Monday, 10 December 2007

Kommen hier die Weihnachtsmänner

First things first, a massive thank you to Craig and Gerard at IKnit for making me Blog of the Week in the IKnit Newsletter. I’m hugely touched, honoured and not a little astonished that anyone is reading this. Thanks guys!

I spent the weekend just gone in Berlin, visiting my good friend K, which I try to do about once a year. Of course there was some yarn shopping involved – for those impatient souls who wish to cut to the chase, I’m going to put up a separate post about that straight after this one.

I love flying, I really do, partly because of the harnessing of the great power of the laws of physics that it involves, but mainly because of the heart-stopping beauty of flying into or out of a city at night. I do, during daily life, strongly object to carbon emissions, light pollution, etc, etc, but I wouldn’t be able to bear never again seeing the golden glitter of humanity spread out below me. Berlin is particularly striking from the air, with the Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz jutting into the sky like a sparkling hypodermic needle (as a contrast to in daylight when it looks like a stripey hypodermic needle which has spiked a golf ball). The taxiway lights at Berlin Schönefeld (the tounge-twisting SXF in airport acronyms) also seem to be an especially beautiful shade of blue, sliding from turquoise to lavender purple depending on the angle through the fog, but mainly a stunning, glowing, Piccadilly-line royal blue. The ones at London Luton on my return seemed to be much paler, shading to sky-blue, almost white. I don’t know why there’s a difference.

By contrast, I’ve always thought of Berlin as a grey city. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, just that the predominant palette in my mind is dominated by shades of grey: dove, charcoal, slate. Perhaps that’s because I nearly always visit in winter, where the sky seems to look like snow regardless of actual weather conditions. London to me, whilst doubtless no less grey in reality, is more of a mess of different colours, like the Tube map or the various signs of high street shops, mixed and muddied against the red-brown of Victorian terraces, lit by the double yellow emissions of sodium streetlights. In my mental New York it is always night-time, cut with blazing neon colours, probably because most of my experience of it was living and working on Times Square during winter, where it even at midnight it was never dark.

So here are some suitably grey photos of Berlin, firstly the Fernsehturm in daylight, against an apocalyptic sky:

And some political graffiti, about the sale of state-owned accommodation to private owners:

Here is an awful, awful photo of one of Berlin’s monochrome residents, a hooded crow (Nebelkrähe or "fog crow" in German, how fitting). In England we normally have the all-black carrion crow, so I was delighted when one of these chaps perkily bounced onto the roof of a nearby car when I was out and about, unfortunately it bounced away again before I could choose anything like the right settings on my camera.

Here, however, is one of Berlin’s more famous residents who does pose readily for photos, monochrome in the single colour sense if not the white-grey-black one. This is the east German Ampelmann, the green man found on traffic lights, striding purposefully ahead with his natty little hat on. After reunification, I’m told they tried to replace all the green men with the more sedate west German version, to be met with strong protests until he was saved. Nowadays you can buy all sorts of merchandise with him (and his static red companion), including some very nice jelly babies.

I really hope this fishmonger doesn't sell what the sign suggests:

For some reason the whole country (generalising, moi?) seems to go bonkers over chocolate Father Christmases, the Weihnachtsmänner of the title, with supermarket and food hall sections full of them from all sorts of different manufacturers of all sorts of wonderful European chocolate. You just don’t get these in the UK. So a whole cohort had to accompany me home, and here they are all lined up for distribution. The small ones are Kinder, the tall two are Milka (normal and nutty) and the middle one, the most expensive, the Überschokoladenweinachtsman (I love using the prefix über- normally, how even more satisfying to have a genuine reason to do so, unless this should be ober- of course) is by Lindt, purveyors of all those yummy golden bunnies at Easter. A couple of them broke in transport, so I have selflessly volunteered to eat those myself.

Finally, I have visited K in roughly the same area of Berlin for at least the last five years or so, and never has this shop fixed its broken sign:

I can only therefore conclude that the sign must be correct, and that this is the world’s only sex shop that will not only sell you a porno featuring chicks with dicks, but will help you to become one too…

1 comment:

Gail said...

Selfless, indeed you are my dear ;-) xx