samedi, juillet 12, 2008

Next time, I get here early

After sleeping in like crazy from last night’s outing, my roomie and I decided to take advantage of the (relatively) good weather and hit a biergarten. After a brief shopping stop along Kottbusser Damm, we walked to a place near the eastern end of the Landwehrkanal, called Burg am See (Castle on the Lake), which was really charming and had not only beer on offer, but food as well.

From there, my roommate went off to visit another friend while I headed home to write up my notes from last night. The notes took longer than expected, and so by late evening, I found myself dashing off to my evening engagements.

I was planning to go to Berghain / Panorama Bar for the evening, but I also had a date over in Schöneberg beforehand. I had expected the date to be a brief drink and some small talk, so I was even imagining heading back to my apartment for a while before heading to Berghain. In the end, we ended up hitting a couple of bars and drinking a non-trivial amount of alcohol, so by the time that I was heading off to do my night of fieldwork at Berghain, it was almost 2am and I was a bit drunk.

Berghain: Made to Play / Jesse Rose’s B-day / Ostgut Ton night

2am is almost the ideal time to show up at Berghain, but I had forgotten that it was the summer, which means that there are many more young, college-aged people who have the time and mobility to come to Berlin and party. So, when I arrived at the club, the lineup to get in spanned nearly the entire entrance path (i.e. approx. 2 city blocks).

Grimly resigned to getting in much later than I had expected, I took some consolation in the knowledge that the headliner, Derrick Carter, probably wouldn’t start spinning until 3am or so, and steeled myself for a very long wait. While the long lineup was annoying enough, it was made unbearable by a pair of guys who cut into line behind me (taking advantage of the fact that the group behind me were foreigners and didn’t have the German skills to challenge them), who then proceeded to complain endlessly and loudly about how foreigners are ruining the Berlin scene.

Add to this the fact that the wait was so long that I had sobered up in line, and I was in a sour, sour mood. I was quietly wishing horrible things upon the pair behind me, and thinking to myself that this night better be really, really good.

Just about 5 people ahead of me, a young-ish couple of partygoers were told they couldn’t come in. They didn’t seem egregiously uncool, maybe just a bit young (the median age in the scene here is 30-something) and dressed a bit unremarkably. So it seemed a bit harsh to send away a pair of kids who had waited about 1 hour in line. Realizing that I’m pretty young-looking (for a 30-year-old) and dressed in a pretty boring outfit, I put on my best “I don’t give a shit” scowl and hope that my wide-gauge earrings would help.

2h00-4h30: Derrick Carter, in Panorama Bar

Apparently, Derrick Carter had been spinning since 2am, and I didn’t get in until 3am, so I was a bit miffed about missing part of his set. Nonetheless, I grabbed a beer (cheap at only 3€ for a Becks) set about getting into the groove. Carter’s set was pretty unsurprising: Chicago house, buttressed with a slightly harder feel and punchy beats to make it that genre of “soulful” (i.e., audibly inspired by Black American music) tech-house that has been around for a while. Although Carter’s mixing and selection skills are certainly well-respected for a reason, he wasn’t really kicking my ass.

I think a lot of my reaction to his set was a case of familiarity breeding contempt (or disinterest), as you can hear this sound any day of the week in Chicago. The Berliners and other Europeans in the crowd, however, were going nuts for his set. Admittedly, techno or tech-house with audible references to soul, disco, and R&B is pretty rare in European techno scenes.

Also, part of my reaction certainly had to do with the fact that I had sobered up from 4 cocktails in a 1-hour lineup outside, constantly irritated by a pair of xenophobic locals. I’m willing to concede that might hearing of Carter might’ve been more generous if I had been in a better mood. Regardless, I still shook my booty for several hours straight.

4h30-6h00: Jesse Rose, in Panorama Bar

Let me just say this upfront: Jesse Rose has suddenly become hot to me. Of the times that I’ve seen him live previously, he’s never really struck me as particularly attractive or unattractive, but tonight I was battling the urge to vault the turntables and jump on him. Since the camera ban at Berghain/PanoramaBar is very carefully enforced, I don’t have any pictures of him from that night, but I assure you that he doesn’t look any different than what you can find online in promotional photos. So, there you go; I can’t claim to understand why I now want to do unspeakable things to him, but such is the “magic” of sexuality.

