Saturday, July 25, 2009

Urban Green Space: Berlin

I had mistakenly published a short video under my KaDeWe section that I got confused. It's actually meant for this post. I've switched the videos around so if it seems like deja vu not to worry, it's me not you. The old intro is now here. Jet lag is my excuse (as lame as that may seem).

You can't visit Berlin and not be taken by how green it is. Parks everywhere, old beautiful trees lining nearly every street, it's one of the things that makes the city so incredibly livable. Briefly during the Summer Camp BBQ I was introduced to a guy named Marko who has obtained an empty plot of land (I think in Kreuzberg) to start an urban farm.

Out walking to a bar at 1 in the morning, a block away from my apartment, I had an encounter with a fox, which from a distance I thought was a scrawny cat. Not something I expected to see in urban downtown Berlin, but that's just shows you how green it is.

Next door to a cafe in which I had morning coffee a few times (Diwan on Bergmannstrasse, an all organic restaurant with rockin' croissants) is a little shop that sells produce from their own garden (I didn't ask, but it might be literally from the courtyard of their building) along with a lovely selection of cheeses.

Funny, if you go to Diwan's website you will see a prominently displayed No Smoking sign (everyone in Berlin seems to be constantly smoking). Must be meant ironically as both times I went there the waiter would bring me my order and immediately go to the table closest to the street and light a cigarette, as if the job of bringing me my coffee was so exhausting, anxiety provoking, or maybe just worthy of deep reflection he had to have a cigarette. This is probably just a rule for the inside dining room. A rule some would find so off putting they wouldn't eat there. Every stitch of clothing I took with me came home stinking of tobacco, I have to say I really appreciate New York’s smoking ban. My friend Keith told me that a no smoking ban had been put in place, but then was overturned by the courts. Too bad.

Every apartment seems to have a terrace; a lot of them beautifully gardened. Berlin is broke so rent is cheap which means people with a vision or an idea who want to open up a store or gallery or whatever has a chance to do so without breaking the bank. This means that the city is chock-a-block full of quirky cafes and eccentric stores. One of those is just a few stores down from Diwan, a kind of fantasy plant store called Fluidum.

I'm really at a loss for how to describe it other than it celebrates decay, and makes green spaces out of post apocalyptic environments. Needless to say the man who owns it is an artist. What he creates is the equivalent to those partially destroyed civilizations sitting in the gravel at the bottom of fish tanks amongst the sea plants. Oddly perfect for Berlin.

I'm not exactly sure what Fluidum means, but when I do a Google translation of the page there is a very funny sentence under the "Gallery" heading: "because of the originality of your own fluid there are no limits." No comment.

My video of this store has an inadvertent Hitchcock cameo and certainly doesn't show the owners work off to it's greatest benefit, but I think you'll get the idea. It's really kind of genius I think, but sadly I don't I wont be able to order one through FTD otherwise I would! My favorite is the old U-Haul trailer.

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