The first time I came to Berlin was fifteen years ago. I was in the first bloom of a romance, a romance that didn’t sour for another six years. For a while this love affair and its subsequent end defined who I was. We met the dawn holding hands in Der Rote Rose on Adelbertusstr. I never thought the night would end.
Today I sit in Sofia in Wrangelstr drinking coffee and listening to a song about reminiscence. It is the first day of spring and Kreuzberg, which in any case always sleeps late, is just beginning to uncoil itself from winter.
There is something about the short journey on the elevated section of the U1/2 between Kottbuser Torr and Schleisicher Torr (fifteen years ago the end of the line) which has always felt to me like a homecoming. Today it is my home and seeing as how the sun is shining I walk in slow concentric circles around the Kiez, my Kiez. A snail stretching in its shell, trying to fix the geography on foot zwischen Gorlitzer Park und der Spree, zwischen Skalitzerstr und Cuvrystr, the bounds of the neighborhood defined by the central axis of Wrangelstr. Wrangelkiez.
In the blurred night Mischlinska, Sofia, Konrad Tonz and The Bhagdad Imbiss define my ambit. By day I follow the graffiti searching its hieroglyphics for direction circumnavigating the street drinkers outside Kaisers.
The wide tree lined avenues of six-storey nineteenth century apartment blocks and their unlovely post war brethren which bisect Wrangelstr in varying states of repair and renovation, are all covered in graffiti. The facades of the buildings and the Xeroxed flyers are all tagged, stencilled and overwritten with calls to arms, shouted out signatures on the petition of the street which form arteries of illegible text. This, no doubt deplored by the property developers who hover like carrion crows at the prospect of a quick killing, is an essential part of this city and this neighbourhood’s texture.
How to describe the beauty of the over-emphatic schwerpunkt – the exhausted aerosol leaving a tear, a delicious drip, a lick of red on the stucco? How to put into words the effect of the sunlight on the spatter of silver given out by the can’s terminal gasp, its last nocturnal hiss? I saw the same light earlier on Gorlitzerstr refracted through mosaic of crazed glass at a smashed up telephone kiosk. A crystalline geometry as sublime as a mosque.
Here in Sofia, a former Imbiss, plaster murals depict a variety of banal bucolic idylls. The miss-matched furniture perfectly compliments the torn poster of the New York skyline (Twin Towers intact). Over the bar another poster advertises Der untergang des Römischen reiches starring Sophia Loren, Alec Guinness, James Mason and Omar Shariff. A women sits at the bar drawing out the storyboard for a film.
Just around the corner on Lübbenerstr, pass the decaying remains of a Christmas tree there is an illuminated sign which reads Art Claims Impulse.