If Derrick Carter’s set sounded like Chicago House with a dash of Berlin, Rose’s set sounded like Berlin Minimal with a squirt of Chicago. I liked it a bit better than Carter’s set, in that there was a lot of that punchy-yet-resonant bass that I love and the use of House styles and sounds seemed more at home in his set.

6h00-??: Tristan da Cunha, in Panorama Bar

Tristan was supposed to go until noon, I think, and then Ryan Elliott and Matthew Dear were scheduled to do the Sunday afternoon sets. While I’ve always wanted to stick around for a Sunday afternoon at Berghain (they’re legendary, after all), I just didn’t have the energy. Also, the DJ listing on the wall had both of those boys listed with alternate/replacement DJs, which meant that there was a chance they wouldn’t play. I wasn’t going to keep myself up for another 6 hours for the possibility of those two. Besides, Matthew Dear has been batting about 0.500 with me when I’ve seen him live.

I waited through the first few tracks of Tristan’s set, to see if his style would inspire me to dance, and then I got my jacket and headed for the door at around 8am. The trip home this time was less painful than last week (which is ironic, considering that I stayed out about 2 hours longer than last week). I picked up a pastry from a bakery near my place, and then crawled into bed.

vendredi, juillet 11, 2008

Awkwardness, intimacy and the charm offensive

So, I did some relatively interesting things during the day (like go back to the Türkischer Markt and buy delicious stuff), but my night out at Watergate is what I really need to write down, so here’s my night.

Watergate: Kiki’s Birthday

I headed out from my place around 00h30, aware that I was probably still too early. I took the U-Bahn instead of a taxi, which made the trip longer (the trains come less frequently after midnight), so that I was in line around 1h15 or so. I was still pretty early, but there was a sizeable line at the door of the club, in the shadow of the Oberbaumbrücke, so I was doing pretty well.

As I got into line, a clot of 5 young English blokes formed behind me, dressed in collared shirts and leather shoes, joking loudly with each other in English and otherwise looking pretty normative. In other words, they were radiating “non-scenester / tourist” vibes.

This could be a problem for them, as Watergate—along with Panorama Bar / Berghain—has a New York-style door policy, where the bouncers give you a once-over and then tell you whether you can enter. While Panorama Bar / Berghain is certainly the most restrictive (and infamous) for this, Watergate and a few other clubs in Berlin do the same. Many Paris clubs do this as well, but whereas in Paris you should be dressed in mid-range prêt-à-porter fashion (collared shirt, no sneakers) and bring girls with you, in Berlin you should have punk-inspired hair, some conspicuous piercings or tattoos, some sort of printed t-shirt or super-low v-neck shirt, sneakers, and you should look plausibly queer (and/or bring girls with you). Anyway, these boys were dressed in a more London-Paris fashion (designed, I might add, to keep out minority partygoers in both cities), and they were pretty far from the Berlin techno-scenester fashion (designed to keep out a different kind of outsider: tourists / suburbanites). To make matters worse, they were a large group of young men; in any European city, nothing limits your entry into a club like showing up looking like a stag party.

So there I was, feeling mildly superior in my ability to blend in and look like a scenester (and, let’s face it, I’m certainly a techno-scenester), when I get a tap on the shoulder:

Bloke: Entschuldigung?

Luis: (reluctantly) Ja?

B: [something unintelligible in broken German]

L: Wie, bitte? (Pardon me?)

B: [the same thing, and no clearer]

Now, if I had been able to understand his mangled German, I would’ve answered in the most authentic-sounding German I could muster and then leave it at that, as I did not want the bouncer to think that I was with these guys. There’s a real possibility that they won’t get in, and I was imagining their uncoolness as something contagious. However, I didn’t have a clue what this guy was trying to say, so I had to “come out” as an Anglophone.

L: Try that again in English.

B: Oh, how much does it cost to get in?

L: I’m not sure, but it’s usually around 10 Euros.

And with this, trying as best as possible make it clear to everyone looking (especially the bouncer nearby) that I was merely being informative but would never even imagine being socially burdened with this lot, I turned back around and busied myself conspicuously with deleting the old photos on my camera. The Brit-Boy spokesman, however, was having none of it.

B: So, are you from the States, then?

L: Nah, I’m actually Canadian

B: Ah, same thing for us.

