Monday, 18 October 2010

In Berlin (part 2)

We met Jan and Mark, at a hostel on the outskirts of town. They were in their twenties, at film school, travelling around Europe on their bikes with a film camera making short films. (As if ordered out of a catalogue to impress English teenage girls, looking back - European! Sophisticated! Motorbikes! Film-makers!) Mark had high cheekbones and long jet black hair, I loved him, but he fancied Cat (story of my life). I taught him the English phrase "skin up" though, I'm sure he was grateful and will remember me forever for that.

We bonded over the hostel, which was a bit strict. We were sitting, drinking coffee, when a girl said, in English for our beneft, "It is 8.00 am. You must leave. Now. The hostel closes at 8.00 am." "Sure," said Jan easily. "We're going" "You must go now. This is a youth hostel, not a hotel." "Yes, a youth camp, not a concentration camp I think." "Must it be a joke?" said the girl, offended, and went off. "Shit, I forgot I was in Germany" Jan said. We giggled, guiltily.

They asked us if we wanted to come with them - they'd decided to camp in the middle of the Potsdammer Platz to catch all the action. So we went with and somehow ended up in the middle of a squatters camp - the squatters were protesting about Mercedes Benz buying up the land in the middle of the square (I think I have this right, it was a long long time ago and memory fades.) At first these punky looking people don't want to let us in but a cool woman with shaved head says "these little girls are on their own. I think they are safer here with us" and we get the nod. It's a better buzz than getting past the red velvet rope at a club when they let us inside their makeshift fences. We're in! The politicos accept us! Suburbia never seemed so far away.

We pitch our little tent next to Jan & Mark and go and look for genuine squats in Kreuzberg with a couple of Goths from the Midlands, their black Egyptian eye makeup and black clothes and pasty white skin looking blazingly English in the German sunshine. We heard that if you turn up they will let you stay a couple of nights for free. But we never find any of these famous squats and return to the square.

We meet this genuinely mythical creature, a skinny, barefoot, raggedy East German punk. His name is Gunther, he's about 16. Mark and Jan translate for us. "What do you think of the Wall coming down?" "He says he thinks it is a bad thing, there is something bad in the German blood. If they re-unite the Nazis will happen again.... He pulls up his holey jumper to show us a scar from when he got into a fight with some fascists a couple of years ago, they cut him open and he lost a kidney. He seems like a lost soul. Cat murmurs in my ear "I don't want to be his mum." but I know what she means, that mothering instinct is almost irresistable. He takes us to a black market (I didn't realise a black market could be an actual place) where he looks longingly at some flick knives and I wish I could buy him a pair of shoes without offending his dignity.

The next day is the concert, in which I nearly lose all my marbles. More on that later.


  1. never finding the squats / the party / etc is the story of MY life

  2. And losing marbles the story of mine.

  3. Darling, looking forward to knowing about the loss of marbles. Though glad it was only a close-run thing.

    Oh, Berlin feels very conventional now. At least in comparison to then. Potsdamer Platz couldn't be more identikit modern city wank.

    But then I was out till all hours last night - oh yes, on a Sunday, because I'm so hard - smoking drugs and drinking alcohols and having sex with people of three genders all at once and fighting to keep the old spirit alive.

  4. The thing is, we all lose our marbles at that age, but then we find they’re waiting for us at about 40, like faithful dogs.

  5. Are they hiding from us, Annie?

    Ah, Arabella. Only the best people lose their marbles. Who wants to be a dull normal.

    BiB, I think that's what the protest was all about - all these circling corporate vultures. It was inevitable though really.

    Cooool! Kicking it old school! x

    Tim, sadly I think the end of my story will reveal that I have never been able to properly lose the plot, even as a reckless teenager. Bah for sensible.