Impressions – Undermining “planned Obsoleteness”


One of the things I like about Berlin are the “artisans”.. not the artists, but the artisans, the crafters. Those people who do miracles with your old stuff, and whose eyes light up if you bring some “inherited” piece of equipment or material. Stuff, of which other, more “official”, shops tell you: not worth fixing it, please buy our newest product.

Hobby_FotoToestelOpa4_bewerkt2A Flash of Time

Such as the analog camera I inherited a long time ago from my grand-dad. When I got it, I brought it to an official photographer shop. They told me: already the money you would have to pay us for opening it up, would be more than the camera is worth. So I let it dust away in my cupboard as a memorandum. Until I told one of my colleagues, a hobby photographer, about it, and when he heard it was a Leica, he immediately send me to an artisan repair shop nearby.

There, they didn’t tell me, forget that old camera, here’s our newest digital product. The shop-owner, who I suspected was close, if not over, his retirement age, opened the case, started whistling when he saw the camera. I could see he could hardly wait till he would be able to bring it to his “laboratory”. Three days later I could pick it up. He took the time to let me hear the sound the shutters made, showed me how innovative the light meter on top of the camera was, the mechanism of the film transporter, and in general, what a wonderful little piece of pure mechanical, no circuit boards involved, machinery this camera was. I showed him a separate objective which came with the camera. He scratched his head and asked: “may I? You got 15 minutes?”, took it back to his laboratory, handed it back and said: here, it’s completely dust-free now. Hobby_FototasOpa3_bewerktNo, free of charge of course. From the corner of my eye I saw his much younger colleague (daughter?) sigh and shake her head. There was more stuff in my grand-dad’s camera case, including some unused films from the 50s or 60s. Totally unusable by now. Those films now are an exhibit object in this shop’s display window.

This Cow Died Almost 100 Years Ago

Another object I inherited is a long, leather motor coat my grandma used to wear in the 1920s and 1930s sitting behind my granddad on his motorbike. The coat is heavy, it weighs close to 15, if not 20, kilos. It’s very thick leather. But it’s warm, and utterly cool looking. Though too big for me. So it was gathering dust, cause when I went to a leather shop to ask how much it would cost to make it my size, it was way over my budget, and indeed, at least 3 times as much as a new leather coat would cost.

Until I moved here. Again, I looked at that coat, such a beauty, such a pity. And too much sentimental value to give it away or even sell it. So I thought, what the heck, and searched for a leather worker here in Berlin. Found one close to where I live, and dragged the coat with me. Unpacked, it resulted in quite a few exclamations from the shop owner, and another artisan was dragged from behind her sewing machine. Such LEATHER. They just don’t make it that way anymore. People like thin, supple, leather nowadays. The shop owner shook her head, tut-tutted and dismissively waved at the new leather coats hanging in her shop.

Kleding_gedragen_OmasJas_Cowboyhoed_Lendendoek_RKZ_bewerktYes, of course they can make it fit my size. The only problem might be the machines can’t take that good, thick, quality of leather. Nowadays, we’re simply not prepared for it anymore. But… She looks down at the coat, and tentatively feels the leather again. Again, she mumbles something like, they just don’t make it this way anymore. She looks up and says: I have to try, I simply have to. So she takes my measures, which takes sometime, since she’s very precise. A week later, I can pick it up. Perfect fit. And a bit lighter too, since I am skinnier than my grandma. I leave after a lecture about greasing leather. But, nothing beats how that coat keeps me warm during the harsher days of the Berlin winters…

Re-Tired and Re-Soled

Sometimes, there’s stuff I didn’t inherit, but just love, because it lasts me a long time. Such as my bike. There’s a dutch bike repair shop in Berlin, where “my” bike hangs on the wall as a museum piece. Where, if I go there, at least 2 of the guys wipe the oil of their hands and, almost drooling, point out the drum brakes to each other. Where I almost always get advice, or some second-hand replacement part, for free, just because they love the fact I’m still keeping this piece of history in good working order. And if they charge anything, it’s not much more than the material costs.

2014_MF_Zo019_Afterparty_Pinked_zwOr like my trustworthy big leather boots. After 10 years of good service, and 3 months of oil & rust after working on something also build-to-last, a 50 year old DDR-high-sea-fishing ship, now serving as an alternative music venue (and still sea-worthy), the soles of those boots cracked, straight down the middle. I went to 5 normal shoe repair shops. They all shook their heads. Way beyond repair.

