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
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
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:
- Xagb Pok Mockba T-shirt. Survived initial onslaught, only to
be fatally hit when a traitorous yogurt-laced pack of apple juice impacted
right into it. Ceremoniously buried in the nearest trash can after
a lifetime of devoted service to the State.
- One pack of apple juice. Killed in original attack. Drained at site
and buried with shirt.
- Speedo-swimsuit. The initial target of the attack. Yogurt-splattered
gravely, but a bold decision to dunk it in the nearby Spree River saved
the day. Now recovering in infirmary locker.
- Bamse Klubben-bag. Contained the brunt of the attack. Massive
clean-up operation initiated to repel the enemy, but despite searches
some infiltrators may remain.
- Lacrosse-shorts. Wounded in the same backhanded attack that killed
the XPM T-shirt. Removed to infirmary to await chemical surgery.
Rest in peace.
- Slovenia-book. One corner besmirched by the foul bomb. Cleaned up,
but is stained for life.
- Hard Rock Cafe NY-towel. Minor flecks of yogurt removed, will
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