One of the great things about being in Leipzig is that – as with all of Europe – you're close to so many other amazing cities, countries, and cultures. This past weekend we decided to head up to Berlin to experience what "New” New York had to offer and also to take in Hazmat Modine – NYAA's very own Wade Schuman and his talented band!
Marcello, Valerie, and I gallantly set off early Friday morning for the two-hour trip North. I always enjoy taking trains and buses (particularly in Europe) as coming from the West Coast driving was much more standard fare. Being able to gaze out the windows at the passing countryside, alone with your thoughts, is such a peaceful and relaxing way to travel and think.
Thankfully, having been to Berlin before, I remembered the main parts of the city, and was able to steer us in the right directions to our apartment, as well as our second destination: beer and lunch! There's nothing better in Germany than getting a bite on a bustling street patio, while sipping a fine German beer in the summer sun.
|Pratergarten, Berlin's oldest beer garden|
Our first day consisted a lot of just that: sunshine and beer. We also walked over and visited a nearby section of the Berlin Wall – it always grounds you in a way that only the past can. It's a very strange dichotomy that exists in Berlin: this wealth of terrible history and scarring surrounded and built upon with beautiful art and culture. A walk to and through dinner and bars for the night lead us to Pratergarten, Berlin's oldest beer garden of about 150 years! The size of this place alone would put most places in New York to shame, and all for a lowly outdoor drinking venue.
Our second day consisted of a marathon of walking and a semester’s worth of history. A jaunt through town led to checking in on street markets and scrawls of street art, over the Spree and around the massive Cathedral Church to the Old National Gallery; a place of worship to old dead artists. Knowing they had an amazing permanent collection was reason enough to go, but finding out they had an Impressionist and Expressionist exhibit happening was icing on the cake. Suffice to say, they had a remarkable collection. All three of us were blown away by their German painters collection, as we only got more and more mesmerized as we went. Corinth, Menzel, Casper David Friedrich, Liebermann, Monet, Manet, and so many more assaulted our senses and left us craving to get back to Leipzig to paint again. One of the fun things about seeing art in person for me is getting really close and understanding the brushwork employed by the artists. I normally get told to move back from the paintings (I get that close), but in this museum they had an alarm system that beeped annoyingly at you when you got too close. I had never seen that before.
|A wealth of history in Berlin|
After the museum we strolled further south to Checkpoint Charlie (one of the best known crossing points between East and West Berlin when the wall was up) and then on to an outdoor exhibition at the Topography of Terror that chronicles the rise and fall of Nazi Germany in Berlin. It's a very honest and sobering display that leaves no stone unturned to keep the past remembered today. After some currywurst (German street food consisting of a sausage drenched in curry ketchup over french fries), we walked through the Holocaust Memorial: giant outdoor pillars built on a sloping ground, so that the further you go into it the higher the pillars get, at a time reaching 12 feet overhead and completely minimizing you in your surroundings. It's a very emotionally engaging place, both in memorializing and in the physical presence of the piece and you. We ventured home past the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building to round out or history sights for the day. Another nice night of dinner and dancing and absinthe put to bed day two of our adventure.
|East Side Gallery, the largest intact section of the Berlin Wall, which is covered in murals|
Our final day in Berlin dealt more walking (a familiar pattern when traveling), as this time we took a walking tour through the less touristy sights of Berlin: graffiti alleys, the East Side Gallery (the largest section of the Berlin Wall intact covered with murals), talks of gentrification on the Spree from artists versus corporations, a Jamaican outdoor beach bar, artist squats, a tree house in the middle of streets that a guy built when the wall went up and still lives in today, and a quick rundown of how Berlin came to be such an artistic hub that was all packed in to our three hour excursion. We chowed down some tasty falafel nearby (a large Turkish population in Berlin), and then set off for the night to see Hazmat Modine!
|Hazmat Modine played a phenomenal show|
We arrived early at the venue to make sure we got a good spot, and slowly, but surely the room started to fill. It was great to see the show sold out to a near 200 person crowd, especially when Wade walked out on stage to start the introductions and the crowd erupted into whooping and hollering! We had no idea he was such an international rockstar. Hazmat Modine played a phenomenal show: they have such a vibrant energy due to their large ensemble, and with Wade leading the charge: chatting sporadically with the audience with everyone either laughing or vibing out to the grooves. If you haven't seen a show of theirs, you must partake. We were able to catch up with Wade after the show (and after he signed all his autographs), and were introduced to the band and had a pleasant conversation for the rest of the night. As they were still in the midst of their touring operation, they had to skedaddle pretty quickly, so we thanked them for the amazing time and left to traipse our way home.
As Monday morning rolled around, and the effects of our weekend in Berlin beginning to kick in, we quietly made our way back to the bus and back to Leipzig. All a bit tired, a bit drained, a bit more cultured, but steadfastly ready to get back and venture into our next projects.