Until I found on the internet the address of an orthopedic shoe maker. I went to his shop. A stooped, older, and very, very grumpy guy wearing a leather apron lets me wait for quite a few minutes before coming from the back. He looks me over critically and tells me: I don’t DO shoe repairs, I’m a crafter, a specialist, a maker of shoes. I start to look sad. He’s my last hope. Those boots have lasted me 10 years. His quite bushy eye-brows go up. 10 years? he asks. Let me see them. So I take them out. He slides his finger over the stitches. That’s good craftsmanship, he admits reluctantly. Ok. Leave them here, two days.  So I come back in two days. There are my boots. Shined up to the max. He straightens his shoulders, rubs his thumb along the side of the new soles, looks at me, and there’s a hint of a smile on his face. They’ll last you another 10 years now, he tells me proudly. I burst out in thank yous, but he waves me out of the door, bends down to his next project “it was an exception, ok? I don’t do shoe repairs”. When I leave, he looks over his shoulder: just take good care of them, grease them regularly, will you?

Wobbles And Knobs

Today I brought my old amplifier to a repair shop, because the socket for the phono input was doing weird stuff. I talked to the guy on the phone beforehand. Yes, of course he can fix it, he can fix anything. Of course, he’ll give me an estimate what it costs. So I unplug my amplifier, wrap it in bubble plastic, and step on my bike, and 1500 meters further, in between a vegan restaurant and a shop selling exclusive designer bags, is a dusty shop full of cables, spare parts, and reassembled hifi equipment.

I step in, and an elder guy in a blue coat with glasses comes from the repair room behind the counter “ah, you phoned. Let me see her”. He carefully unwraps my amplifier, and, almost caressing it, immediately brings it to the repair room, starts plugging it in, wobbles with the knobs, and agrees with me, yes, the old stuff is so much more reliable and long-lasting then the new stuff. IF you take care of it. And he starts telling me anecdotes about what he all found in amplifiers and tape decks. He quickly gives a preliminary diagnosis of the problem, and tells me, he’ll phone me tomorrow to give an estimate of the costs, and how long it will take. Repairing will be quick, but waiting for spare parts might take a bit. I immediately feel like my amplifier is in good hands, and tell him about the old Thorens record player I recently got and which needs a bit of love (& cleaning).

2015_Overig501_Materiaal_Muziek_ThorensMenno_bewerkt2His eyes light up even more. Though, he’s skeptical. Thorens is a name, a label, not all is as good as the name pretends. But yes, he’s more than willing to check it up, clean it, bring it in good state, give the mechanical parts a bit of grease. Max 60 euros, if nothing is broken. And yes, he’s fast. He starts telling me about DJs from Hamburg or Rostock who travel to his shop. With sparkling eyes he gives some anecdotes about what state he found their record players in. Proudly he says, he can repair almost anything. And fast. And good. And lasting. Good-as-new. IF you take care of it after it has been through his hands, of course.

The Crafty Fifth Column

These artisans, these professionals, are the silent force opposing – and opposed by – “planned obsoleteness”. They are threatened in their existence by a culture of throw-away technology. Where the warranty of a new camera or telephone is no longer than two years max, and even the bigger shops tell you: it prolly won’t last much longer than those two years. “Here, buy our newest product”.

I know. What they charge me to repair my stuff, simply does not cover the actual time they put into it. These are people who work with their hands. Who love when something of good quality comes into those hands. Something they can appreciate. Who truly take pride in their job. When they can bring something into, or close to, its original state. Technology, or craftsmanship which make their eyes light up, and, even with the most grumpy ones, makes the corners of their mouth go slightly up.

They hate doing shitty jobs. And if you bring shitty stuff, no matter how much quality work you put into it, it will still be shitty stuff afterwards. So yes, if you bring them quality stuff, they, albeit sometimes begrudgingly, love you for it. One of the – only – ways you can repay them (cause they usually undercharge you…) is to respect the quality of the product, and the quality of their work, by taking good care of it. And that’s what they’ll tell you again and again: take good care of it.

