Skooter repoting 09/04/12
We are on a cultural tour in Berlin, the German capital offering us never-ending possibilities. We explore a city in constant regeneration, from a floating swimming pool to a Weimar-era ballroom.
We begin our tour in the morning in the sunny side of the River Spree. On the eastern banks of the river, among the ruins of warehouses and watchtowers left over from the Cold War, we watched Berliners thronged fairly to the shore for a morning dip. Interestingly we saw towels either tucked under arm or hanged around their shoulders, heading towards the Badeschiff or ‘bathing ship’, a massive heated swimming pool made out of the carcass of an industrial barge that floats in the cold river. As the day passes on, the temperature rises and sun soaks swimmers and the city. Quite suddenly deckchairs sprouted around the pool’s sandy terraces fill with people escaping work for a lunchtime break with friends.
Badeschiff may be only one of its kinds in engineering terms, but it is not alone: few cities have taken to the urban beach quite like Berlin. For all you know there are nearly 30 here, giving new life to the inhospitable surroundings that stay behind when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Many are pushed behind the East Side Gallery, a section of the Wall plastered with graffiti art that lies across the river from Badeschiff. We came across a place whose prop is very far away from being German. For curiosity sake, we discovered it’s an African-Caribbean-theme beach bar, one very old favorite here, called Yaam, where sun worshippers listen to reggae while sipping imported bottled beers. It is also used as a community center: small groups gather together on the grass to make artworks or sell handmade knickknacks, while kids play on the sands surrounded by people basking on blankets or tucking into picnics.
We believe the idea of urban sunbathing may have stem from here. For generations, the city is bounded by massive lakes, which have lured urbanites from the center. Sections of the shores around the gigantic manmade lake at Wannsee, a luxurious suburb to the west of the city, have acted as false-beaches since 1907. One could imagine a generation who were to be annihilated in WWI cheerfully playing in the shallow waters, and not much has changed. Nowadays, the main stretch of its 1,000 meters of sand is crammed with young couples cuddling up in stripy two-seater beach baskets, staring out over the dark-blue lake. We walked passed by an elderly woman lies back in a deckchair take pleasure in the sunshine, while a trio of grandchildren chase around her and build complex sandcastles. It doesn’t take much imagination to feel like you’ve been conveyed 500 miles north to the coast.
To be continued…