L: Well…that’s not something you’ll want to say to a Canadian.

B: Right, sorry. We’re Brits, so we don’t know any better. Do you speak French, then?

L: Yup, I’m from the Anglophone part of Canada, but I learned French in school.

B: And German, too?

L: A bit. Enough to get by.

Another Brit Boy: [joining in] That’s the problem with England, we don’t do enough languages in school.

As they inquired about me, my sense of sociability and politeness kicked in, and I found myself asking about them and, back and forth, we got to know each other. And so, relentlessly affable in the face of my forceful disinterest, this boy and his mates made me like them, know them and eventually care about them.

So, when they raised the question of how likely they were to get into the club, I began to feel protective and responsible for them. I told them that I had never had any trouble getting in (which is true, but misleading considering how different we were), but that they should avoid speaking English loudly while waiting in line, present themselves as two smaller groups, and (for the next night, when they were going to try Berghain) look a little less straight, so to speak. If I had been in Paris, I could’ve mustered a believable local accent and told the bouncer that the boys were with me, but I didn’t think that my weak German was going to help them at this point.

When we got near the front of the line, the bouncer made to let the next group of people enter the box office / security point. Having read the situation better than I had expected, the bouncer sent me in with the people in front of me, while keeping the boys back for the next group. As I went in, I looked over my shoulder and gave them a half-encouraging / half-apologetic wave, hoping that the signal would encourage the bouncer to let them in.

After passing through and checking my jacket at the coat-check, I walked straight back up to the entryway and started looking for the group of boys. And so it was that these young British blokes, whom minutes earlier I had been studiously ignoring while enjoying a certain smug Schadenfreude at their failure to step out of themselves and be eloquent and smooth in the techno scene, made me spend the rest of the night and morning scanning the room for evidence of their successful entry. Alas, I don’t think they ever made it.

If I see them at Berghain, I’ll have to apologize for not being the intrepid guide they thought I was.

12:00-3:30: Main Floor, Phage; Waterfloor, JonJon & Chopstick

On the way in, I saw a huge sign in English right over the security checkpoint, saying “No cameras! Respect people’s privacy.” Shit. Although Berghain / Panorama Bar has had this restriction for years (mostly because it is a rather libertine queer bar where people often also have sex), I had been able to take a camera into Watergate the last time I had been here. Apparently, it seems, other Berlin venues are now following Berghain’s lead. The security guy saw my camera, but let me keep it, provided that I didn’t use it while in the club. After giving him all my assurances possible, wandered inside.

About half an hour later, I saw a group of people take pictures of each other on the dancefloor. Nobody stopped them and nobody seemed bothered. As the night progressed, the camera ban seemed to be entirely forgotten, as people were taking photos of each other all over the place. Although I was tempted to take out my camera, I really couldn’t in good conscience. As my dissertation supervisor said recently, “reasonable expectations of privacy” is the magic phrase for fieldwork ethics, and so a prominently posted camera ban using the language of privacy made photos out of the question for me. Ironically, if I wasn’t “on the clock” doing research, I would’ve snuck out my camera and taken pictures.

I walked around both of the floors of the club and the outdoor deck/dock on the river Spree (you can see photos from my previous visits here and here) and found that the music on both floors were almost interchangeable. Thankfully, it was very good “classic Berlin” minimal techno on both floors, but I was amused at how generic this style has gotten here. Although I didn’t hear any record played twice the entire night, the style was really continuous.

I eventually decided I liked the sound of Jonjon and Chopstick better, as there was a greater emphasis on the sort of complex, crackling high-end sounds that I so like in my microhouse / minimal techno. Oh, and as you might’ve guessed, one of the men in the DJ duo was Asian; how unexpected! If I’m ever in a bi-racial DJ duo, I’m going to be called “Fajita,” or maybe “Castanets.”

At one point, while taking a break from the heat on the outdoor deck, a girl standing near me turned to me and started to ask a question. I had overheard her speaking English, and her attempt to address me in German was causing her to wince as if she were passing a kidney stone, so I jumped in with English. As it turns out, she was looking for a lighter, so I helped her ask a guy nearby for a lighter.

