I have only been here five months and already the urban landscape is edging towards my home. If I go to the right out of my house and sneak between some houses it feels magical stumbling on a nature trail with a river, trees and bark path. Yet if I turn left I see a small viaduct and can watch the trains pass every five minutes going in and out of the city. Taking a walk under this viaduct, I see what I thought was a tiny strip of wild land next to the train line. This has now been cleared to reveal a building plot and I can both see and feel the diggers clearing the site five days a week. It looked such a small space yet it can fit five blocks with over 100 flats!
This month I thought I would try some different volunteering and joined the team running the LOST Arts festival. Over a period of 48-hours, 80 artists, musicians and DJs came together to put on a free festival for some 15,000 visitors to celebrate all that is lost in society. It was a truly moving experience to be part of this event. I was allowed to manage Dark Rooms Light and Sound installation by Christopher Bauder and this included keeping a tight rein on the numbers attending at any one time. The exhibition was held in complete darkness in the attic of a condemned building, with rafters that could not take more than 50 people. As you can imagine I had a few hairy moments holding back visitors while envisaging the floor boards crumbling and crashing down on others below us.
Berlin has been awash with Christmas Markets and I visited many over the past few weeks including the family friendly British Christmas Fair (which was like being at a May Day Fair with stalls spilling out on to the village green) and a Jewish Chanukah (Festival of Lights) event. I also attended a German carol concert and German Christmas fairs which were all beautifully lit with stars and twinkling fairy lights. All welcomed the varied and diverse cultures of residents and visitors to Berlin.
Helping the homeless
I’m learning how to budget while I’m in Berlin and feel lucky to have saved, be working and to have Heritage Foundation plus family support. The level of poverty and homelessness I see here is higher than I had imagined. It is hard to ascertain accurate figures, charities believe there are 5,000 truly homeless here. To help those in need I have been using any spare funds I have to buy basic necessities and have volunteered with homeless charity Berliner Obdachlosenhilfe. Here, working with other volunteers, we make up food and clothes packs then we go out on the streets where we meet, listen to and pass on our packs to the homeless.
Adults are always telling me “you do not miss things until they are gone” and I would tut and roll my eyes and think here they go again! But being here has highlighted what a caring community I came from in Wilbury and how lovely the locals of Letchworth are. I have not found a local community or had one reach out to me so I have had to be resourceful and search further afield travelling across Berlin to meet and connect with others. This has been scary and I have heard my stomach rumble as my nerves rise as I enter a group of people I do not yet know. It has been tough but good for my confidence as I start to make new international friends, it is developing my resilience something that I hope will see me through 2018.
Top tips when visiting Berlin
- Potsdamer Platz can be pricey for refreshments. If you are there Tuesday-Friday the SIM Café 10.30am-3pm (12-2pm for hot food) is the place for a cuppa (1 euro) and cake.
- Vostel a great group to volunteer with
- Want to meet new friends where ever you are in the world whatever your interests? Meet Up is a good internet resource
Until next time.
Read Immy's previous updates below.