Welcome to "Reading Week" - though depending on how you understand Vanity Fair and the Berlin u-bahn map I think it's fairly safe to say there has been little achieved by way of substantial reading yet. It is only Monday.
Am back to London tomorrow after four lovely days in this crazy, cranky but still generally agreed to be pretty fucking cool city. At this time of year every neighbourhood looks like an Andy Goldsworthy work gone loco - the leaves are turning and starting to drop in a spectacle of brilliant autumn shades and we've been graced with glorious sunshine - the perfect weather for biking and flea market trawling and generally feeling alive in the world.
It's been a tonic to say the least as I was on absolute Struggle Strasse when I left London last Thursday. One of the many things I love/hate about London is the fact that no matter what state you're in - inebriated, hysterical, throwing toys and stifling sobs - people will just ignore you. Not even politely. I mean totally and completely fail to recognise your existence. Which, when you happen to be throwing toys from the pram and stifling sobs and snot, is not such a bad thing.
Had a really stressful week at school, everyone turning uber-competitive over the return of first assignments and me managing to succeed at what I do best - which is shredding my self-esteem when I fail to meet the ridiculous standards I set for myself. So yes, a little unsure of how I'm feeling about my imminent return to London, 7.15am flight notwithstanding.
My lovely friend here in Berlin has taken great care of me - turning up looking royally like crap always helps - but it has been lovely to be in the company of a fellow Australian and we have had lots of giggles over the Germans - hereforafter referred to as entschuldigungs (German for "Sorry" and the single most popular word used by tourists when encountering cranky locals who go out of their way to explain that whatever it is you've just done is "verboten" or forbidden...)
The exchange of cultures has made me realise just how exhausting the constant companionship of Americans has been. I love them - but I'm finding myself missing the shorthand of friends and fellow countrymen. And yes men too. The novelty of post-graduate study with 49 other females has well and truly worn off. Though at least we're keeping up the historical precedent - apparently when Henry Moore was teaching sculpture at the Royal College of Arts in London during the 1930s he didn't have a single boy in his classes either. Times like this a girl misses her brothers.
But I digress. Berlin. It's been a pretty cruisy few days - Turkish markets for delicious food and scrappy flea markets for fabulous plastic belts. Have also seen a couple of fantastic art exhibitions at the Hamburger Bahnhof and just generally enjoyed pedalling around Berlin - especially through the Tiergarten. How could you not when it looks like this:
One of the "only in Berlin" art exhibitions we saw was a project on Torstrasse where an entire apartment block was given over to a group of artists to create their own project in each apartment. A pretty interesting idea, especially given that so much of Berlin is dominated by so many gloriously ruined and abandoned buildings. It was a pretty international line-up of artists but the work was phenomenal - each had a completely different understanding of the use of space and the architectural imperatives of each room. Or a complete disregard for it altogether.
One of my favourite works was a wall projection using an old school over-head projector. Apparently the artist came in and drew something new everyday:
Or this artist, whose work was so fragile and yet so evocative - and all the more impressive when you realised it was constructed from wool and staplers:
So yes, it's been a lovely four days - just what I needed and the balance of general outdoors-ness with art and culture (we also took in an afternoon of Dvorak at the Berlin Philharmonic) has been tops. I could keep coming back to Berlin and find new things to love and crazy things to do. Which is good. Because I'm going to need to get out of London again soon.