Impression – 6 Borders down, 3 to go

Zagreb, Croatia: 6 borders down, 3 to go. But they will be the hardest. Back in the EU, but since the membership states now are about to reinforce those oso open borders again.

Weird btw, I have to get used again to street lights, separate-your-waste-bins, five-lane streets, and shops which sell like at a least 10 brands of everything.

Didn’t miss these things the last few weeks. I rather realize a. there’s something like a Milky Way, b. it actually has colors :), c. can’t recognize the star signs since there are too many frikkin extra stars.

And I’ll miss falling asleep with the sound of waterfalls or rivers nearby, or waking up by the call for morning prayers, or the sound of nightly wild life sneaking around my sleeping place. Or bumping into a lynx (!) And the coffee won’t be that good, and I won’t taste yet another variant of fried cheese.

But the things I’ll miss the most are the general gentleness, friendliness & hospitality of random people I have met. I left bosnia with a vitamin overdose of all the fruit I got on the way, from the figs & grapes from the guy who gave me a lift to Mostar, the prunes from the bus station chef in Foca, the apples everywhere but most specially from the family who gave me a ride in Una park, and all the self-baked bread & cake (and baklava, or some local variant of crunchy pancakes filled with apples honey, MJUM) people put on a plate, in a bag or simply into my hand. My pockets are filled with telephone numbers of people I met when they gave me a ride, on the streets, in the buses, or hiking, all inviting me to stay at their place the next time.

Again, the rougher the landscape, the nicer the people (and unfortunately, as I found out by hitchhiking from Sarajevo, or in Sanski Most, the softer the landscape, the harder and more egoistic the people….)

Impression – Traveling: Small Town, Big Problems

Happy to leave Sanski Most behind me. Weird little town, full of big city problems. And I felt like the bone the dogs were fighting about. The only thing the dogs agreed upon was that it was not a tourist-friendly place (no kidding…) and there’s a lot of corruption. & since the waterfall was still another 20km away, skip it, next year, at it will be a day trip from the city where I am now.

Last stop in Bosnia is Prijedor. Here the people are utterly friendly again, the people at the train station loved how I tried my few bosnian words, and I could leave my backpack in the office for free to explore the town for the 5 hours I had to kill to catch the train to Zagreb. Where you can’t get the bosnian coffee anymore and no cats on the terraces, but the best espresso. And some strange pear drink, which is utterly tasteful, but also attracts a LOT of wasps…

Impressions – Una National Park, Bosnia

Forget Plitivice. Here’s Una National Park. And hardly anyone around.

Utterly btw, I could do two waterfalls today, thx to almost EVERY car stopping when I was hiking & give me a lift. Really, it seems the rougher the landscape, the nicer the people 🙂 Including a guy bringing his really old, gold-toothed mum home, a young Saudi family, she was completely covered up, but started video-ing at the moment they stopped & asked me if I needed a lift (bye bye privacy 🙂 ), a little van with husband and wife who just came from fruit picking, so I now have ANOTHER kilo of apples to eat, the owner of a new campsite near this waterfall, a friend of the ranger (ok, he was friends of almost anyone we drove past..) and.. and.. and… I will leave this trip with a vitamine overdose.. I still haven’t finished the grapes and figs I got in Mostar.

Last big hike: Una Park in Bosnia, near the border with Croatia. On the croatian side, there’s Plitvice Lakes, lots of tourists. Here, hardly anyone…

Hiked towards Martin Brod, the southmost village in the park, and about 10 km walk in almost 40 degrees and no shadow. Again, proof, the rougher the landscape, the friendlier the people. Almost immediately got a ride from a man bringing his gold-toothed mom home, and a few km further, from a saudi family (and she making vids of me the whole time)…

Started walking around Martin Brod, a village just simply teeming with smaller and bigger waterfalls EVERYwhere. Got another ride back to where I slept in Kulen Vakuf. On both sides of the village there’s old Ottoman forts (like everywhere near the river) but it was just to frikkin hot to hike up that hill. So I decided to try for another waterfall.

Thx to another ride, of a local couple in a van full of freshly picked fruit (got another 2 kilos of apples), I made it to Ocasan, a village 20km north of Kulen Vakuf, with another Ottoman ruin, and the biggest waterfall nearby. The waterfall was supposed to be ca. 6km from Ocasan. There was supposed to be a hiking trail, but.. I didn’t SEE the trail, neither did I see any signs pointing out to it, so I kept following the maybe longer off-road along the river.

