Wednesday December 15th 2004
I'd passed through Berlin in the summer of 2002, on my way back from China. It had been hot, and amazing. Now I had to go back, because Rammstein were playing, and I had got hold of tickets. Four of us were going to the gig, and another friend was coming just for the trip to Berlin.
It was freezing when we arrived. Mist covered the city, and from the ground, the low sun was casting a shadow of the Alexanderplatz TV Tower onto the sky above. We went up the tower and saw the sunset shining through the haze.
Thursday December 16th 2004
We went to the East Side Gallery. Two years ago, graffiti was beginning to cover the murals, and now it was a lot worse. It was so strange to think that this thin piece of concrete divided a nation for so long.
Saturday December 18th 2004
The Rammstein gig was fantastic. Anticipation built up hugely before the start, and there was a massive roar from the crowd as five people with torches came on stage. Was this the band? No, it was just the roadies, hyping things up yet further. They wandered off stage as a bass note began to play. Then, a curtain dropped, fireworks exploded, and Rammstein appeared. It was a stunning start, and the rest of the gig was all flamethrowers, fireworks, and immense tunes.
The next day we got up late. We had no particular plan in mind, and ended up going to the Dom. Nearby was a Christmas market, where lots of hot food was cooking. We felt like a snack, and we found the mother of all snacks at a stand selling half-metre bratwursts. This had to be tried, and between the five of us we ordered a ridiculous two and a half metres of sausage. By about 20cm in I was feeling pretty full, and by the end I felt grotesquely stuffed. I didn't eat again until the following evening.
Sunday December 19th 2004
We went to the Hamburger Bahnhof art gallery. To get there we had to go to via Lehrter Bahnhof, still under construction as Berlin's new main station, and eerily large and empty. It was snowing heavily as we arrived.
The gallery had some amazing things, and some stupid things, as is the normal way with contemporary art. Its main hall was filled with junk, literally and figuratively, but a lot of the rest of it was really awesome and we spent a long time there.
Monday December 20th 2004
We went to West Berlin on our last morning in the city. Most of the cool things seemed to be in the east, and we walked down the Kurfürstendamm from Zoo station without finding much to detain us. But we did pass the Gedächtniskirche. I'd seen it in 2002 but only from a distance when I'd got off the train from Warsaw at Zoo station. This time we walked right up to the bottom of it. It's a pretty shocking sight - the ruined shell of a church, left unrepaired since it was bombed in 1943.
We headed back east and went to an awesome club in the evening. This was the dual personality of Berlin - on the one hand you can't get away from the fact that it was the epicentre of the most destructive war in human history. And on the other hand it's hard to find a city more dynamic, progressive and exciting.