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Sketches from Berlin

My ankles hurt. My knees hurt. Tiger balm is my new best friend. Missy and I have found Berlin quite overwhelming and our feet have suffered from long days tramping on concrete. Though the city has fewer inhabitants than Melbourne, Berlin seemed disproportionately massive. Everything is monochrome and imposing. The blocks are long, the streets are wide and the buildings look like stacks of grey Lego. Graffiti nests in every spare hollow. The metro system is a messy spider web, shunned by commuters on push-bikes. The metro lines are rarely connected in the same station and the platforms can be up to a block apart. We spent a lot of time getting lost and frustrated, discovering some unusual suburbs along the way.

Berlin has a complex past and we took a free historical walking tour with a company called New Europe. Our guide was a geeky ex-pat from England called David who had a gift for simplifying the stories of the Nazis and the Soviets. We gave him a decent tip at the end of our three-hour tour and I will definately be looking up the company again when we reach Munich. We also took an underground bar tour with an Australian guy called Ben, who worked on the reception at our hostel. The most interesting bar he took us too had all its furniture and fittings fixed to the ceiling or hung upside down (this included decks of cards, bookshelves and even the tipping jar!).

After a couple of days exploring the main sites of Berlin, Missy and I took a day out at the zoological gardens. It is funny that five hours walking around a zoo seems like a ‘rest’ to us now. We felt rather sorry for the elephants as a two-year old calf called ‘Ko Raya’ had passed away the evening before, only eight weeks after her elder sister ‘Shaina Pali’ was killed by the same virus. The mother elephant was pushing her head against the stable wall, while the bull tried to comfort her in a way that seemed extraordinarily human. I have attached a number of sketches of the animals. I particularly enjoyed watching the flamingos as they contorted themselves into unusual shapes and seem so gawky on their spindly legs.

The following day, I spent some time at the Alte Nationalgalerie (Old National Gallery), home to Berlin’s collection of 19th century paintings and sculpture. I took lots of photographs and sketches, particularly of the German artists represented there.

Study from “Paliear Troops, Athens” by Peter vonn Hess (1829).

Study from “In the Conservatory” by Edouard Manet (1879).

Study from “Semiramis” by Christian Kohler (1852).

A strange concept sketch based very loosely on a ship sculpture in the gallery garden.

After five nights in Berlin, we were both ready to head somewhere a bit smaller and greener. I got incredibly motion sick on the high-speed train on our way south to Bamberg and spent a good part of the four-hour ride curled into a ball with my eyes closed. Turning my music up really loud was the only thing I could do to distract myself from throwing up. Missy suffered on the tumultuous ferry ride to Hydra, so I guess it was my turn! We only have nine days left in Germany so I will most likely post again from Munich after we have visited the Bavarian Alps.



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