Friday, April 23, 2010

Animals on the Grass

Last weekend I found myself lying in the barely-dried spring grass along the riverfront stretch of Treptower Park. Lots of other critters broke out of their winter caves and sprawled out in the sun in the grass in the park on the waterfront in Berlin. Dogs, ducks, swans, punks, breeders, children, joggers, drunks and sausage vendors all broke out of their zoos and hit the open air last weekend. God DAMN, Berlin winters are long. But so are the Prague ones, so after 10 years spent there I should be used to 6 months of cold, gray, frozen hovno/sheise weather. It makes me appreciate the sun even more when I don’t see it for several months.

The shack shutters were flung open and wares were peddled. Bier und bratwurst, ja, but more mysterious foodstuffs could be had by the brave—or locals from a very specific mountain range in Germany specializing in snacks with names like ‘Niedersachsenisch Kugelfliegeln’ or ‘Thuringer schweinenkrustenbraten.’ Of course I made these names up because I can’t remember the original names of the mystery meats. But trust me, unless you wear lederhosen you would have no fucking idea what this food was. We looked at it. We smelled it. We STILL had no clue.

We had our bottles of cheap beer by the river’s edge; me, my girl, the dog and her brother. The brother was sprawled out on the grass wearing the previous night’s hangover like a cement trench coat. The dog watched the swans with curiosity. Or hunger. That little bastard will eat ANYTHING. Couples giggled and smooched on blankets several meters from us even though we had tried to escape such obvious teenage tomfoolery to get down to the serious business of sun-soaking and suds-sipping.
With the river and the sun and the cloudless sky overhead, I welcomed Spring along with all the other animals on the grass.

photos by Dunkin' Berliner

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Accidental Urbex

As long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with ruins. Medieval castle ruins, crumbling chateaux, or ivy-buried cemeteries seem to call out to me to enter and explore. My main purpose for the exploration was always photographic—to capture the phases of decay. Why? Because decay and decomposition are beautiful. No, I do not wear all black clothing and guyliner. I just happen to think that the aesthetics of ruin is visually and viscerally appealing. Perhaps it’s a statement on our impermanence—and of that which we design and build. Eventually, the Earth takes it all back.

A group of us in Berlin get together in a photography ‘club’ of sorts and explore. We have hit various small German towns and villages as well as miscellaneous Berlin sites and have taken thousands of pics. I’ve noticed that there are those of us who tend to favor the more dilapidated industrial, military and medical sites that have come across our field of view: an abandoned sanatorium in the countryside, a former Cold War listening post or a disused airfield. While we were planning our next outing into a former-Soviet-something-or-other, a new voice chimed in on the bulletin board, one who claimed to be into photography and Urbex. I had to look that one up. An urban explorer is one who enters, creeps, crawls and explores all that is unseen to the average human eye. Many of them take pictures and many of them just like to crawl around in the muck. I am of the former group, as crawling in muck is impractical for a man of my bulk. Some carry bags of spelunking gear and galoshes; I’m often seen in sandals and a Hawaiian shirt with a camera around my neck. Call me the Urban Tourist.
On all of our trips I am the last guy out. I probably slow the group down with my need to explore every corner of the places we conquer. Most often I am found taking pics of peeling paint or rusty metal objects. I am simply fascinated by decay in extreme close up. I fear I may have to purchase a macro lens if this keeps up. On each trip, either shouts from the group urging me to keep up--or my fear of being left behind in a village with no bus service--will eventually pry me from the crumbling decay of the past and back to the quiet bustle of the streets of Berlin.

photos by Dunkin' Berliner