Love, they say, happens at first sight. As soon as your eyes lock on to the view, they understand what your heart wants. And, no matter what you do, you never forget that moment.
One of those moments happened the moment I first set foot in Berlin. Its history, architecture, and secrets caught my gaze. Its culture drew me in. I fell in love.
City Portraits is a collection of paintings and prints celebrating the cities that have had an impact on my life. Those cities which have inspired me. Those cities that have housed me. And those cities I have fallen in love with. Each city celebrated in its own chapter. And, as with all good stories, we start at chapter one: Berlin.
I was sixteen when I first stepped off the coach in Berlin. We’d been studying the dreadful history of the city between 1936 and 1989, and were spending 4 days exploring the historical sites from that time. Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Museum, and Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp were all on the itinerary. History so close to still be in the living memory of many of the people we walked past on the streets.
Whilst my fellow students gawped at the souvenirs and wondered if they’d be able to sneak in a beer, I fell in love. This city, which I had spend a few years reading the history of, was exactly as I had imagined. The scars of its history still on view, but filled with brand new buildings and a people who were unwilling to let that history happen again. In Berlin, I saw optimism. And I gave it my utmost attention and respect.
Two years later, I would visit Berlin again. This time, it was a cultural trip. One that opened with shots of Jaegermeister and Tequila in the hostel bar. That long weekend was an amazing trip, filled with memories that I fondly remember to this day. From drinks at the top of the Fernsehturm, to learning that one of my friends “knows kung-fu” from watching The Matrix.
When I moved back to the UK from Barcelona, my plan was not to stay long before travelling to Berlin. To see the city I love, and the people I love who live there. Unfortunately, that plan has been delayed. But, I intend to visit my first love again some day!
Chapter One: Berlin is made up of three works. Each represents an aspect of Berlin that stands out to me. Each a fond or prominent memory from my past, and the past of the city.
Built by the Soviets during the Cold War, the Fernsehturm (translation: TV Tower) stands tall above the Berlin Skyline. Its silver globe and red and white pylon standing proud against the sky. Still active as a broadcast tower, the Fernsehturm is also home to a souvenir shop and revolving restaurant, where you can enjoy a drink or a bite to eat as the city goes past.
The Reichstag was badly damaged in fighting during the Second World War, and was left in disrepair until the 1990s, when the task of modernising the building was given to Foster + Partners. Whilst the company updated a lot of the features of the building, such as the dome over the plenary chamber and the connecting tunnels between the Reichstag and other government buildings, they also paid respect to the history of the building. Throughout its insides, you can see the bullet holes where shots were traded by Russian and German troops.
The U-Bahn and S-Bahn connect the people of Berlin to their city. They act like arteries, carrying passengers throughout the urban sprawl of the city. The modern yellow trains have an amazing design and colouration that makes them stand out against the darkness they travel through. With my love of Berlin and trains, I couldn’t leave the U-Bahn out of this chapter.