Two Days in Berlin, 24 Hours in Munich

I needed to go back to Berlin for two reasons:
  1. I badly wanted to see a Brecht play at the Berliner Ensemble
  2. I had more days I needed to use for my Eurail
The third reason was that I wanted to explore this city more, that I had been fantasizing about so much. I wanted to have one city which I returned to on this trip, to arrive and already be a bit familiar, to get over romanticizing and appreciate it.

So I made a plan to go see Mother Courage and her Children at the Berliner Ensemble, and decided I would go to another German city. It was between Hamburg (which would have been on the way back to the Netherlands) or Munich (six hours south of Berlin). I asked around online and someone I hadn't really spoken to stopped me in the hallway and told me everything amazing about Munich, highly recommending I go. Also I came across a fascinating arts festival in Munich that I wanted to see, plus hostels were much cheaper, so "Munich it would be" I decided!

Thursday

I skipped all my classes on Thursday, hopped on a train, and made my way to Berlin. On the ride there, in preparation for seeing Mother Courage I read different translations of the play, critical essays and articles about it, and study guides made for high schoolers. My goal was to be really solid understanding the play, since it would be in German and I didn't want to get lost.

To see a Brecht play, at his theatre, a play that I believe encapsulates his vision of theatre best, directed as close to his style as I may ever see, was a revelation. Carmen-Maja Antoni as Mother Courage was a small, seemingly harmless woman, like Sophia from Golden Girls, but as the play progressed, she became colder and ignorant to her selfishness. Karla Sengteller, who played the mute daughter Kattrin, destroyed me and broke my heart. Because of the language barrier, it was the true emotional moments that I could connect with, while looking for how the production utilized the verfremdungseffekt (distancing effect), which most Germans I believe refer to as the "v-effekt". Though at one moment I felt the v-effekt was disregarded: when it began to rain onstage, and I couldn't see where the rain was covering from. Like Brecht's placement of lighting fixtures in plain sight, I would imagine the director would put the equipment in view too. I need some Brecht-experts (Brechtsperts?) to help me break this down. Also, why was the theatre's proscenium covered with the black frame? Lots to think about.

Friday

My hostel was in the neighborhood of Friedrichshain neighborhood of Berlin, so I woke up and wandered around. I visited the East Side Gallery, which is a remaining section of the Berlin wall, the east side covered in murals from professional artists, the west side an open canvas for all. In a wonderful moment of irony, I snapped a photo of someone maintaining the wall.
I decided to go on an "alternative" walking tour of the city, since I had already seen the major sites. We learned about the Otto Weidt workshop (whose story is amazing) and some infamous graffiti artists of Berlin. Weidt's workshop is in the Haus Schawarzenberg, this alley that hasn't changed much since after the wall fell, so it's grungy, covered in art, and super duper cool (and where I took this selfie).
Also inside, is a clothing store that although pricey, had some of the most unique, handmade articles of clothing I have ever seen. I took a bizarre route back to my hostel following the walking tour, and passed this sculpture.

What a beard.

My other objective of the day: to find a cool European leather jacket. I went to the Humana Secondhand Shop knowing that the five story thrift store would have the greatest range of jackets. In the end I tried on over 30 coats, including this one that I ALMOST bought. In the end I found one for about $40 that I've fallen in love with.

The night continued with me going to see Mania at the Maxim Gorki Theatre. This was the main-stage, for the company where I saw Talking Straight Will Set Us Free on my first trip to Berlin. The production was an adaptation of The Bacchae, in German with English surtitles. Essentially the staging was a group of performers intensely dancing to loud club music, while monologues were delivered by someone wielding a microphone. I adored it. The final moment had pink goo fall from the ceiling. I had chills and my jaw dropped. The aesthetic of loud, pumping music made me want to go a club. I thought about how theatre is so stagnant, we sit in these seats watching something happen. But by the end, I didn't want to dance anymore.

Saturday

As I walked to the S-Bahn on Saturday morning, I passed by the corner pictured here. When I was first walking to my hostel on Thursday --  at around 5PM -- I saw someone pasting posters on the wall. By Saturday, these new ones were covering it. That's Berlin to me, always changing, building on top of the history.
I took a long train ride, appreciating the Bavarian countryside, journaling, thinking. It was quite pleasant.
Once getting to Munich I strolled through the city, taking note of the fruit carts with stunning-looking berries and nuts. For a second I thought I was in Florence, at the Piazza Delli Sigornia.
As always, my trips are focused on pastries and foods covered in powdered sugar. Munich's specialty did not disappoint.
The Spielart Festival was this huge arts festival in Munich. I planned to see two piece back to back: Sculpting Fear and The Empire Strikes Back.

Waiting for the first piece, I explored this massive art installation in the theatre complex.

Sculpting Fear was staged in a fairly large, proscenium theatre. But there were risers placed over the orchestra, so the space became a fairly intimate blackbox, but with a large stage. A fascinating moment of this was an existential drama of roombas. As two of the devices moved around the stage, a conversation of the robots inner monologues and conversations played. Of course, my favorite moment of the piece was when a mess, and chaos was created on stage. The whole floor was covered in styrofoam mats, which the performers picked at. Fans lined up stage left blew the broken down bits away. It look amazing. Here's a video.

The Empire Strikes Back was 90 minutes of...a lot of things. There were many vignettes and moments, etudes. Parts of it were complete chaos, which I enjoyed. Here's a clip from my favorite moment. I'm still making sense of it. My favorite design element was the stagehand who wore black leather pants.

Sunday

I took a walking tour, as I always do, then headed back to campus. I missed all of Munich's great museums, and most of the city. But I went on an adventure by myself. That's what matters.

My tour guide came to this building and announced that this is what most of post-WWII Munich looked like. Imagining a majority of the city like this, quite spooky.

My other favorite spot on the tour was the "Monkey Tower"


Photo by Travis Amiel

I snapped this photo, and my tour guide whipped out a reproduction of a painting by one Adolph Hitler.




My lesson though from this weekend was simple: I do not like traveling alone. People told me I should explore places by myself, and I did. But being so cut off from the world without a proper cell phone with constant internet connection, in a foreign place where English was not the main language, I did not feel amazing or gain special insight, I felt alone.

My goal: learn German, and return.

How can I not return to Berlin when such a bookstore beckons?
Location: Kasteellaan 20, 5855 AE Well, Netherlands
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