Her initial relief at having spoken to another Anglophone turned to curiosity, as she asked me where I was from and how I came to be in Berlin. She was originally from Detroit, so we talked a bit about the Detroit-Toronto corridor, and then she introduced me to her friends, who were a multi-national group of business students like herself. In typical North-American fashion, throughout the entire conversation she would touch my arm or my elbow or put her hands on my shoulder to make a point; in the don’t-touch-me world of Continental Europe, this sort of casual contact is something I’m going to miss.

After a short but enthusiastic conversation, she invited me to go back into the club with her friends to buy a drink and keep talking. While we were waiting for drinks at the bar, one of the boys she was with (who I think was trying to pick her up) said something to her, she nodded, and the two of them walked off. Although I did see her in the bar from time to time, we never really talked again.

When I sometimes speak about intimacy across loose or slackened social bonds, this is the sort of thing I’m thinking about. Not only do environments like these clubs create an extraordinary acceleration of intimate encounters—an intensification of warmth that (sometimes) has total strangers caring about and for each other in a matter of minutes—but they also slacken the responsibilities of intimate bonds: you can bond with the girls waiting for the bathroom and then never see them again; you can tell your life story to a stranger on the deck and then drift away from them; you can flirt with someone on the dancefloor and never ask their name; you can give and receive gifts of cigarettes, drinks, drugs and affection with people you don’t know. Ultimately, these sorts of intimate-public spaces are ones where “I know you” isn’t necessarily the prerequisite for “Let’s be close.”

3:30-4:30: Danton Eeprom live (Main Floor)

I headed back upstairs to catch the work of Danton Eeprom, who had blown us all away at Mutek in Montréal about a month ago. His live set here was a lot less exciting, I have to say, and I wasn’t nearly as impressed. He still had that same epic, maximalist sound that I had heard at mutek, but here he made much too much use of long, sustained sounds. That is, he used a lot of the “analog”-style sound-washes so popular in psychedelic rock and trance (think rushing noises, swooping white noise, or anything that goes “swoosh!”).

So, I hung out for a while to see if the sound would change, and then I wandered around the club for the rest of his set, waiting for Kiki’s (birthday) set.

4:30-6:00: Kiki (Main Floor)

Although certainly a great set, Kiki’s set was also pretty indistinguishable from the minimal sets going on earlier in the night. The only difference, really, was that he was playing at a higher intensity. The bass was turned way up, he spent less time between “peak” points in the music, and the tracks he was selecting were generally heavier in texture. Still, the set was great and a lot of fun to dance to. Things got really hot in the main room by this time, but the sun was already up and shining through on the Water Floor, so I sat down for a while and had a couple of beers, and then threw myself back on the dancefloor.

6:00 - ???: Siopis (Main Floor)

This guy’s set continued in the minmal techno vein, but he played a lot of tracks that seemed rather Detroit-influenced, including a number of them that had spoken/rap lyrics usually by a man with an African-American accent. The cant of the voice always sounded like it had been lifted from a booty-house / ghettotech track, but with the Berlin “minimale” treatment.

Anyway, as interesting as his style was, I began to get really tired by about 7h00 and started making my way back to my place. The ride home on the U-Bahn was slow but a welcome rest, before I dragged myself back to my place, washed the rave grime off me, and fell into bed.

jeudi, juillet 10, 2008

UNESCO loves Berlin Bauhaus, Day 2

Success! I got the rest of the Siedlungen (housing settlements) in today. I don’t have much time to give a blow-by-blow of the events, but let me tell you that it was consistently gray outside and drizzling non-stop. It was the dampest, shittiest, depressingest July weather you can imagine, and my roommate tells me that this is normal for July. Well great.

Anyway, as a result of the consistent dark grey of the sky, a lot of my photos were underexposed. While correcting the levels to reveal the buildings in better detail and color saturation, I pretty much had to white-out the sky, so all the pictures look as if there were no sky. Ah well.

Hufeisensiedlung Britz : pass

See yesterday’s entry for photos

Großsiedlung Siemensstadt: Win!

After finally getting the right directions, I wandered out of the U-Bahn station and came upon the first in a series of tourist-info boards providing something of a walking tour of the Siemensstadt. As it turns out, Siemensstadt isn’t just one building or set of buildings, but an entire neighborhood of contrasting complexes made by almost every important designer of the Bauhaus school. Here they are, roughly in the order that I visited them.

