It’s funny, the places you end up when you leave home with no particular route in mind. The past two weekends I’ve had excursions out of Berlin, fifty kilometres to the north east to a little tiny town called Falkenberg (Mark). No, the town is called Falkenberg (Mark). I’m not sure what the brackets are for. It’s very East German and less than fifteen kilometres from Poland. Forest, farmland and grey communist towns, rather different to Berlin.
I went with my au pair family because of an art exhibition showing the work of the father of the family and the mother of family friends of theirs, also an artist. The exhibition was in her home-studio which is inside a hundred year old bahnhof (train station) that’s no longer in use. Not a bad place to hang out – it has three levels and any number of doors and passageways that divide it into a kind of maze, scattered throughout with artworks.
To give me a break from the chaos of two families with four children I was staying in a hostel on the Saturday night. The first weekend, I was booked into a hostel built from an old German flour mill in the nearby town of Bad Freienwalde. It was a Saturday night, and the hostel was at the very end of a pot-holed road with few houses in the vicinity. It was in the middle of a forest. And I was the only guest in the entire place.
I was in a room with three single beds, two built-in heaters and not a lot else. Having been dropped off at 9pm Saturday night, I had twelve hours to kill before my breakfast and collection by Silvian. First of all I tested the mattress and decided it could be more comfortable. I pulled down the mattress of the top bunk and put it on top of mine before making the bed. The princess and the pea, but actually I was just killing time.
It was cold in my room and my only entertainment was my iPad, so I brushed my teeth, put my pyjamas on and spent the next three hours listening to music, writing and reading eBooks. I had pulled the curtains closed and the creaking of the old house was quite terrifying, given the circumstances. I thought about whether it was fair that my family had taken me out of Berlin on a Saturday night (that’s a night I could have spent at Berghain!) and put me up in a cold, empty mansion. At least it was better than spending the night with the four kids.
The following weekend I politely asked not to be put into another horror film situation so I was booked into a Pension, which is like a little apartment complex that is popular with sixty year olds who rent long-term. This was much more comfortable, decorated like the house of a grandmother in the seventies, all animal statues and floor rugs. It even had a TV, but what with the German way of dubbing everything I had to flick between an MGMT concert on a Kultur station and Donnie Darko in Deutsch.
I did enjoy both weekends – we had sunny weather so it was great being outside all the time, my accommodation was fine apart from the emptiness and it was interesting being at the exhibition. It was nice to get a taste of East German towns. But I was very glad when the train pulled into Berlin on Sunday afternoon. This may not be the ‘real’ Germany but it’s much more liveable.