Our decision to leave Prague and follow Pearl Jam to Berlin was spontaneous and what life’s all about. That morning, we scored two seats in Section 102 and a small guesthouse in Wedding, Berlin. We approached the train platform in Praha to notice a bunch of 10c members crowded around Mike McCready. What?? OMG!!
At the right moment, we jumped in for the photo opportunity of a lifetime. Brett said, “dude?” and Mike was like, “where you from?”. We should have made a request or said something witty, but you know how that goes. Mike is such a cool and genuine dude. He travels independently by train with his family. It’s actually much easier in some ways than trekking to the airport, etc…… and, there is 1st class. We couldn’t wait to get to Berlin and share our story!
Not too far from the Wedding District in North Western Berlin are remnants of the Berlin Wall. We did a self-guided tour of the “walls” with watch tower foundations in between. Some parts of the wall are brick and intact. Others, are rusted steel beams. Pictorials exist all over with stories of escape attempts. We read about a young boy who scaled the wall and ran atop before being gunned down. There, remains a memorial with his story. Our favorite story is of a man who drove a pickup truck filled with sand, his wife, and child through the wall and then multiple barracks. There are sections of the wall where one could technically be on the east side, but think he’s on the west side. We met friends who shared their family story of migrating from east to west. They followed the “economic miracle” in West Germany (around 1950) as the Parliamentary Democracy prospered. Children secretly carried household items everyday to school until everything was moved.
It’s truly amazing how far Germany and Berlin have come since WWII and its reunification in 1990. Berlin in particular has such a rich international community. Locals are very nice, often speak English and happy to let you in. During our stay, we met folks from Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt. Our friend Kevin (from San Francisco) met us out one night with a few of his friends who were in town. The underground arts scene is quite grungy around the “Mitte”. We visited an art gallery called “Metall Factory” where there are drug peddlers and prostitutes aplenty. Christie was confronted by a prostitute after taking her picture. Christie spoke Spanish back as the woman grabbed at Christie’s purse shouting. Brett then jumped in the middle and the woman grabbed his arm. Apparently, prostitutes have rights too! We are not technically allowed to have her picture as she is a private person on the street. Hmm, I wonder who would win that case?
Our favorite food experience took place at “Clarchens Ballhaus“. This place existed since 1913 as a school dancehall with an upstairs Mirror salon and a downstairs swing floor. It survived the wars and several political threats. It was (and is) an important place for locals to ballroom dance and socialize over pizza, olives, and Pilsner’s. The 70’s disco ball in the front courtyard is priceless. All around the “Mitte” are buildings with bullet holes. Kevin’s friend Boris pointed these out from snipers during the war. The rebuilt downtown synagogue was quite a site with statutes of children out front to symbolize their suffering as orphans moved to concentration camps by the Nazis.
The first Pearl Jam show at O2 World was quite comfortable in the seats left of stage. We hung out in this small lounge area above the section with Dave & Lauren…… who later joined us at our seats! Brett met a crew from Miami sitting in front of us visiting for their digital advertising business, EveryMundo.com. Needless to say, the show was very festive with drunks everywhere.
Pearl Jam opened the show with “Long Road” off their Merkinball companion album to Neil Young’s Mirrorball. Eddie apparently visited the Ramones Museum in Berlin drunk the night before. He then dedicated “I Believe in Miracles” to the Ramones. Other favorites include In My Tree, Immortality, Leash & Once. Eddie even called Mike’s mom up on stage for her birthday! The show ended with “Indifference” off the Vs. album. The crowd was way rowdier than Prague, but Pearl Jam didn’t have quite the same energy. We left the show with Dave & Lauren and found our friend Matt & Kasia’s Pearl Jam Europe 2012 Tour car. We waited for them to come back to the car before heading to McDonald’s (didn’t eat anything) and home.
To help shrug off our lingering cold symptoms, we booked a Thai Massage. This experience ranks up there with the funniest of all time. We traded English and German for blank stares with Thai people before finally figuring it out. They spoke in German throughout our massages and laughed each time we had to turn over or move a body part. 25 euro is not bad for one hour German-Thai massage.
Our last Pearl Jam show promised to provide healing with “Release”. Brett had trekked an hour each way to O2 World around 1pm to get our 10c tickets. One ticket was provided by Matt & Kasia (Pearl Jam car friends from Poznan, Poland) and the other by Marcel from Berlin. The entrance queue was already packed with overnighters, so we were only able to get numbers 218 and 219. Anyway, the day experience was fun and energizing. The final Berlin show was sure to be great!
We stood a bit back on the floor this show to take it easy. Pearl Jam opened with “Oceans” from the Ten album. The Berlin crowd was more drunk and crazy than the first night. The band went on to play favorites like Present Tense, Nothingman, Betterman, Porch and Blood. A special song called “Come Back” was written by the band in tribute to Johnny Ramone after his death. “Mother” by Pink Floyd was covered in the spirit of “The Berlin Wall”. Like Prague, the show ended with Alive, Baba O’Reilly and Yellow Ledbetter.
Berlin and the tour was an incredible experience. We need to visit both again soon for a few weeks! Time to wake up early for a 10 hour train to Krakow, Poland. We plan to visit Auschwitz-Brekanaw en route to mountain sports around the High Tatras in Slovakia.