Monday, May 21, 2012

May Day 2012

On May 1st, we went to the May Day festival in Kreuzberg, which is this mix of riots and street festival. Here is some info taken from an article on May Day on the Exberliner Website (full article here):

[O]n May 1, 1987, a fight started between the police and the autonomists. Ulrike S. remembers watching the events from her flat on Lausitzer Platz, where she used to live with her small child: “The police attacked all of a sudden. Someone helped the women and children escape to the basement of a nearby café, where we waited for things to calm down. It wasn’t until late at night that someone came with a VW minibus and got us out of there. We couldn’t set foot in our apartment for three days because it was saturated with tear gas.” In the course of this Kiezaufstand (“neighborhood uprising”), a Bölle supermarket was burned to the ground. The ruins stood as a reminder of the event until a few years ago, when the enormous mosque opposite Görlitzer Bahnhof took their place.

The 1987 riots were so impressive that the following year, the Kreuzberg lefties decided to hold their own, “revolutionary” May Day demonstration. After the trade union demonstration in 1988, up to 10,000 people gathered at “O-Platz” (Oranienplatz) under the rallying cry “No liberation without revolution”. They marched down “O-Straße” with their arms linked together, their red flags and homemade banners flying, and their faces covered with black ski masks – the uniform of the old-school autonomists. This day, like so many May Days to come, ended in rioting.

...In 2001, with the summit siege in Genoa on the horizon, the conservative Berlin government banned the demonstration – which drove even more people out onto the streets for a massive illegal protest. More than 5000 riot police, brought in from across Germany, couldn’t keep the situation under control. Some 270 officers were injured; 289 people were arrested.

...When the prohibition failed, the city came up with a new strategy: it would fill the streets with party-goers, music, food and beer. This was “MyFest” – presented as an initiative by residents, but financed by the police. In 2005 and 2006, the demonstration was pushed out of the heart of Kreuzberg by MyFest, but soon a counter strategy emerged: the activists held a concert at the edges of the event, featuring well-known international musicians like Kenny Arkana, from France, and Banda Bassotti, from Italy. At 6pm, the demonstration started there and thousands of people joined in.

We ate vegan baked goods for breakfast that morning at Cupcake in Friedrichshain, walked around in the sun, wandered through the festival and hoards of people sipping margaritas and nibbling on street food and listened to various bands as we walked by until the crowds got a bit too much for us. Afterwards we headed to Tempelhof park in Neukölln to chill out and try to find this open air dance party we heard about. While we were sitting on the grass some guy offered to stretch me out on this swing thing, so I had to do it, right? Funny pictures follow. I got my first sunburn of the season and it was a beautiful day, quite perfect for my first May Day.

Rudy, Thea, Rikke and Aleks. Excited for May Day!
So many people
On the way to the park in the U-bahn
Myriam, smile so I can take a picture of these people doing crazy yoga!
Some guy stretching me in this swing thing, lolz.
Doesn't look awkward at all.
Walking to the Open Air party

 And that was May Day in Berlin!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Teufelsberg - The Devil's Mountain

We broke into an abandoned American spy station! A couple/few months ago we went to Teufelsberg, apparently the highest hill/mountain in Berlin where you can see the entire city. Here is some info taken from Wikipedia:

The Teufelsberg (German for Devil's Mountain) is a hill in Berlin, Germany, in former West Berlin. It rises about 80 meters above the surrounding Brandenburg plain, more precisely the north of Berlin's Grunewald forest. It was named after the Teufelssee (i.e. Devil's lake) in its southerly vicinity...It is an artificial hill with a curious history: It was heaped up after the Second World War from part of the rubble of Berlin, approximately 75,000,000 m3 (98,000,000 cu yd) all over the city, during the following twenty years as the city was cleared and rebuilt...

...The US National Security Agency (NSA) built one of its largest listening stations on top of the hill, rumored to be part of the global ECHELON intelligence gathering network. "The Hill", as it was known colloquially by the many American soldiers who worked there around the clock and who commuted there from their quarters in the American Sector, was located in the British Sector. Prior to establishing the first permanent buildings there in the very late 1950s, Mobile Allied listening units had driven to various other locales throughout West Berlin hoping to gain the best vantage point for listening to Soviet, East German, and other Warsaw Pact nations military traffic. It was also used to supervise the West Berlin Air Corridors. One such unit drove to the top of Teufelsberg and discovered a marked improvement in listening ability. This discovery eventually led to a large structure being built atop the hill, which would come to be run by the NSA (National Security Agency). At the request of US government, the ski lifts were removed because they allegedly disturbed the signals. The station continued to operate until the fall of East Germany and the Berlin Wall, but after that the station was closed and the equipment removed. The buildings and radar domes still remain in place.

