Friday, 19 February 2010

Ich bin ein Berliner

...actually Kennedy made a mistake with that quotation and accidentally said: 'I am a jelly donut'. Look it up. I must emphasise that I am not a jelly donut but I am a part-time writer.....

Well last weekend after two years of writing I finally made the trip to Berlin and what a breathtaking, beautiful City it is.

A big thank you goes out to Alison from Strasbourg for helping me to see the sights on Saturday. We travelled in a motorised rickshaw from The Brandenburg Gate, past the magnificent Siegessäule and on to a fantastic flea market packed with beautiful jewellery, furniture and lots of interesting records too. Berlin has been going through a freezing spell for the last two months and the City is covered with ice and a blanket of snow. A cold walk back to the Brandenburg Gate meant it was time for some Currywurst sausages. After seeing this traditional national dish on the BBC programme Newsnight I simply had to indulge and it was delicious. On to Schloss Charlottenburg and then the Bröhan Museum for an art nouveau exhibition. Thank you, Alison for your company on a great day.

My accommodation during the stay in Berlin was at the UFA Fabrik, a stones throw from Ullsteinstrasse on the U-Bahn route. The UFA was a film storage unit during the early days of German cinema and was also used by orchestras to record the scores for silent films. Those avid Ashra fans amongst you will also know that the UFA was where the band began rehearsals on the run up to the Correlations album in 1978. The results of these jams were released as The Making of and now form a part of the 5 CD Complete Correlations boxed set. These days the UFA is an International Culture Centre used for live music events, film screenings, theatre, schooling, circus workshops for children, Tai Chi, not to mention baking fine bread. For those of you wishing to visit the place where Ashra rehearsed over 30 years ago the accommodation is very nice.

Bearing in mind the historical significance of the UFA Fabrik in the Ashra story it was very exciting to meet the band’s drummer Harald Grosskopf, returning for the first time in 30 years. We managed to track down the room where Ashra had rehearsed all of those years ago and it was great to have a chat with Harald. He’s a nice guy and interesting too.

On Sunday evening I had the privilege of seeing two great pieces of art. The first of these was Ilona Ziok’s new documentary Fritz Bauer – Death By Instalments in its premiere at the Cinestar, Potsdamer Platz. Bauer was a German judge and prosecutor, who emigrated to Scandinavia before the war as a result of his Jewish heritage. He returned to Germany after the war and was unswerving in his quest for justice and compensation for victims of the Nazi regime. Bauer was a key figure in the organisation of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials but died in mysterious circumstances in 1968. Ziok’s documentary is unflinching, poignant and frequently very moving. It is obviously the result of a great deal of painstaking research.

Back at the UFA Fabrik later that evening I had the opportunity to see a restored version of the fifteen minute silent film Hiawatha, the first by Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle. As a centenary celebration of the film Manuel Göttsching produced a musical soundtrack and I am happy to report that if this music ever reaches a CD or DVD fans will not be disappointed. Pattern based, electronic and hypnotising the score gave the film an otherworldly quality and wouldn’t have sounded out of place amongst the very best electronic pieces on The Private Tapes. Superb.

Following the evening’s screenings I had the opportunity to chat with Manuel and Harald until 3:00am, which again was fascinating. On Monday I stumbled across Checkpoint Charlie and the Mehringplatz (formerly known as the Belle Alliance Platz) but that’s another story: one for the book.

What an amazing stay! For their kind hospitality I have to thank Manuel Göttsching and Ilona Ziok, not to mention Harald Grosskopf, Silvia and Rudolph Brünger at the UFA Fabrik. A nice guy, and a great place to stay. Wonderful!


  1. Very interesting Chris. Berlin is indeed a fascinating city. I'm looking forward to the book!

  2. Thanks, Jacob! I had a great time. I'll be writing again tomorrow...

  3. Well done Chris, you visited most of the places we've been to in the last 3 Ufer. Good to see you had a great time

  4. Cheers, 24db. It was a fantastic little visit and great to see Manuel and Harald.