By Folk Combo, Dec 11 2014 09:28AM
On how Folk Combo spend the first week of their adventure, doing some suburban camping, busking on the streets of Berlin, having late night-van sessions with Bjorn and diving into the surrealist world of Klaus Theuerkauf.
Welcome back and for those who are checking in just now, welcome to our story. The adventure has really begun and this week was all about realizing what kind of life we are going to live for the coming months,eating and sleeping together in the van, meeting new people everyday, playing our music on strange streets and to new audiences and in the meanwhile, trying not to loose our minds in the process. We arrived in Berlin on the 24st of november after a rather bumpy and difficult start (see last post) and we would soon find out there would be plenty more inconvenient moments, tricky episodes and confronting passages to come, for example:
- car issues (the battery...remember?)
- dealing with more German car people
- camping in a city, camping in the winter and practical details such as sanitation, personal hygiene, navigation in urban environments etc.
When we reached the German capital, we first wanted to solve our car battery problem. We drove the Villa to a car garage boulevard. We found a 'Werkstatt' (German: garage) and went in to see if they could help us out. Gijs started the conversation with the guy behind the desk, asking if it would be possible to speak English (bad idea) and if he could have a look at the car. The man interrupted Gijs halfway his humble request and replied: "NO TIME!", but...our car, the battery... muttered Gijs... and again he said: "NO TIME". The way he said it was a bit frightening and we didn't want to waste his 'time' for another second, thus leaving the place as fast as we could. Slightly bewildered after this second encounter with unfriendly German car-people (remember the ADAC?) we didn't feel like trying another garage and instead went on to find a place to spend the night. Before we left Hannover, we looked into this and found a possible camping-site for our Villa but it turned out that this caravan-camp was nothing more than a shady parking lot 20km outside of the center of Berlin with planes flying over every 5 minutes. The prices were more expensive than a hostel in the center, where we would have showers, internet, a normal bed and people to meet. So both agreed to go for the hostel instead, a decision we didn't linger on too long, considering the conditions of both options. Although we really wanted to try out camping in our Villa, it was probably a good idea to explore the city from a comfortable place first. We checked into the Generator-hostel and after we settled in we went out that night to meet up with Bjorn, our friend and collegue from Graaf Floris, who is doing a reserach-project on tourism in Kreuzberg, one of the neighborhoods of Berlin. We had some dinner and since Bjorn was on his way to a friend's place, we decided to meet up later that week for a proper rendez-vous. That night, we walked trough the streets of Berlin, looking around and sipping on cheap brandy to keep us warm while we talked about our (first and second) impressions of the city.
The next day we went for out to play our music on the streets, since we were eager to know if a techno-punk-anarchist city like Berlin would enjoy our folky songs.
We dressed up in our full Folk Combo outfit (folky tie, gilet, hat, long underwear), strapped on the instruments and were ready to folk & roll. However, our appearance was slightly delayed due to metropolic disorientation and we took the wrong tram and going on a nice sight-seeing detour trough Berlin Suburbia. So a bit later than intended, we arrived at the Alexanderplatz, a huge square in the city center full of shopping malls, Christmas markets and currywurst-stands.We played a couple of songs and earned back the tram tickets and the typical German lunch: Currywurst mit Kartoffelsalat (...nom nom nom...). But the cold was quite harsh and our faces and fingers were turning purple blue, the noses started running and we both felt like we had enough for one day. So we went back to the hostel to enjoy the comfortable beds and hot showers for one more night.
The day after we went to the Alexanderplatz again to play. But this time it was going less smoothly, receiving close to nothing at all and we decided to try our luck elsewhere. We took a bus to the Brandenburger Tor, which was good for sight-seeing but not for playing music since there is a Silent Room (???) next to it and a lot of police around, chasing us away before we even got in tune. So we went on to the next stop, which was another Christmas market next to a beautiful old church in Charlottenburg. But here we couldn't play either because every decorated pine tree on the market was equipped with a stereo system, playing Christmas carols and making our contribution to the whole scene a bit uneccesary. So we payed a visit to the old church and prayed to the Man upstairs to help us out a bit. But unfortunately that didn't seem to have much effect because the very next spot we tried to play we got asked for a licence, which we didn't have, and we had to take our stuff and leave. It got dark and we gave up, feeling tired and cold after walking and driving around Berlin the whole day without any profits of our busking attempts. We learned that the life of street musicians is no bed of roses, especially when the winter winds are cutting like knives in our folky faces and the rewards are scarce at the end of the day. So we went back 'home' to our Villa and slept in the car for the first time, having a first go at the suburban camping routine that we are, by now, quite pro at.
One night, later that week, when Bjorn came to visit us for drinks in the van, the 'Tr(a)umatic Heating System' stopped because the gas-bottle was empty and we could see on our villa-thermometer how temperature was declining rapidly. We didn´t have a spare bottle and knew that pretty soon the once cosy and warm van would be a little less comfortable. The morning after when we woke up, the whole van was freezing cold (Villa thermometer: -1) and we skipped our usual morning routine and went straight to a place to find new gas bottles. We bought two, to prevent any further heating issues and afterwards we went swimming in a public pool to relax and nourish our tormented bodies after that arctic night. When we were completely refreshed and warm again we had lunch and went for a little stroll in the Gorlitzer park, a place decorated with drug-dealers, their clients and the pleasant smell of weed and hashies. As a contrast to this law abiding scenario, we entered the Emmenhaus-church next tot the park where the sunday mass had just taken place and the church community were having lunch and a bazar-market with second-hand books and other stuff for sale. We had a look around and kept in mind there was also an internet-cafe inside (modern churches are better connected that one might except) to check our e-mails and update the website. After the church, we kept walking trough the neighborhood, looking for a supermarket, but instead found an art-gallery and atelier, home to the artist Klaus Theuerkauf. As soon as we entered the place and lay our eyes on the pieces of 'art' exposed there, we knew we found something interesting. The place was full of surreal and subversive works. The man who made them was there smoking while working on a small painting. We introduced ourselves by telling him about our trip and backgrounds. Likewise, he told us his story too: he moved to Berlin when he was 23 searching for a creative environment for artists. We asked him if he would know any places to play music or to practice, since the van was a little uncomfortable for a proper rehearsal. He offered us to use his atelier and we could come back tommorow after he took care of some things in the morning. We gracefully accepted this offer and got his phonenumber. We left the atelier and walked back to the van, boiling with ideas and inspired by the spontaneous meeting with Klaus. The rest of the day we spent writing a song about Berlin that we intended to record at the gallery. The result is the a waltz called 'Berlin' that you can listen to on the website.
The next day when we came back to the gallery, Klaus and a friend of his were working on a new painting, the 'Christmas duck' (see website). We used the gallery the whole afternoon for practicing, filming and recording. After the rehearsal, we thanked Klaus for his hospitality and went back to the van, hoping that the internet cafe of the church we visited earlier would still be open to do some work. The place was empty except for one girl that worked there. She was intending to close for the day since nobody showed up. YanYan, who was from the Netherlands, was doing voluntary work for one year in Berlin living in the tower of the church. We told her about our trip and she offered us coffee and Christmas bread. She asked if we would like to have a shower, some food and if we would like to sleep in a warm place for the night. We could not believe that such a kind offer came our way and we brought our stuff up into the tower of the church overwhelmed with all this generosity. That night we had a wonderful dinner that we tried to pay back by playing some tunes. Finally, we slept like two babies. When we woke up, rested and energized, we decided that our Berlin chapter had come to an end. It was time for Folk Combo to move on to the next stop: Czech Repulic!