Friday, December 1, 2017

Deutschland- Tag Vier (Germany Day Four)

For my last birthday, Kath had booked us a Trabi tour of East Berlin. For those not in the know, Trabis are cars made by East Germany back during its bad communist, GDR days. They are super small, unreliable, cheaply made, and powered by what are essentially lawnmower engines. They are literally the worst car ever made. Note that I didn't say probably. I said worst and I meant it. And the really fun thing about a Trabi tour is that you get to drive your very own Trabi all around Berlin. Of course because I'm the one who can drive stick, that meant I would be driving. 

Trabi World is right in the middle of all the touristy stuff. Essentially it's the Times Square of Berlin, with tacky souvenir shops and business and attraction that cater solely to tourists. It's not generally the kind of area I love visiting in a foreign city, but hey, to be fair we were tourists and I was excited about getting behind the wheel. I'd not driven stick in fifteen years after all. 

We ended up accidentally bumping into Checkpoint Charlie, which isn't the real Checkpoint Charlie structure, but a fake little guardhouse put up for tourist to take pictures with. Well, when in Rome...

Though, I do have to say that I loved this one particular trash can though. 

We were actually a little bit early for our Trabi World tour. I mean, it's Germany, you're supposed to show up early right? Or maybe you're supposed to show up exactly on time. Either way, we had about half an hour to hang out around their space playing. It was fun because there were a lot of vehicles including Trabi cars and a motor scooter. Plus we had some perfect light so we took a bunch of photos. 

When I am an indie song writer, this will be the cover of my second album. It's too perfect! 

We also took some pictures of cranes. Apparently cranes are as much an icon of Berlin as the Brandenburgtor. Kath even bought a crane t-shirt at the Maurpark flea market. Yes, there were cranes, but half of NYC is a construction site (the other half is brand new condo towers) so we have our fair share of cranes too.

After a good half hour of pictures, we finally hopped in our very own piece of East German engineering. There were a ton of Trabis, each painted a different color, even some plaid ones or striped ones, ones with polka dots. But we got yellow. It's not polka dots, but at least it's highly visible, so there's that.

Our first stop on the Trabi tour was the Berlin Wall memorial, where we had been the previous day. Ah well, we got some cool photos this time around.

Our second stop was by the Wall Gallery where West Berliners would come and paint art on their side of the hated wall. Kath and I got our picture taken in front of the famous photo below. Now, I don't remember who the two people are (a GDR commissar? Did they have commissars? And maybe that's Leonid Brezhnev?), but can't you just feel the biting satire? Biting! 

Driving the Trabi was not without its perils. First up, I found the gear shift difficult at best. My original stick shift VW had a regular shifter between the seats. The Trabi had its shifter on the steering column. Plus, I'm not sure if it's just my lack of coordination or poor GDR engineering not holding up over time, but I could barely work the gears. There was a fair bit of grinding and at one point I got stuck and had to have the tour guide park and come rescue us with a quick shift back into first. And we actually spent the last ten minutes or so of the tour stuck in third.

But we did make it back in one piece. Except that I almost hit a biker by the Tiergarten. But to be fair it's because I was trying to not hit the pedestrians. It was a super fun tour, but the driving part of it was a little stressful. It was nice to be done with driving.

After the Trabi tour, Kath and I set off on foot to explore more of Berlin. We headed in a semi-random southerly direction and soon found ourselves in the middle of a large residential area. Such is the fate of those who dare explore randomly. Sometimes you find a really cool thing, other times you end up miles from all the cool things. So we stopped at a slightly creepy restaurant for a snack and a beer so we could rest up and get our bearings.

I say slightly creepy because the owner and their family were hanging out smoking and drinking and there was no one else around. Plus they didn't speak any English. Not even Dinglish, the pigeon German/English that everyone in Berlin speaks. Plus they seemed to eye us suspiciously. Ah well, their schnitzel was fantastic and their beer was cold, so we

Guess which half of this building was shelled by the Red Army in 1944. 
Refortified, we headed toward Kreuzberg, which we had been told was the cool, hip, Williamsburg or Bushwick (Brooklyn) neighborhood full of artists, musicians, communists and other Bohemians. 

We grabbed ourselves some biers at a tabak and kept walking, eventually finding a really nice, swan filled park along the Landwehr Canal.

We took this opportunity to finally bust out the little mini pose-able tripod and bluetooth phone camera remote control for some photos. It's way better than a selfie stick, but this wold actually be the only time on the whole trip where we used it.

We stopped in a kinda terrible pizza place (as a Brooklyn girl I should never trust Germans to make good pizza) and found the above poster. It's not exactly the most progressive thing in the world, but it had the words "trans gender rocks" on it. How could I not snap a picture? 

Above, was actually my favorite picture from the entire trip. We paused on a bridge full of drummers, poets, and other young kids hanging out and smoking and I took this shot. It's like it should be a Monet painting except that it's a graffiti covered rusted industrial pipe. I love the contrast.

As the sun set, we headed further into the Kreuzburg so we could go visit the legendary bar SO36. On the way I found myself in front a sunglasses stand right at golden hour. So I tried them all on. Okay, not all of them. But a few.

SO36  is the home of German punk and later techno. It's also a gay bar and the birthplace of gay German techno. It's legendary. And on the day we went it was full of children roller skating. Yes, it was an all-ages skating day. While we thought about renting skates, we instead stayed safely at the bar, enjoying the space and the music. 

Pictured: A German enjoying things. 

One really cool thing was that the restrooms actually had "trans" on the door. Go, Deutschland! Way to be uber alles with the restroom access.

We also put out some Gender Rebels cards on the palm card table. Germany is actually our number one non-English speaking nation as far as downloads. So hopefully we'll have some new fans.

On our night out in Kreuzburg we also tried doner. For those not in the know, donor is sort of lot gyro meat in that it's a greasy pressed meat that's displayed on a slowly turning loaf. Also like gyro it's only good when you're drunk. Luckily we were drunk so it wasn't half bad.

We really liked Kreuzburg. But we still had so much more Berlin to explore! 

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