17 October 2009

B E R L I N



I returned last night from a spectacular 48 hours in Berlin with Sian. We stayed in The Michelberger Hotel, which both of us would highly, highly recommend. Newly opened, run by a bunch of young, creative folks - a boutique style interior in an old factory with beautiful high ceilings, and tiled walls. In the past the building was used for underground parties apparently, but now Vice Magazine use it regularly for events in Berlin. We stayed in a cosy little room on the third floor, beautifully fitted out with a modern shower room, flatscreen TV (German Come Dine With Me anyone?) and very comfortable bed. Little finishing touches like some old photos pinned to the wall, the thick yellow (U-Bahn yellow) curtain, a 'Michelberger' illustrated wallpaper, and the pile of second-hand European books made it extra special.

The bar / cafe / library area is fitted out with huge big sofa / bed type things for lounging, an old piano, oversized lampshades made out of books, and more books and magazines than you could ever read. Huge walls made of books in a wire frame. Also some nice cuckoo clocks telling the time across the globe, some nice pot plants, and a friendly labrador made the place feel very homely. In the breakfasting room, tables were laid out in lines, with vases of flowers and lace doilies. The chairs are all different - all having been reclaimed from a recycling yard and given a lick of fresh white paint. Each morning we were greeted by the dulcet tones of Tom Jones crooning to us over the best breakfast spread I think either of us have ever sampled... smoked salmon, hot croissants, seeded rolls, lots of salami and cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, muesli, lots of lovely juices and fresh coffee, fresh fruits and yoghurts. YUM!

All this came in at a very very reasonable €162 for the two of us (2 nights, breakfast for 2 each morning). Completely worth it! The only thing we found to complain about was that the cocktails were too strong (this is not something I'd usually complain about - these were un-drinkable!)

We spent wednesday afternoon walking around Hackesher Markt vintage shopping and people-spotting. Also a super sweet coffee and waffle in a Balzac Coffee gave us the energy to go and admire the big 'olive on a stick' TV tower against the clear wintery sky, and walk round the building site that is Museumsinsel and fend off beggars in Lustgarten. Wednesday evening we went back to the ever-lovely VietBowl in Friedrichshain for some noodles and wine, then attempted to go to a gig at the Bang Bang Club - but realised how expensive it was to get in and decided bed seemed more appealing!

Thursday - after a relatively long lie and a hearty breakfast we headed to Prenzlauer Berg for a stroll about. It was horrible weather - so cold and wet, so we spent a lot of the time hiding in shops and reading magazines in coffeeshops to keep warm. We went to the amazing bookshop with every art book you could think of in that we found before, just beside Museum island, where about an hour was spent poring over hefty volumes and shiny magazines.
Thursday evening - the Grand Opening!! For those who haven't heard me gassing on about this for the last month or so, this was the opening of Illustrative 09, a yearly international illustration festival, showing young and established illustrator's work. I got invited because I entered the offshoot competition, The Swatch Young Illustrator's Award (needless to say I was not nominated - when I saw what I was up against it came as no surprise!). The opening event was held in an old church, Elisabethkirche, on Invalidenstra├če. We arrived maybe 45 minutes after the opening time, and joined a very long queue to get in. When we eventually were stamped in as certified guests, we were faced with a cavernous building filled with smoke and projected images, some really good music, and lots of very stylish people. Unfortunately I did not have a working camera to capture all this - but this guy seems to have done a good job:


The exhibition was held next door in a gallery type builing, which looked as if it may have once been a school. Work by people such as Luke Best, Yokoland, Pixelgarten, Martin Haake, Eva Han, Erik Sandberg, Dan McPharlin and Skinner festooned the walls, artists mingled and exchanged contacts. Having very minimal German language skills, I did a bit of 'guerilla' business card placement - placing my business cards with those of the artists whose work was being shown. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who did so! I did see my (very hastily knocked up - all handwritten!) business cards being examined and pocketed though - even if just one more person checks out my blog I consider it a success! We had a chat with the guys from NoBrow (the folks who published Nick White's book - see previous post about Nick's work and the talk he gave), mainly about Nick White's beard, and about how it's rubbish when you graduate.


Yesterday we made the depressing journey home - I swear flying RyanAir saps something out of your soul - and got a bit confused with the time change. A lot of time spent sitting reading in various parks and sleeping on buses.

On a positive note - leaving Berlin I knew I'd be back pretty soon, and for longer next time!

Oh, pictures to follow, from Sian's camera.

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