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October 3, 2016

Freedom Bus Experience - Berlin

In the morning we were told that in Berlin we have to organise an exhibition with our sketch books. I panicked! On my sketch book was only one sticker in the form of a turtle, nothing else. I carried it with me the next four days, but had no inspiration about it. I thought that I could do some sort of a collage, but I didn't know anything about collages. I found some tape and started gathering all the things I imagined that would be part of a collage which would reflect my experience during our journey.
First thing on our schedule was a visit to the Saarland House in Berlin, our creative home for the next days. The Saarland representative came to meet us despite the fact that it was Saturday. He told us some interesting things about the Berlin Wall and then we went to visit the spot of Hitler's bunker and the Berlin Wall Memorial. We were guided by a young woman playing an accordion. I thought it was special. "When in my life I would be part of such an amazing experience?"
We passed through the Holocaust Memorial and heard an interesting story about it, then the Brandenburger Tor, and always surrounded by accordion music.

I don't know why the Berlin Wall Memorial affected me that much. I remembered the communist times and was touched by the stories of people trying to escape to the west. We, as Romanians, were so far away from the west, but to touch it, to smell it, to be literally hundreds of metres from it and not being able to live it, it must have been horrible.
I thanked for being born when I did, and for living in Romania. If I would have been born let's say 10 years earlier, I would have been one of the people trying to escape to the west. No doubt about it. My life story would have been so much different then what it is now.

I sometimes horrify myself thinking that I could have been only 10 years older. I could never have been a journalist, the way I am today, with the freedom to say and write what I like, when I like it. I wouldn't have been able to travel as I do now...
At the memorial I talked with the professor from UCD in Ireland who was there with four of his students. He grew up in communist Germany and migrated to Dublin, Ireland where he lives today. "An amazing man!" I listened to his stories about his family, about his journey to west Germany. I loved him. I told him my story, too little and insignificant compared to his. But he liked it, we connected and we started sharing stories away from the guided tour. He teaches landscape architecture, but he could easily teach history. We would chat again the following days. He is one of the characters I met on this journey which had an impact on me and made me thankful for not quitting this journey when I wanted to, in the first minutes in Krakow.

On the metro I lost my group again. I just don't know how I do it. So I decided to make the best of it and visited the Potsdamer Platz, because that is the place where I descended from the metro. I had my HERE app and managed to get back to the Saarland House.

From there we went to have an authentic Berlin artist experience in one of the hip and fashion clubs or something. I wanted to have a beer and asked the person next to me, one of the Polish guys, to watch me from time to time to see if I am ok, since I'm not into drinking and even one beer transforms me into a different person. He accepted and I trusted him.

It was not a hip place. It was again an old house transformed into a club, the such I've seen in Budapest and in Bucharest. I was not impressed. I went to the toilet and lost my group again. I found my Ukrainian roommate and decided to buy the beer. Someone recommended Pilsner Urkuel, a Czech beer. Horrible! I had one zip and wanted to throw it away.

Together with my roommate we went in the search of the others. We found them on a table, but they were rude so we decided to go away from that place. We ended up in a typical German beer garden, with live music. We sang and we had a schnitzel, we bonded and life was good again.

***

The second day we had a comic novel workshop. It was interesting, but again that feeling that I took someone else's place didn't let me enjoy it. I really tried to draw something, I even had an idea, but the person teaching that workshop told me the idea is brilliant, but I need to draw it. I couldn't. I felt like crying, so the best thing I could do was to extract myself from that situation and together with my sociologist roommates we went to visit the East Berlin Wall or the wall with all the artworks on it.
I didn't imagine I would have so much fun. We passed the Dome of Berlin and then we took the metro, we spotted Primark and TKMaxx in Alexandre Platz and decided that after the wall we would visit them, too.

The wall was ok-ish, I think I've expected it to be something else than it was. It was also raining, and the fact that we found a falafel place made my day. I had it enough at that point with all the wurst, morning wurst, afternoon wurst and of course evening wurst. Falafel was an amazing change and when we finished eating, the sky cleared a little bit and we were able to visit the wall properly and take pictures. That wall didn't create the same feelings in me, as the memorial did. I don't know why.
It was a good day. I skipped the continuation of the novel workshop and in the evening we had fun in the room. The next day the exhibition was supposed to take place and I've decided that at best I would make a performance exhibiting an empty sketch book. I thought I would be original and went to bed.

I couldn't sleep though, because all my roommates were sketching something on their visual dairies. We started talking and annoying in the process the other roommates. I don't remember what we talked about before I told then that we would never become friends. They were shocked. I tried my best to explain, but they maybe thought I was stupid, or at best that I was shallow. I was ok with that, (To prove my theory I have to say that two weeks have passed and except for some timid likes on fb. we didn't keep in touch).

Despite my theory, I have to say that some sort of familiarity installed in our group. Maybe because of my theory, we let loose and told our darkest secrets and spoke our minds. I am an open person in general, I don't have many filters when it comes to speaking my mind, but I observed that my roommates started to behave in the same way. At the beginning I thought that they were just copying me, mocking me in the process, but then someone said that copying is the highest form of flattery and I accepted and liked that.

In that instance, they were an interesting bunch of people. In that instance we were friends. I have to admit that.

***

The next day, was the day of the exhibition. Everyone was stressed, except me. I was an ignorant, that's why.
In the morning we visited the Europa house. So familiar to me, even the leaflets were familiar. They reminded me of my job. Too soon to think about my job.

After the Europa House, some people went to visit museums, I took the time to talk with my parents and my husband and I discovered another interesting character, Ben. He had a Romanian surname,  so I've asked him about that. Indeed, his father is Romanian. We talked about Romania, which he visited for the first time last year. He told me something incredible, he said that despite the fact that he lived his whole life in Germany and was visiting Romania for the first time, he found it familiar, a place "where he could move tomorrow and be fine with it". "He is a lucky person. I lost that feeling about Romania and I couldn't say the same thing about any other place."

As the Saarland House was empty at that time, I decided to go to the Berlin Mall, because they had Internet. I sat on a bench and did my Facebook and Instagram. When that was finished, I spotted a nice little shop and went inside. The most amazing shoe shop ever, with painted shoes. Amazing! Of course I bought something, I had an exhibition to attend that evening.

Ben, was in charge of the sketch books and I've discussed with him my empty sketch book idea. I don't know why, but he liked it. I considered it offensive to the organisers and together with Ben decided not to exhibit my "art" at that time. Turned out that others had similar ideas. Someone taped the sketch book so no one could see inside, someone else burnt it while recording the whole thing. My empty sketch book wouldn't have been out of place.
Armed with my new shoes, I went to the exhibition. It was very good. I looked through the others sketch books and again I had the feeling that I took someone else's place in this experience. I had a wurst and wanted to throw up. I made my way to the toilet and figured out that my cold, which I got on the bus from Krakow, caught up with me. I needed medicine and rest, lots of rest. How to achieve that in a 6 bunk bed room and another 9 hours trip the next day. Ben told me, insisted actually, that I go to the hostel and rest. I was pale. He gave me a pickle for the trip back. I took it and grabbed another one from the pickle jar and went to the hostel.

I think, I must have slept for an hour. It was enough together with two aspirins to get me back in some sort of a shape, enough to venture outside and grab something to eat. The only open place at that hour was a kebab place. I only took a salad or something I considered at that time healthy for my stomach.

***

I don't have any memories of that night. The next day we embarked again on the bus which would take us to Roes, in the Trier region, in Germany.

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