Friday, 21 November 2014

If I don't have to

Arnold Böcklin, Die Toteninsel (The Isle of the Dead), 1883
During this month of November I have been gone more than I have been here. Throw in a darkness that clung to me like bubblegum to a shoe, well, then let us say it was the best of months and the worst of months, and it isn't even over yet. 

One of the first trips was to Berlin, accompanying the international students to the capital. That weekend the conductors of the Deutsche Bahn (the rail services) decided to strike. Luckily we took the arduous journey from Flensburg to Berlin by bus, but in the city transport was made more difficult as the S-Bahn was striking as well. Luckily we could get to most places by U-Bahn and managed to see the Festival of Lights, an old DDR Prison (Stasi-Museum near Lichterfelde), go on a walking tour of the city, visit some museums on the Museumsinsel, do a little shopping, go out to a club in an old furniture factory and spend the last hours enjoying beautiful sunshine at the Mauerpark. For 72hours, we really did cram it in. Nevertheless, I doubt the students realise how stressful it is to look after them. At times it felt like having 25 children who could legally get drunk. 

A good distraction from being mother/mean-bitch to 25 people who are just a few years younger was taking one of the other tutors to the museum island. I should perhaps be more of an art connoisseur, given that it is partially what I studied. But I find art to be an extremely subjective thing, dependent on mood and timing and how an individual reacts to a work. The Isle of the Dead is mesmerizing to me, although inexplicably so. In total Böcklin painted 5 versions, four of which survive to this day (one was burnt during WWII). I have seen the Berlin and the Leipzig versions, and both made me want to disappear into the work, rather than having to quietly tip-toe around it at a distance. 

The Festival of Lights was astounding on a different level. For one night many famous buildings have various images projected on them as citizens walk around and observe the city at night. That weekend Berlin really pulled out all the stops, as on our last day there we soaked up the sun in the Mauerpark as various artists played music all around us. We also had the best Vietnamese dish I have ever tasted (it was some kind of beefy broth, but not really having tasted Vietnamese before this was perfectly spiced). All that remained was a long ride in a crowded bus back to a tiny city that keeps playing hide and seek with the light. 

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