin. Like, really early. By 4:00pm it's already twilight! So by the time I actually got to my apartment and got settled, daylight was already running out. I only really had time to go for a walk and find a grocery store for food. The next day I planned on buying art supplies. I looked up several places listed as "art supply stores" on Yelp, and then went out to find them. I ended up trying five--three of them had been shut down permanently since being posted on Yelp. The other two were just craft stores with decorative paper and decoration stuff. It took until nearly 6:30 until I finally found a massive art supply store called Boesner, which is apparently a chain in Germany. Basically the whole day was spent walking around Charlottenburg looking for these places. By the time I'd gotten back it had been snowing for a couple of hours. But with the art supplies off my checklist, all I needed to do was find out about a travel pass to get around Berlin without constantly hemorraging money.
On the day I got downtown, it was foggy and really cold. It had snowed heavily overnight, so everything was painted various shades of ash-grey. As I walked I had to keep putting my glove to my face to keep it warm. I'm really hoping the weather gets warmer!
The Brandenburg Gate was the first thing I saw. I didn't expect too many tourists since it was winter, but there were a lot of them, all taking pictures of the Brandenburg Gate from the same angle, some of them wielding goofy selfie-sticks. After walking around the Brandenburg Gate/Reichstag area, I bumped into a tour group with a British guide who looked like John Lennon. I thought I might be able to get away with following them without being charged, but nope. At least I got the student discount. Anyway, the walking tour had only just started, and had about three hours to go. It gave me a pretty good idea of where everything was. We walked through a grove that had been the location of one of the final German/Russian confrontations of World War II, we came to the memorial for gay victims of the Holocaust. I'll go back there to take better pictures at some point. The more famous monument to Murdered Jews of Europe was close by, with its labyrinth of stone plynths forming a sort of bleak cityscape. Again, I'll go back there and get pictures.
Because of the tour, I got a good idea where a lot of significant sites are. All in all, it was a good way to learn what I was surrounded by. I was already pretty familiar with the history that the guide talked about (mostly Nazi related stuff), but the refresher was nice. We saw Goring's massive Luftwaffe HQ (now a financial centre), the Topography of Terror, the Jewish Quarter with its half-original Synagogue that was spared by the Nazis because of a local pretending to be a Nazi official ordering the violent Gestapo out of the area. I was surprised to learn that, because of this guy, some members of the Jewish faith still prayed at the synagogue all the way until 1942. By the time the tour was over, I was about a kilometer away from Alexanderplatz. It was already dark by this point, and really cold. I had been trying to find the Neues Waches memorial before I bumped into the tour group, so I asked the tour guide how close I was to it. It was in the direction of Alexanderplatz and through Berlin's Museum Island, so I got to go past a lot of really interesting sites. And since they were all close to Alexanderplatz (one of the big central locations of Berlin) it would be easy to find it all again.
By the time I actually got to the Neues Waches, it was closed (not surprisingly). I wanted to do sketches of Kathe Kollwitz' "Mother and Child" statue for my project, but it'd have to wait until tomorrow. Not a bad introduction to Berlin, though. Although my actual interactions with these places was minimal, I know I have a couple months to really get to know these sites, so there's no huge rush. I mostly wanted to get down to working on art.
Anyway, I know where I'm going next. As the tour guide was finishing up, he mentioned to me that he would be doing a guided tour of the concentration camp called Sachsenhausen on Friday. It's supposed to actually be sunny then. I'll hopefully get a few sketches and good photos from there.
Oh, I should mention that this blog is a couple days behind what I've done--maybe if I get my shit together I can actually make it consistent with what's happening. So, in other words, I went to Sachsenhausen yesterday, but I'm gonna make a separate post about that day. I'll leave on a picture of the U-Bahn station in Richard-Wagner Platz: