Where Are We Now? : Day 2 in Bowie’s Berlin

So in the absence of a professional (i.e. Thilo Schmied) I had to opt for a DIY Bowie tour of Berlin to mark the end of this sombre week.

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Starting out from Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte I headed west to Friedrichstrasse where last time I was here (a year ago) I picked up a copy of Zeit, a small box set of Bowie’s four Berlin-related LPs – what a difference a year makes. Zeit waits for no man.

I took a small diversion past the Berlin Ensemble’s theatre (Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) where Brecht set himself up in 1954, as a tip of the cap to the Baal EP which showed me another dimension of Bowie in 1982.

Next a walk across Potsdamer Platz to set the Where are We Now? trail in motion:

Had to get the train
From Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse
A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe
Just walking the dead
Where are we now, where are we now?

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Outside the Hansa Studio was a small shrine of candles and flowers, a child’s drawing and an empty wine bottle, as well as a black star. A couple of people stopped briefly to have a look. We listened to Breaking Glass on my phone there outside the building where it was recorded, and to ‘Heroes’. I took a few photos which I’ll upload when I get home – don’t have the gear with me.

Next stop was a bigger floral shine. This one outside Bowie’s old apartment (and Iggy Pop’s) at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg. That I do have a couple of photos from on my phone – I wonder why we still call it a phone as it’s about the last thing I ever use it for! The photos and messages lay nestled in pristine ice.

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Where Are We Now? At his front door

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Feeling Low

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There was a small gathering there, a shameless paparazzo getting in everyone’s way without caring, to remind us of the sort of crap DB had to put up with thanks to Fame and how it puts you there where things are hollow. It was an interesting sight to see but itself had a certain hollowness, people wanting to connect but in a slightly chilled way.

We went next door to have a drink to warm up at David & Iggy’s local (now called Neues Ufer). I had a read of Peter Doggett’s rather over-muso The Man who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s whilst having a bet about whether they sell more cheese cake or apple strudel in Ufer. The cheese cake was good. The coffee hit the spot. The candle light added to the vibe. The Jean Genie suddenly put its head above the chat noise as daylight faded.

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The last leg was over in Charlottenburg.

A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe

I checked out KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store in continental Europe. Then round the corner to the Ellington Hotel in Nürnberger Strasse…

Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse

Besides hosting jazz greats from Duke Ellington (the Thin Black Duke) to Ella Fitzgerald, from Lionel Hampton to Louis Armstrong (the Black Star), it was the location of the Dschungel night club, Studio 54 but at Nürnberger Strasse 53. We ordered up some suitably sophisticated cocktails to toast the Big Man containing all sorts of goodies from cinnamon  to absinthe. Got a bit of a buzz on; admired the art deco architecture, fixtures & fittings; and walked on down the road… as we walked past the Gedächnis Kirche (Remembrance Church) the bell tolled six.

Last stop of the day – the Paris Bar, arty hang-out of West Berlin prior to the fall of the Wall, a haunt of Bowie and pals. Now the East of the city is one big arty hang-out. On the wall, subtly placed among the floor-to-ceiling art works, is a slightly faded photo of Bowie beside a modern painting. It was a place for birthdays and special occasions among his circle so a fitting place to round off the day. We did our Desert Island Discs (again) after dinner over coffee – it’s been a few years since the last time and there will have been minor shifts though I haven’t checked back yet. Things move on.

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I’m going to put the addresses etc. of the above Bowie Berlin spots in the next post in case anyone wants to visit any of them in a DIY kind of way.

Sometimes I feel the need to move on
So I pack a bag, move on, move on
Well I might take a train or sail at dawn
Might take a girl, when I move on, when I move on

Somewhere someone’s calling me when the chips are down
I’m just a traveling man, maybe it’s just a trick of the mind, but
Somewhere there’s a morning sky bluer than her eyes
Somewhere there’s an ocean innocent and wild

[Move On from the 3rd of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Lodger – the one that got me a fantastic voyage to Vienna]

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Not so Low now

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3 comments so far

  1. […] promised in my Where Are We Now? post just below here is a list of David Bowie related locations in Berlin which can easily by […]

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  2. […] few days ago when I was in Berlin I wrote this (in a post called Where Are We Now? about David […]

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  3. […] The Berlin Trilogy 2: Where Are We Now? [17 January, 2016] […]

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