We climbed through a hole in the fence and wandered around. There were actually lots of people there, which took away the whole "we're going to get in trouble" fear, even if it's apparently still illegal. The Americans used this place to spy on the Russians during the war, and, as they are also apt to do, completely abandoned it without cleaning up any of their shit afterwards. As you can read above, the entire hill/mountain is actually made of rubbish covered in dirt and the giant balls were used to pick up Russian radio signals. We climbed into one of the giant balls and the acoustics were amazing. People were playing flutes and singing opera and banging on shit. Check out the video below to get an idea! Here's one more fun fact I found on Wiki:

During the NSA Operations some other curious things happened: It was noticed that during certain times the reception of the radio signals was better than during the rest of the year. The 'culprit' was found after a while: it was the Ferris wheel of the annual German-American Volksfest Festival on the Hüttenweg in Zehlendorf. From then on, the Ferris wheel was left standing for some time after the festival was over. While there were rumors that the Americans had excavated a shaft down into the ruins beneath, that was never proven, and was likely based on reports that those who maintained equipment in one of the first enclosed antenna structures accessed the upper levels of the inflated dome via an airlock that led to a "tunnel" that was embedded in the structures central column. Speculation as to what might have existed within the highly restricted area frequently gave rise to rather elaborate but false rumors; one theory stated that "the tunnel" was an underground escape route.

Lolz Ferris wheels.

Without further!

On the way, best thing is you can get here via pub transit.
There were lots of holes in the fence that had been fixed up.
This was on the wall of an area filled with prison cells.
Going up? Good luck with that.
The background is an outline of Teufelsberg.

Marion standing by this random little fence in the building.
Has definitely seen better days, whatever this was.
June and Marion exploring.
Me really excited about this door going nowhere.
On the way up to one of the balls.
Marion and Myriam can fly!
View from the top. Balls!
The structures were covered in canvas.
Talk about doors going nowhere. Something REALLY interesting must have been in this room for them to cement it in there.
A sign advertising apartments that were planned to be built here...and then weren't.

And the promised video of inside one of the giant spy balls at Teufelsberg...

If you're in Berlin, you should definitely make a trip over there!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Glow in the Dark, Glitter, Mexican Food. Oh, and some updates.

I got sucked into life, oops! What has happened, do I even remember? Here is an idea of what's been going on. Not chronological in any way:

- Made lots of friends! At some point I seem to have gone from knowing about 2 people to knowing about 2 billion. Okay, that is an exaggeration. Anyway, I host this bi-weekly Couchsurfing Queer meeting here and have made a ton of awesome friends and we go on lots of awesome adventures. so yay!

- Attacked the queer/weird/whatever party scene head on. So over winter I was pretty sure I'd never come out of my room again, but something about it ALREADY being light out until 9ish pm makes all of Berlin FLIP OUT. Now it's impossible to convince yourself to sleep and there is WAY too much to do. Highlights include going to Delta, this party with a blacklight room and a UV and glitter paint tent. The first time I went they crowded us in a small room and while I was wondering where the club was and why they were closing the door on us (were we going to be murdered?!) I realized the whole room was an elevator. Oh Berlin. Here is a glow the dark pictures stolen from a friend!:

Lilly and I
- Had a makeup/glitter explosion party before going to Blitz, this monthly gender-bending synth music party that people dress up for. More stolen photos!

Aleks and Marion
 Lilly all decked out
- Joined a queer-fem stitch and bitch. I'll hopefully eventually one day knit a pair of socks! I'm about ready to turn the heel of my first sock, terrified! Here is my sock-in-progress. Knitting on the bus and u-bahn has led to a lot of people being really intrigued with me.
- Had a GIANT taco party. After bemoaning the lack of Mexican food here, we decided to take matters into our own hands, got about 13 of us together, all braved the grocery store together and made a FEAST of homemade guacamole, fried corn tortillas, black beans, dirty rice, salsa and salsa verde and pico de gallo, homemade margaritas. I ate so much I kinda wanted to die. It was sort of like having a family holiday. Hopefully we will do it again soon. Food and friend pics!

Black beans
Veggie ground meat
Dirty rice!
Nate and Mr. Lime
There may have been an incident of knocking over all these glass bottles with flowers on top of a mirror. It's what happens when the margaritas are strong.
My bouquet!
- Am trying to take on the finding-a-flat-scene. A good friend and I are trying to move in together and it is ROUGH. I have never lived somewhere where it's so competitive to find a flat. For one 2 bedroom flat often 50-80 people will show up to the viewing. We've already been looking for about 2 months now, so hopefully we'll be successful soon. Our flat application is 23 pages long. It's ridiculous.

- My friend Gulliver came to visit in February! We ate everything and ran around betrunken a lot. It was quite fantastic.

- I have two jobs now! I'm not teaching at all! As I already mentioned, I work as a Project Assistant in the office of a small university. I like it a lot and it's been keeping me super busy. We just moved offices and now I have my own desk! I also got a second mini-job through a friend making brochures for their work abroad program, which is pretty neat because I can do it from home. I'm also supposed to teach a 5-hour seminar, mostly in German, about intercultural competence. Should be interesting. Sounds more fun than teaching English though, which reminds me, I need to start researching what I actually want to teach. For all of you who've had required study abroad orientation sessions, do you remember any good activities or advice you care to pass on?

- I bought a bike! It was one of my sort of New Years Resolutions to start cycling in this city, so hopefully I'll make that a reality now. I got a pretty good deal and also bought insurance so if it gets stolen I get a new one. Since bikes are stolen a LOT in Berlin, I feel a bit better having this. Hopefully I'll get more comfortable with city cycling and won't get hit by 1000 cars.

There's a general summary. A couple more entries to come as they had way too many pictures to all fit in here!