I liked walked out in the snow to the plane. Once on the plane is was mass confusion. Apparently they don’t assign seats. So we didn’t know what to do at first with so many people swarming every which way. A Swedish woman noticed out distress and yelled, “Just sit ANYWHERE!” so we sat next to her.
It was very crowded. But other then the airline attendants try to sell you cigarettes and expensive “duty free” stuff, wasn’t a horrible flight. The airport in Hamburg – is actually an hour outside of it, kinda misleading and the trip to the city is 10 Euros. But we gladly paid. We needed a place to lay our heads. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into.
So we arrive in Hamburg and the central station area is dirty, full of scowling immigrants, and the streets are swarming with prostitutes and drug dealers. We didn’t really explore Hamburg, so I know our impression is pretty bad, but we almost just bought a bus ticket to Berlin and kept going. But I really wanted to see the B20 art community that we were invited to stay at. It was Christmas, and I’d rather spend it with people and I don’t like casting snap judgement on a place, even though from what we saw (all 4 blocks of it) was dirty and unfriendly. So we walked to the address and rang the bell and nobody answered. We walked back to the main station to gather info on the trains/buses – we were Heading to Berlin the next day, and grabbed some food. We were going to try B20 one more time because either finding a hotel or skipping town. This time, again nobody answered the bell, but peering through the window panes, I saw a man standing in a doorway, so I banged really loudly and he let us in.
So what is B20 you ask? It is a collective of 10 regular artists that rent a run down 4 story building and live and create there. Andy and Runa (his dog) in ways are the heads of this family, but they seem to pride themselves on having no rules or bosses. Andy was the one who invited us to stay through Couchsurfer.org and he gave us a tour of the place.
So scattered through out the floors are many art stations, where each person has made a space for themselves. In the basement, they have it cleared out and set up with a makeshift bar and dance floor. They throw huge parties to raise money to live off of. The second floor is also pretty empty, I think there was only two stations – a music nook to record and a desk full or metal for welding.
This picture is of ground floor, which is also the floor the store front windows allow people to peek into. They have a small store set up that Mon-Wed people can barter clothing at. The rest of the space is pretty open for skateboarding and a few couches peppered here and there. The 4th floor, which is really only the second floor from the street is where everybody mostly lives.
Each artist has a area that is made of a desk/living room area/couch. You could get a feel for each person’s creativity and organization. Most people had gone home for the holidays, but there was 4 still around and one Couch surfer, who had already claimed the guest bedroom (which actually was a guest bedroom separate from the rest of the open space.
Andy also showed up the roof, which in the summer is probably a lively place that they enjoy grilling on. But it was a bitter cold Christmas night. Unfortunately – the inside also lacked head, so it was equally cold inside. I could see my breath.
So Andy let me and Collin run around and take photos. Collin shortly after curled up on a couch with two sleeping bags and passed out. I didn’t want to be rude, plus there was no room for me on the couch, so I stayed up reading and talking with Andi. The way Andi chooses to live is so much different then my own. It was a crazy glimpse of alternative living. He has made friends and connections through out his city and goes and picks up fresh produce that is about to be thrown out or meat and they live almost for free. The rent is only 1 Euro a month. Sure there is no heat and the ceiling leaks, but they’ve cleaned the place up and made a livable space for themselves. It had a kitchen and a bathroom. It allowed them to paint and create. They could take up as much space as they needed because it had plenty to offer. Andi told me about his travels to Greece and his camper that he lived in with Runa while he traveled. I really enjoyed this stop, even if it was outside of my comfort zone and more like camping. When I was tired, I did actually end up sleeping in a tent (that was set up inside) with a twin bed inside of it.
We left first thing in the morning to Berlin. It was a 3 hour bus ride. We wandered around and rode the subway into town, popping in a few hotels to gauge prices. Since B20 was roughing it and we hadn’t showered now for 3 days, we wanted to treat ourselves a little nicer. Outside the Alexandre stop was a big Christmas market and a Travel Park Inn. We decided to stay here for the next two nights and bee lined it to the showers. After I finished my wash, I did inventory of all of my belongings and came to the stomach sickening realization. I didn’t have the camera anymore. I must have left it at B20… so unfortunately that day I traveled back to Hamburg, recovered the camera and took the bus once more to Berlin. Yup, a 9 hour day of travel. Merry Christmas to me! I was scared to make the trip back alone, but it would be rediculous to inflict that trip on Collin, when it was my careless mistake. So he stayed in Berlin and I braved the sketch Hamburg slums alone. Everything went fine and I had plenty of time to read ont he bus so I won’t make a big fuss about it. Bus travel doesn’t destroy ones bank account, so I wasted about 42 Euros with the extra travel. When I got home, those cooshy Berlin beds looked like heaven!