Note the three following pictures, which show the difference beetween the side of a building that faces the street, and the side that faces inwards, towards some sort of courtyard or garden.

Also, here's another great contrast between the super-long building facing the street and the densely green garden area hidden from the street.

I've got more pictures of Siemensstadt buildings, but I don't want to make this posting a browser-killer, so I'll stop here. Nonetheless, check out these two matching metal sculptures, which seem to be markers of the housing complexes.

Weiße Stadt: pass

See yesterday’s entry for photos

Siedlung Schillerpark: Win!

As you might recall from yesterday’s entry, I later discovered that I had walked withing about 50 metres of the place, and then lost hope and turned around. This time I walked all the way to the other side of the park and beheld the complex, which was quite charming, although not as interesting as some of the buildings in Siemensstadt.

Wohnstadt Carl Legien: Win!

When I saw a picture of this complex online, I expected to not like the building very much. However, much like many of the buildings in Siemensstadt, the buildings tend to be flat and reserved on the side that faces the street, and then brimming with balconies and gardens on the “courtyard” side.

Gartenstadt Falkenberg: Win!

But what a long trip this was! This complex was out near the Grünau stop in the south-east end of Berlin, near where the Berlin Schoenfeld Airport. Since it takes about 40 mins to get into town from that airport by S-Bahn, you can imagine that it took me about an hour to get from the Prenzlauer Allee S-Bahn stop to the Grünau stop. Gah.

However, the trip yielded some lovely photos of the buildings, which are build in the same arrangement as North American town-houses / row-houses, except each one is painted a different, vibrant color. Apparently, these buildings are also known as the “paint-box” buildings, because each row looks like set of artist’s paints.

Also, on the way back, I caught this amusing bit of graffiti. Puns? Was that intentional or unintentional?

mercredi, juillet 09, 2008

UNESCO loves Berlin Bauhaus, Day 1

So, I read on Der Spiegel that UNESCO had recently classified a collection of 6 residential complexes as World Heritage Sites, in recognition of their importance for the Bauhaus school and Berlin Modernism. So, I decided that my task for today (aside from sleeping in) would be to find these buildings in Berlin, visit them, and bring back pictures of the sites.

Today is titled “Day 1,” because I sort of failed at the task and I’ll need to try again tomorrow. You see, the person who usually lives in the room I’m subletting was still here until today (he was crashing on the neighbour’s couch, I think), and so today he was frantically and belatedly preparing his luggage. Since he was running around the room and climbing over me to get his stuff into his luggage, I realized that I wasn’t going to get any studying/writing done, so I might as well be a tourist. Anyway, I looked up the 6 housing sites on the city hall’s website, wrote down the U-Bahn or S-Bahn stops as indicated on the site, and set off. What I failed to do was take detailed notes on where the buildings were in respect to the train stations, or at least find a street address. So, today’s results were spotty.

Hufeisensiedlung Britz : Win!

This complex, designed by Bruno Taut and Martin Wagner, was built between 1925-33 in the neighborhood of Britz, just south of Neukölln (i.e., just outside of Berlin proper). I managed to find this place rather easily, as the road that led to it was named after one of the architects and it came directly from the exit of the U-Bahn station. I managed to get a good number of shots of the place, although I had to adjust some of the photos later, as the really bright sun cast some harsh shadows.

The building is the shape of a huge horseshoe, and here are some pictures of the garden within:

Großsiedlung Siemensstadt : FAIL

The Berlin city hall website told me to get off at a certain U-Bahn station, while really I should’ve gotten off one stop earlier. I walked for about an hour around the Siemens plant and the nearby residential area (the housing complex is named after the massive Siemens plant), but I didn’t find anything that even remotely resembled Bauhaus architecture. Dejected, I headed back to the station and moved to my next assignment.

Weiße Stadt : Win!

Entitled the “White City,” the planning of this complex of buildings was overseen by Martin Wagner during the 20s, after WWI. I have to admit that this was one of the more boring of the housing complexes, as there was a near total absence of ornament or detail. On the other hand, as a project for creating lots of livable housing, I’m sure it was very welcome back in the 1920s.

I didn’t have an address for this place, but I was saved by the map in the U-Bahn station, which showed a nearby bus stop marked “Weiße Stadt.” I headed in that direction, and voilà!

