The road to Berlin was a train track paved with flat fields, little towns and German countryside.
The trip there involved a few train glitches and was tiring but the anticipation of seeing Thea again and being able to stay with her for a few days was a great motivation. Thea was in Australia for several months in her WWoOfing year in 2013 and lived at Murundaka for much of that time. Cohousing can be like that. The ethos of cohousing embodies reciprocity and the practise enables it. It builds on natural connections made. We had become friends.
Arriving to a warm welcome from her Australian boyfriend, Michael, was just great, and settling in to the big ‘spare’ room (while her house-mate was in Paris) in her upper storey lovely flat in Neukolln was so perfect. A great place for a desperately needed recuperation after five very busy weeks on the road, travelling, visiting communities, giving talks and presentations, having meetings and doing lots of recording and writing.
Big hugs when Thea came home from work and the smiling talking sharing catching up celebrating and lots of laughing began. Over a green beer in fact!
As luck would have it Berlin had a public holiday long weekend happening so Thea had an extra day free and could spend lots of time showing off her city.
So the days were spent exploring Berlin.
Neukolln is an interesting, edgy, hip area with great cafes and amazing food.
Berlin! What a wonderful city. Thea and Michael took us to so many amazing places; here are some names and snippets which may make sense to some of you and perhaps cause some nostalgia to those of you who love Berlin.
We went to the Gendarmenmarkt – a square in Berlin, and the site of the Konzerthaus and the French and German Cathedrals; St Hedwig’s Cathedral – a very beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral with an awe-inspiring dome; one of Berlin’s oldest universities – Humboldt, Unter den Linden – the most famous boulevard in Berlin stretches 1.5 kilometers long and is sixty meters wide and is planted with four rows of Linden trees, about one thousand in total, and the Brandenburger Tor – the famous city gate of Berlin.
Then on to the Jewish Mundrial – an experiential maze commemorating the experience of the jewish people of Berlin under the nazi regime. It is a maze of walls with undulating pathway beneath in which to get lost for a while to feel and reflect. Glimpses of people down there, over there. Friend or foe? A sudden close encounter is startling and unpleasant. Better the feeling a being alone, safe from unpredictable, uncontrollable and unreliable human beings. The powerful sensory experience it creates invokes some feelings of isolation, apprehension and sadness.
Just across from there are Bricks incorporated in the road indicating the place of the Berlin Wall that divided east and west berlin for twenty-eight pain full years.
Crossing that road brings us to the magical Tiergarten, an extensive park full of big trees some of it left in a pretty natural state – not manicured to human perfection like many city gardens. Michael’s work as a visual artist derives much inspiration here and he comes into places in this park to paint. It is well used by Beliners – roads go through it, memorials, buskers and bands,and not far away of the Reichstag. This old building in the Platz de Republic was built in the 1880s and is the home of the German parliament. Even without the glass dome on top it is a major landmark. The queue of tourists for the dome was too long to even consider.
And a small selection of the many photos …..
We walked along the River Spree to a lovely spot across from the Bodemuseum and Museum Island and took a beer break sitting on the sun drenched river-bank surrounded by tourists and lots of Saturday morning locals drinking in the beautiful Spring day.
The Berlin cathedral “Berliner dom” was breathtaking in the imposing scale and wonderful architecture. It was easy to see how the impact of such a colossal and beautiful building on a person might be equated with a religious experience. And the Altes Museum (Germany’s oldest museum) was so impressive too.
On the walk home we went into Nikolaiorētel – the oldest quarter of Berlin – and the Nikolai church exuding great age and reverence and finally arrived back home where Thea made a delicious and much appreciated home-cooked dinner.
The next day the Tempelhafer Feld (former airport) a short walk away, was an amazing place to go. This is an airfield that had planes taking off constantly during the Berlin airlift – at times every thirty seconds – over 300,000 flights. In 2008 (for reasons of politics / commerce) it was finally to be decommissioned . What would happen to such a place in Australia I wonder? No doubt a big shopping mall or huge, hideous, homogenised housing development. Here the Berliners held onto it and it is (currently) a dynamic expression of irrepressible community – a people-friendly space.
It’s a big space. Somehow it unleashes the imagination of the ‘sustainabilist’ in me.
Airplane travel is unquestionably unsustainable. This trip brings it home with critical emphasis. My conscience is only partly alleviated by my conscious determination to make this trip work to seed, promote and reinforce rapid transformative change.
My view is that in spite of the recent, majestic effort of the Solar Impulse, air travel is not yet showing any really hopeful signs of becoming emission-free any time soon. ‘Soon’ being the operative word – you never know what the forces of commerce, self-interest and a world wide addiction (like flying) can pull off. When the realisation hits that we have to globally address the climate emergency, self-indulgent air travel will be radically curbed. Most reasons for flying that ‘justify’ air-travel today will not stack up. Some will of course – political, military and (hopefully) humanitarian – but for the rest .. .. it will be a thing of memory (and probably guilty regret). We will be relegating a practice to the past in order to help secure a future.
But I am equally sure a breakthrough will occur and maybe can be scaled up fast enough to keep the world flying? However even in the best case scenario I anticipate a period of low or no air travel during the disruption that our fossil politicians have unleashed on the world. (All this could have been avoided. We didn’t have to arrive in this place. The knowledge was there way back when we still had time to steer a safe course.)
The best thing we can hope for now is that planes are grounded, airports are decommissioned and carbon emissions brought to net zero as fast as possible for a viable future (for we humans and the many other species we share this home with) to be preserved.
This massive airfield place as it is right now represents transformative change.
Thea and Michael had a couple more surprises up their sleeves.
The KlunkerKranich roof-top bar and garden was just over from their place all the time but who would’ve know. Located on the top floor of a car park above a supermarket, here was another example of transformation.
Not many high rise more than six storeys in Berlin.
That balcony across the way with the yellow flowers is Thea and Michael’s place.
The supermarket itself was a little bit exciting with a recycling depot where people actually got paid to deposit their ‘resources’. I was blown away to find out that this was the outcome of the German campaign I had often cited where people were encouraged to leave their packaging at the counter. It worked! Here we were decades later seeing an effective system where manufacturers were paying their customers for the containers back. The resources were now in a closed loop. Hooray. Thank you Germany.
Finally a tour through Neukolln and Krewtberg along the channel on a very pleasant Saturday afternoon. And a last cup of fresh herbal tea at the Community Garden called Prinzessinnengarten.
Staying with Thea and Michael was a delight. Bye-bye beautiful Berlin.