During a trip to Berlin last summer, after a day of touring I was too energized by the history of the place to sleep. So I took a walk around the city after midnight. Berlin was still alive and full of color, music, and street performers. The painting below is a result of my late night walk. I’m also including some of my (lame) photography so you can get a sense of the color.
I loved Berlin. Is there another city in the world with such a crazy history? And yet it’s a story that ends well.
At the end of the Second World War, occupied Germany was divided into 4 zones by the victorious Allied Forces. America, France, and Britain, turned their zones back over to German control. The Soviet Union did not. The eastern half of Germany became the misnamed German Democratic Republic, disappearing behind the Iron Curtain for over 40 years. As for the city of Berlin, half of the city – the western half – became a conspicuous island of freedom and prosperity far inside the Iron Curtain. Eventually the GDR erected a wall across Berlin to keep East Germans from defecting to West Berlin. The Berlin Wall became a symbol of the oppression and failure of communism, and the differences between the western half and eastern half of the city grew stark over the years as West Berliners enjoyed the fruits of freedom.
The night I took my midnight stroll, these thoughts were keeping me awake. The physical wall went up when I was one year old – 1961. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, I saved the newspaper headlines. But actually standing in Berlin with native Germans and hearing their stories was an amazing experience for me. Today a reunified Germany is going about the task of rebuilding the scarred city with remarkable intelligence. But it wasn’t that long ago, and the butt-ugly communist architecture is still visible. The hotel where my wife and friends were staying was behind the Iron Curtain just 25 years ago. My midnight walk took me to Alexanderplatz (plaza), site of the largest protest in East German history which occurred a few days before the wall came down. When I arrived, the Platz was full of people, but they were enjoying the night, not protesting.
I speak very little German, but I think this was a comedy show. “Lacht” means “laughs”.
Rising up in the background you can see the Fernsehturm (television tower) built by the GDR in the 1960s. Our German hosts told us a fun story about this tower, which I will share in my next post. The Fernsehturm remains the tallest structure in Germany.
I don’t know what these guys were doing, but they had a large crowd. Something with a female volunteer and fire. The sign makes a pun – Bierlin. “Bier” is “beer”.
These guys were playing music on the street. They were very patient with a drunken guy in the crowd who kept trying to take the microphone. I never saw a policeman while I was there. There were women out alone riding bikes. I’m only going from my impressions, but it seemed a very friendly and safe environment.
Outside shopping. I wish my camera had captured the true colors.
When I saw this blue and violet night cafe scene I knew I had to paint it. Again, the colors were extraordinary. I wish I could’ve painted this view on location “en plein air”, but it just wasn’t practical. Below is the painting that resulted, and following that is a detail of the same painting. Mollie and I are booked to do a two-person show in November of 2013 at the Loveland Museum-Gallery in Loveland, Colorado. The show will be themed around our Germany trip, and this painting was painted for the upcoming show.