Also, while I was in the neighborhood, I saw this building, which isn’t Bauhaus, but had a neat colour scheme. Alas, the odd lighting that day dimmed the colours.

Siedlung Schillerpark : FAIL

This time, I had gotten off at the right station, but the housing complex was on the other side of Schillerpark. In other words, I walked to within about 50 metres of the complex, then gave up and went back. Dammit.

On the upside, I saw this building, which had lovely decoration, rather art déco:

Wohnstadt Carl Legien : FAIL

Again, the same problem. This was one of the few places that I had actually looked up the address beforehand and marked on a map, but the address I had gotten was apparently of the nearest major intersection, and not the precise cluster of buildings. So I wandered up Prenzlauer Allee for a few blocks and saw nothing. There was this one very depressing yellow block building that was about as boring as the Weiße Stadt, so I took a couple of pictures of it just in case, but discovered as soon as I got home that I had the wrong place.

Gartenstadt Falkenberg : MISS

Considering that it was already 18h00 when I failed to find the last building, I decided to skip this one and add it to my assignment for tomorrow. Anyway, this building was the furthest from Berlin, in Grünau, nearly at the end of one of the commuter rail lines.

mardi, juillet 08, 2008



I did a few interesting and/or amusing things today, including finally visit the Turkisher Markt, spot a food stand called “American Easy-Food,” walk past a Tiki bar on Wienerstraße, and so on. But I’ll blog about them some other day, because MY CHICAGO APARTMENT HAS OFFICIALLY BEEN SUBLET!

Although this has been in the works for exactly a week, today was the day when I finally got a fax of the completed contract, and a friend of mine that was looking after my apartment officially handed over access to my sublessee. Hurray! I can sleep easier…although now I need an apartment in Paris.

lundi, juillet 07, 2008

Marheineke Markt

Say that 3 times fast!

Today was a pretty uneventful day, but at least there was some good food. I headed over to the Marheineke Markthalle (another green market) in the morning to buy some bread, cheese and veggies. I had seen online that the Marheineke Markthalle had been newly (re-)opened as a more yuppie/bourgeois market with mostly organic goods, so I was wary of the prices, but I needed some food.

My roommate lent me her bike for the trip, so I headed off in the general direction of the market, certain that I knew where I was going. When I got all the way to Mehringdamm (i.e., too far), I stopped and looked at the map posted at the back of a bus stop. Indeed, I had taken the wrong street. What I needed was something running parallel about 100 m south of me. So I took a cross-street and found myself in the heart of Kreuzberg.

Clearly the gentrification of Kreuzberg has been increasing in these past years, as now the neighborhood seems to be made up entirely of young German scenesters and their many, many foreign counterparts. The stores and bars reflect that, as does the Marheineke Markt. The (covered) market was quiet and serene, with wide passageways between the booths, pristine shiny flooring, and high ceilings. There were actually only two stands selling fresh produce. All the rest were selling prepared foods or bread, most of it “specialty” stuff that cost quite a bit of money.

I saw that comté cheese was on sale at one stand, so I got some for myself, and then got a bunch of vegetables and fruits from another stand. Cherries and strawberries are in season, so I bought a bunch of those and then all the vegetables necessary to make channa masala (chickpea curry). After several days of eating döner kebaps and the like, I needed to lay off the meat.

I stopped for lunch at an “Italian” café / enoteca in the market, which was serving a spinach-feta quiche with an organic salad. The thing cost me 9€, it was under-seasoned, the crust was soggy and the quiche hadn’t been warmed through (better to just serve it cold, then). I tried not to think of the fact that, at the Turkish food stand I visited last evening, I could’ve stuffed myself silly for 3€.

As has always been my problem with shopping + bikes, I returned to the bike with too many groceries. I managed to perch them in the bike’s basket, using the handles from the bag to tie them to the basket, and then off I went. I didn’t get lost on the way home, but I took a much busier street that required alternately maneuvering through vehicles and foot traffic. Most of Berlin has lovely bike paths that are separate from roadways, but this isn’t true for every street.

Anyway, the rest of my day went along relatively quietly. I set about blogging and wrapping up my own sublease (for my Chicago apartment), then made curry and continued some work on my computer. One roommate came home later that evening after a few drinks and we sat in the kitchen and chatted about Berlin's ongoing gentrification while she tried my curry and I ate cherries.

dimanche, juillet 06, 2008

The Long Walk

Since I had gone to bed so early last night, My eyes pretty much popped open at 8am and there was nothing I could do to shut them. I tossed around for a while, and then got up and quietly showered and put on some walking clothes.

