Wheeew… Berlin ay? What a spin out. Interesting would be one way to describe my time spent here. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride with many highs and lows. I've met some really great people and seen some cool places, but I also got a good look at the dark side of Berlin. A spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, distorted realities and lost souls.
All the fun started when I stopped to join in a game of frisbee in Volkspark Hasenheide. The sun was setting and my intention was to find a host for the night. When it got dark and the game came to an end I felt the timing wasn't right to ask for a place to sleep so instead I asked for directions to a good watering hole. One bloke named Mario told me he was about to head to his favorite bar and invited me to join. That's how i found my way to Aller Eck, a punk/skater/something else bar in Neukölln which would be my base for the next 11 days. I walked inside the smokey pub and put my pack down in the corner. Mario introduced me to the 5 or so locals that sat around the bar and said, "This is my family, and you are welcome here". I've been made to feel welcome by a lot of people on my travels but this crew made me feel like family, as soon as I met them. Mario sat me down with a beer and a pipe of hash and asked me questions about my travels. I got talking to the others there as well and learned that there was an apartment upstairs where some of the Aller crew were staying, and when one of the guys made his way downstairs we were introduced. He turned out to be an Aussie skater bloke as well and after he sussed me out, agreed to let me stay the night.
The next morning I awoke to an offer I couldn't refuse. "If you give this place a good clean, you can stay for the weekend." Dishes for rent? A deal I'm no stranger to. I spent a good few hours scrubbing the floors and tidying up the messy skater den to secure my stay for the next few days. After my chores were done and I was given the thumbs up by my host: everything was sorted. I got a crew, a base and a comfy couch to crash on, which freed my time for other things. Other things like wondering what to do.
Every now and again on a journey you reach a crossroads. A point where, despite having options, you have nowhere to go. Summer was drawing to an end and the next chapter of the story was due to begin. South was the obvious direction but to where? On one hand I could head south west towards Spain for the warmer weather and the last of this year's psytrance festivals. On the other hand I could head south east towards Turkey and Iran. I had heard stories of an overland adventure from Europe to India which caught my interest, but this road is known for being a tricky pass with some difficulty for westerners getting visas. I really could not decide which way to go. I was sitting in the park pondering when I decided I would write up a cardboard sign 'Are you going to Connection festival?'. I figured I would carry the sign with me for a few days and if I found a lift from there to Connection festival in Spain before it started the next week, then I would head south west. If not I would have one less option. As I sat doing the finishing touches on the sign, a French traveller came up to me. "Connection Festival? Where is that?" he asked.
"Spain mate," I replied.
"Oh too bad," said the Frenchman, "I plan to travel to India overland, so this is the wrong direction for me."
"Fair-fucking-dinkum?" I thought aloud. "Sit down mate, let’s have a yarn."
I asked about his plans and preparations and shared my own knowledge on the topic. He had just left France on his journey and arrived in Berlin only the day before. He asked me if i knew of any good places to see or things to do while he was here. I mentioned an abandoned apartment complex that I planned to paint and his eyes lit up. We exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up for an adventure in a few days. It was nice to meet someone who was currently on the India overland mission but I still wasn't convinced it was my path also. It wasn't until we met up again and adventured together that it became clear that east was the way to go.
A few days later, late one afternoon, we bought a big bag of sprays and jumped the train to the abando inNeukölln. A wall climb and a ledge shimmy later and we were in through a first story window. Together we explored the multi level complex looking for a good canvas. Once we got to the top floor and lookedout over the expanse of the now forgotten, once loved dwellings, we found the perfect spot: the roof of the next apartment building over. In no time at all we were on that roof cracking beers and smelling that oh so familiar smell of happiness in a can. We had a great old time on the roof painting and telling stories of old adventures. Eventually, India became a topic of conversation and and I learned that Ari planned to get back on the road the next day to continue the journey. I wanted to stay in Berlin for at least another week and thought of the possibilities. I proposed the idea of me taking the same road towards India, a week or two behind, and us meeting up in every other city when our stay overlapped to hangout, paint and share plans for the road. He was pretty happy with this idea and so it was decided. I would head east.
Now that I wasn't heading to Connection festival I had a bit more time in Berlin. The weather was bloody amazing the whole 2 weeks and I spent my days sniffing out skate spots, exploring abandos, drinking in the park, and of course, drinking at Aller Eck. The dishes for rent deal upstairs got extended for another week and even to downstairs where some nights I was able to do glassy work for beer. My highlight at Aller Eck though was learning to mix vinyls. An old schoolhouse and disco DJ from Chicago got me spinning on the decks one night to a crowd of 15–20 people. Cross that one off the bucket list! Aller Eck was great. Everyone was awesome and looked out for each other, it was a family. But once you went out on the street it was a different story.
The night life in Berlin is pretty hectic. Yeah, the clubs are cool, Perhaps the coolest in the world, but they're still just clubs. Clubs full of mindless indulgence. That shit bores me. I want a sound system in the bush, with people I can trust and care for, and celebrate life with. Not in a box full of sizzled units who don't even care about themselves and are trying to escape their life. With some of the people I met, it was like talking to a brick wall. I wasn't really able to connect with people because they were so disconnected from themselves, they didn’t even know who they were. In their eyes I saw darkness and discontent, their lives now a pointless loop of day and night, high and low. Like a broken record, skipping between the two with no end and no real satifaction. It all made me start to feel a bit lost myself, and at times wondered if the confusion I was seeing in the people around me was just a reflection of my own life/state of mind. I don't know if I just arrived at the end of summer, into the accumulative hangover of the whole city after the party season, or if it's always like that, but I think I've decided Berlin parties are not for me. Of course I met some good people to hang out with in the Berlin nights, but the percentage of sizzlers seemed to be much higher here than anywhere else I've been so far.
At the end of the day I'm not so sure how I feel about Berlin. Some of the most fun and some of the most hectic times of my trip have been here. It definitely takes a lot of energy. After two weeks I was feeling pretty stretched out and was looking forward to getting back on the road and finding time to centre myself again. The plan now is to hitch through Prague, Vienna and Budapest then through to Turkey and Iran. I know there is some unrest down that way with refugees and closed borders etc. Some people have even tried to discourage me from going east, but people have been telling me not to do fun stuff my whole life, and it hasn't worked on me yet...
"All roads lead to where ya going.” — wilby
More photos at Flickr