I woke up on the first day of 2012 in Berlin, pleasantly surprised to find my hearing had returned after being shattered from an evening of firecrackers and rock n’ roll during Silvester. The city was actually quiet and I made my way out into the gray drizzle on an art-finding and bratwurst-eating mission.
My trip to Berlin was made possible by Beck’s Beer but the opinion and information is, as always, my own.
My first stop was a return to the Brandenburg Gate to again see the Beck’s Green Box Project and since I was able to get closer to the gate with no barriers, it was a better experience than it had been the night before.
I wandered by the Reichstag, and longed to know more German. There were monuments and memorials whose meaning I could guess – yet not confirm. There was history I tried to pull from the recesses of my college-educated and European-obsessed mind. As I wandered, I came upon evidence of the revelry of the previous evening and I felt my stomach rumble for bratwurst as I walked past a curry stand.
With thoughts of art, history and language competing for prominence in my head I hopped on the S-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz intending a peek at The Wall. There, in the driving rain, I felt a deep sense of sadness. There’s very little to directly connect me to any events in WWII. Still, standing at the wall I couldn’t help but contemplate – perhaps unsurprisingly – the evils that we tend to enforce on our fellow man. There it was, a potent symbol of the black cloud that descended on Europe for decades. I’ve never awoken with a wall dividing my home from my neighbors or experienced the countless other horrors ordinary people lived through (and died because of) so long ago … but who is to say any hate that I harbor in my heart doesn’t cause its own sort of destruction. I masked my feelings by concentrating on pictures. And then my stomach rumbled again.
After one of the most delicious and yet simple meals I’ve ever had, I was fortified enough to continue my exploration of Berlin. I concentrated on graffiti as I made my way from the east side to the west.
It occurred to me that the reason I love art so much is that it gives me hope. Even on the wall itself, art, to counter the division and hate it once represented. As I wandered through empty, quiet streets in a rain that never let up I found it everywhere I went in varying degrees. My kind of art. Emotional, ragged, vibrant, controversial, public, free.
I love what Beck’s is trying to do with their Green Box Project because it combines a new technology, with an old thread: art. It’s a universal language. And in this day and age where walls still exist everywhere we go in so many different forms, it’s a barrier-breaking hopeful flag of beauty. And a perfect compliment to Berlin.