I decided that today would be the day I visit the Türkischer Markt (“Turkish Market”), which is supposed to be the biggest and cheapest green market in Berlin. What I didn’t realize at that moment was that I had misheard my roommate: the Turkish market is open on Tuesdays and Fridays, never Sundays.

So off I go, blithely walking up Kottbusserdamm from Hermannplatz (which is where I am), thinking that I will be soon surrounded by stout Turkish grandmothers, yelling at each other over the price of olives. I was certainly pleased to discover a number of cafés, bakeries and restaurants that were open on a Sunday morning for the morning-after crew. A lot of them had sandwich-boards on the street that said “Frühstuck: Klein: 3€, Grosse: 5€” or something like that. In other words, you can get a small or a big breakfast, although the signs never said what came with the standard Frühstuck.

I made it to the Landwehrkanal (a canal cut out from the river Spree, presumably for transport once upon a time), where the Turkish market was supposed to be. All I saw were runners and cyclists, so I kept walking, thinking that I had misheard the directions (rather than the dates). I made it to the Kottbusser Tor station, then turned around and returned to the canal, reasoning that I could walk along the canal until I hit the market or an U-Bahn station—whatever comes first.

On the way, I took a stab at setting up the voice mail on my cell phone (the previous tenant of the room I was subletting left me an extra SIM card he had lying around). I was actually pretty surprised with my ability to understand the pre-recorded voice; I only wish everyone in Berlin spoke so clearly and slowly.

After an admittedly very pleasant walk along the canal, I got on at a nearby U-Bahn station and made my home. With a bit of help from my roommate, I set about getting myself on their WiFi network, and then set about doing some blogging. It was at that point that I looked up the Turkish market on the web and realized that I had the wrong day.

Later in the evening, I decided to take a sunset walk in the Tiergarten, but first I needed some food. Having failed to get groceries that day (all chain grocery stores were closed, too), I set off to a nearby Turkish imbiss / grill that looked promising. The place was called Guney Grill, and they had a healthy cluster of clients. I got the döner kebap, which is really similar to a Greek gyros, although you should never say that to either a Turk or a Greek person. Anyway, it involved shaved meat from The Magic Meat Stick (i.e., that rotating wand of lamb and/or beef), vegetables, red (harissa) or white (tzatziki) sauce, and all wrapped in a rather thick kind of flatbread.

The döner kebaps they had here were fantastic. I’ve had my share of these in Paris, and none of them had this thick flatbread with a crispy (almost fried) crust, freshly pickled cabbage, sharp onions, and flavorful meat. I totally wolfed down the huge portion, which only cost me 3€ (including a drink). I could get (too) used to this!

I headed off to the Tiergarten for a post-prandial constitutional (thanks for the verbiage, DJ!), where I wandered again for a good couple of hours. As night began to fall, it got relentlessly humid, almost “we are in the rainforest” humid, so I headed into the downtown area and found an U-Bahn stop. By the time I got back out at Hermannplatz, it was raining and cold.

While I was relieved that the temperature had dropped a bit (I can’t sleep in the heat), I wasn’t looking forward to running home in sandals. So, I took a break by ducking into the McDonald’s in front of the station, with the intention of ordering something small as an excuse to sit there for a while.

That is, until I saw the “Gourmet Chicken Sweet Chili” on the menu (it was written in English). I don’t know what I was thinking; I wasn’t even hungry. But, following my new-ish tradition of having one reluctant McDonald’s meal in every country, I ordered it. How did it taste? Like a relatively decent breaded chicken sandwich, totally ruined by cheap sweet & sour sauce. Seriously, I recognized the sauce that oozed all over my hands as the same “duck sauce” that would come with every order our family made at Lotus Gardens in London, Ontario. It was horrible.

So, having survived that ordeal and feeling a bit worse for it, I dashed out the door and ran as fast as I could in the rain. I made it back to my place a bit wet, peeled of my damp clothes, and continued my glamorous blogging. At some point (I don’t remember when), sleep overcame me and I lurched to my bed.