Berlin Street Scene

art, painting, Nikolaus Braun, Berlin Street Scene

Berlin Straßenszene by Nikolaus Braun

New Year’s night. Everyone’s running to and fro. Must reach your destination before midnight. If you have one, that is.  And surely you must on Silvester!

They’re hopping trains, jumping on buses, riding trams. A city as wired, wired, wired as the world wide web, with multiple means of transportation covering its limits. And everything’s on time. The streetcars show up every couple minutes. You can set your clock to them. They tell me that Germany is all about order, punctuality, cleanliness.

Everyone’s already started drinking and is roaming the streets, train platforms, and subways with beer in hand. I keep forgetting this is legal in Berlin.  I’m still sober amidst all the rowdy drunks. The sign inside the subway cars says no alcohol, but no one’s paying attention, or has to, on New Year’s night.

Berlin is like New York: everyone’s overwhelmed by the amount of options on this night, so many people opt for smaller, intimate gatherings. Too many giant parties and not enough soul. Yes, I’ve heard this song before.

A few of the train’s inhabitants carry bowls of food and bags of wine for their dinner party destinations. A punk rock chick with a bleached blonde pixie cut, heavy eye makeup, some band t-shirt and combat boots, covered in countless studs and zippers, is holding a salad bowl in her lap. It looks out of place on her, I think. But then remind myself not to judge. Punks can cook, too!

I hop from tram to train to bar. Swing through the doors of one pub that’s cranking up The Doors. The lights are dim. Everything smells of smoke. Get a drink or two or five. Meet old friends, make new friends. Talk to the English about New York and the Germans about London and the French about Russia. We’re all citizens of the world here.

Outside, Berlin is burning. Everyone’s throwing fireworks into the air, and firecrackers on the ground. Boom. Bang. Hiss. Crackle. Pop. It looks and sounds like World War II all over again. Maybe this is what nostalgia looks like. I’m told this is how they get their kicks because guns aren’t allowed there. It’s night time, but the sky’s lit up by fireworks and smoke. Red and green and blue and gold and whatever color the last explosion in the sky was.

fireworksThey sell the fireworks at every liquor store. They are packaged as though they’re bouquets of flowers. Flowers that blow up, make lots of noise and pretty light patterns in the sky. Midnight rolls around. The boys give us some fireworks to play with as well, so we do. And I enjoy creating my own noise and explosions. It’s addictive, I must tell you. But has to stop once the bouquet runs out.

Old churches tower over the city.  Some are dark, some lit up, some illuminated by one remaining Christmas star. Most are closed. They’re relics to an old world. This is a city that has made its choice. The bells ring every hour, but they’re only announcing the time.

It’s a city that’s been forgotten by God, destroyed by war and reborn in indulgence.

Giant cranes watch over the city, too. Rebuilding what’s been destroyed in the wars or left behind by the Communists. They’re harbingers of the new city. An industrial city. A modern city.

Wiener BlutKnock back the drinks, leave behind the fireworks and the boys and the Brits you made friends with, run through the smokey streets, hop a cab, leave the cab, get to another bar. Flirt with a sexy dominatrix. Flirt with the cute bartenders in matching New Year’s outfits. Dance in a red, dimly lit place called Vienna’s Blood to Depeche Mode and The Cure and Dead Can Dance. All your favorite tunes and your fellow travelers in one place. Knock back a few Hemingways. (Oh, it’s the name of a drink here, not the writer risen from the dead. Although that would be cool, too).

Everyone’s here by way of New York and Paris and Kansas and St. Petersburg and L.A. and Atlanta and London and Switzerland and you name it. And stories, so many stories. Things that we would never talk about unless we were away from home.

–What are you doing here?

–I’m traveling.

–What are you doing here?

–I live here.

–Why did you come here?

— I came to visit once. Fell in love and never went back.

–Why did you come here?

–For a man, or a woman, or someone in between. We broke up. But I stayed.

–Why did you come here?

–Because the rent is cheaper and the healthcare is better.

–Why did you come here?

–Because you can do anything or be anyone here.

–Why did you come here?

–It’s not the all-night-into-morning parties, it’s not the croissants or coffee, which are, admittedly delicious, it’s not being able to get kebabs and pizza and all kinds of stuff at any time of night, it’s not the music, it’s just that… people are happier here. They don’t have to worry about where their next rent check is going to come from.

–Why did you come here?

–To dance.

–Why did you come here?

–So we could talk.

A guy from a goth couple from Atlanta introduces me to his half-sister, who lives in Switzerland. They’re children of a womanizer, he tells me. The Casanova traveled the world seducing women and spreading his seed and then leaving them. But the kids all found each other via social media and connected.

“I actively try not to be like my father,” he says, he’s been with the same girl for seven years. She’s beside him. Her name is Jessica. I tell her she’s gorgeous. She tells me about her work in psychiatric research. As for the womanizer, he died young in his 40’s, from a heart condition.

I watch everyone dance and wonder if I’m watching a movie. Everything looks so perfect. The moves impeccably coordinated with the rhythm of the music. Order persists here. The fuhrer taught them well. Everyone is always on time. And if your hair is messed up, it’s perfectly messed up. Or if you fedora is slanted, it’s perfectly slanted. There is order even in all the disorder.

There is nothing to do but to join the scene and try to flow in perfect step with the music and the global friends.

So we dance and dance and spin into each other’s worlds.


3 thoughts on “Berlin Street Scene

  1. Love this posting. You really painted a picture of the evening and the city.
    I like it all but here’s my favorite line: “Talk to the English about New York and the Germans about London and the French about Russia. We’re all citizens of the world here.”

  2. Pingback: New Year’s: Past, Present, Future | Stark Naked

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