Dateline: 10.49 23 Aug 1996
Location: Germany, Berlin, Wannsee

Phew, what a morning. 4 hours of drudgery, carrying out essential but also essentially unpleasant chores. Wake up, take a shower, dress, eat breakfast, pack, check out, bus to Anhalter Bhf, S-Bahn to Friedrichstraße, another S-Bahn to Lichtenberg, what no lockers here?, back to Hauptbahnhof on another S-Bahn, get stuck at Warschauer Straße, move on, find lockers, find out that they need 3 1-mark coins and you only have one, no exchange machine anywhere, ask and hunt until the bank exchanges them, repack, deposit luggage, take yet another S-Bahn (buying a 4 DM ticket this time), arrive at Wannsee after crossing across all of Berlin, find the beach and a free park bench, and here we are. Almost anyway; the beach itself is at the other side of the lake, a few km away, but I'll sit here for a while and gather strength. Some half-senile but friendly enough German granny insists on talking to me despite my protestations of "Ich nein spreiche Deutsch", but no matter. Berlin seemed a little weak in the park department but this place should more than make up for it.

This is sad, in a way. The woman probably wants to talk and I would gladly oblige her, but naturally I can't and I'm not quite sure if she understands that I'm not reduced to grins and silence by obnoxiousness, but by the language barrier.

One of the most horrible sounds in the world is that of a baby screaming its lungs out and nobody doing anything about it.

And again I find myself in a strange place. This time, it's Strandbad am Wannsee, a beach on a lake near Berlin. Finding my way here was interesting (and evidently this is the beach I saw from the opposite shore), on the way here I even stumbled into the YGH Berlin am Wannsee, which is where I might have wound up had I not made my reservations early. But after lots of orienteering in an entirely unfamiliar environment and successful negotiations with the gatekeeper (without using a word of English at that) I wound up here. When I close my eyes, I can almost imagine that I'm back at Hietsu in Helsinki... with a few minor differences. #1, the background blabber is not the familiar mix of Finnish and Swedish with dabs of Estonian and Russian for good measure, but solid German (or was that a smattering of Turkish?). #2, the sand grains are distinctly finer, which is annoying since they stick to anything and everything, resisting all attempts to rub off, surface tension evidently overcoming gravity. #3, it's even more bloody fucking hot and I live in morbid fear of scorching myself.

The accumuli of cumuli, which originally appeared in ones and twos around midday, are starting to multiply into almost alarming proportions. What will I do if it starts to rain? We're a long way for Kansas, Toto, and I ain't got no roof over my head. Still 8 hours to go until rrrrravetime.

Déjà vu is fun. I've gotten it several times already in Berlin. Walking down a pathway of stone on the side of a museum, I was suddenly reminded of an almost identical section in Stockholm's Gamla Stan. The green, simple pathways of dirt surrounded by forest on the last leg of the way to the beach were a bit like Christiania and a lot like Nuuksio National Park in Finland. Now, sitting on a park bench halfway between Bhf. Wannsee and the lake itself, the gentle slopes of tiled road for bikes that I'm facing in the midst of the woods remind me very much indeed of, of all places, San Diego Zoo's jungle building way back in California. Funky.

Digression time. The Interrailer has three basic modes of existence. If possible, he will groove: do interesting things with interesting people in interesting places. There are various levels of groove, from unbearable ecstasy to mere pleasant contentedness, but grooving is always actively fun. But one cannot groove forever as grooving requires energy, so this energy must now and then be restored by chilling. At its simplest, 5 minutes on a park bench with water bottle in hand; at the other extreme, a day at the beach, avoiding the expenditure of energy as much as possible. And the final and least desirable mode is mere existence, doing dull tasks like reserving tickets or hostels, going from place X to place Y although you don't particularly want to, or in fact anything you'd rather not be doing. Sometimes chilling and existence combine, like when you find yourself at a railway station at 19:00 with no money left, waiting for a train that leaves at 23:00... or like right now, when it's 16:45 and the rave I'm going to starts at 00:00; no hostel to sleep in, either. I could go eat and I need to go shop, but if I return to Berlin proper what will I do all the rest of the time? At least I think I'll try going to E-Werk an hour early and seeing if there's anybody to talk with.

What is it with this trend toward the asexual German woman? Now, every country has its share of genderblenders and that's fine with me, but the Germans have turned it into a national institution. Short hair, small or no earrings, flat chest, baggy pants, dull shoes, no makeup... until they speak up, and sometimes not even then, it's difficult to tell exactly what these creatures are. On occasion, they can even be pretty, but even then in a young-male way, the beauty of the Burroughsian young Interzone boy. There was an odd couple on the S-Bahn today: one of these androgynous girls, together with this immensely bloated girl with thin-slit eyes and a nose that looked like it was broken. But in her case, her sex was not in question for a second. Immense breasts the consistency of Jell-O, huge thighs straining the fabric of her clothes to their limits, even a feminine hand-on-chin-and-dreamy-look-outside pose straight out of a Renaissance painting. Except that their models were usually not quite this bulky, nor were they wearing dark-blue tracksuits when having their full-body portrait painted. Come to think of it, even the androgyne got one detail wrong, since her legs were demurely and neatly crossed, something that no male would do in a subway (or anywhere else, for that matter). Once past the androgyne stage, these women all seem to adopt the none-too-trendy "toilet guardian in the DDR"-look complete with mismatched clothing, unkempt hair, and a pitted, grooved, wrinked face equipped with thick eyeglasses, and layers of fat everywhere. And that is the end, my friend. (Don't tell me you were expecting that I had a point or something? Har!)

It is my sad duty to report that there was an assassin in our midst. Yes, an explosive time bomb (cleverly disguised as a can of yogurt) has detonated. The losses caused by this infernal machine were grievous, but contained by heroic actions on our part. The list of casualties of war follows.

Dead on arrival:

Seriously wounded: Minor wounds: Rest in peace.

Friday night, 22:30, East Berlin, Wilhelmstraße 43. Better known as E-Werk. Here I sit, in the middle of an industrial wasteland, with an hour and a half to go and absolutely nothing to do. Well, I imagine that maybe in an hour or so other people will start showing up and I can figure out whether to try the unappealing "Dubmission" (jungle? AAACK!) or go somewhere else (there goes another 4 DM). But that's in an hour; for now, I must sit in the light of a single streetlamp - I have to face it so the shadow of my hand doesn't block my writing - my only friends the BIG spider that just scurried past and the concerto of crickets in the background. The difference between Wilhelmstr. 39 (West) and Wilhelmstr. 41 (East) is absolutely astounding, clean West German efficiency turning into post-Communist decay, and on what a scale! Tallinn's Commie architecture was boring and/or crumbling, but it wasn't literally wrecked and falling apart like these hulks of burnt concrete and rusty iron.

The saga continues! Following a luvverly trail of trance ("Hark! 'Tis that a bassdrum I hear yonder?"), I wound up in a parking lot with 4 obviously very-techno teens hanging out. Communication was a little difficult because only one of them knew any English at all, but eventually it was established that Berlin's other famous club Tresor - playing house, if I dug them correctly - was just around the corner. And sure enough, that's what an (unlit) neon sign announced! It was also established that the club opens at 23:00, so here I am! Time to contact the natives again.

The day's budget
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