And though I was afraid I wouldn’t make it before dark, and certainly not back before dark, hiking along the river to Strbacki Buk waterfalls was frikkin 100% worth it. The Una River is blue blue blue blue. Locals kept telling me the waterfall was 3km away, and again 3km, and again. Luckily I got another ride from a local camping owner (who complained his camping site stayed so empty.)

Walk along the Una River. Listen to the sound coming from the hills on the other side of the river: that’s not a dog. When I came here, I saw my first glimpse of a wild lynx (omg, they are BIG cats). On the trail next to the river were signs, “watch it, bears crossing”. Guess no car could survive a collapse with a bear (pity I didn’t take pics of that sign). And I know there are wolves.. But maybe it is “just” a fox? Dunno what sounds they make. Later on, someone told me it was probably a deer in heat.

Hiking back from Strbacki Buk waterfalls (try to pronounce it… took me quite a few tries, prolly lost the skill by now), I got company from another doggie showing the way. And got another ride back all the way to the main road. To view the sun slowly setting over the old town in Ocasan.. and just on my way to Kulen Vakuf, I got another spontaneous ride (this time, I did not see a lynx, like yesterday). To arrive in Kulen Vakuf just to see the sun set over the fort (with the moon sickle above it) and the river..

At the guest house where I was the only guest, and the lady didn’t speak english (my bosnian is very slowly improving…) I told where I hiked today. The conclusion was I obviously was in need of a lot of calories :). And got crunchy pancake is filled with honey, nuts & apples and very yummy.

Impression – Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (Reprise)

Had to get up early to start hitchhiking, since the people at the bus station in Sarajevo told me it would take me over 16 hours by bus to get to Bihac, which is like a 5 hour drive. They told me there was no direct connection between Sarajevo & Bihac, and only way to get there was to get another bus in Jajce, and I would have to leave Sarajevo at 7:30, and arrive at 22:00 in Bihac).

So I decided to take some local transport to just outside of Sarajevo & start hitchhiking. After all, I had such wonderful experiences in Montenegro and the east of Bosnia.

Well.. 3 rides later, of each 20km or less, and 3 guys trying to grab me or otherwise being sexist assholes, I arrived in Visoko. Where there are two roads leading out of the town going northwest, and all the time the locals telling me “wrong road” & I went to the other, where again I heard “wrong road”..

After one hour of walking back& forth, and meeting the local hippie (nice guy btw), who told me he never saw hitchhikers in this part of the country, I decided to give up after one more annoying guy bringing me to Kakanj and, while standing there near the (right) road, some idiot doing rounds in his car around me.

Ok, 100% idiots, plus another idiot checking on me all the time, there’s risks I take, and risks I don’t. Time to find the bus station. And guess. There ARE direct buses between Sarajevo and Bihac. And they only take 6 hours. So far for getting the right information from the people from the Sarajevo Bus Station… Ah well.. at least I will arrive in Bihac.

Though again the people from the bus station itself were utterly friendly, also in Kakanj, where I had to wait 5 hours, I magically attracted all the males thinking with their underbellies. Happy to get on the bus, where I met a NICE older musician speaking german, who lived in Travnik, and I had the usual experience of getting lots of local info, someone being proud of his town, and an invite, which I turned down, since I still wanted to make it to Bihac. Poor guy, because of the not so nice experiences I had that day, I almost didn’t trust him…. Oh, btw, pf course I drank a lot more bosnian coffee while waiting ;).

So, except for not seeing the waterfall near Sanski Most, everything will be alright :).

Impression – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Arrived in Mostar safely and yes, got a good internet connection & a great (new!) hostel with a very friendly host and a gooooooooood shower.

Had one hell of an amazing time hiking in the mountains in Zabljak and Sutjetska. And today a crazy day of hitchhiking from Sutjetska to Mostar. Did I already mention my guardian angel? He must be banging his head against the walls again :).

At the busstation in Foca, again, that hospitality & friendliness. Though I speak like 3 words of bosnian, and most people don’t speak english or german, the busstation chef not only got me a relatively cheap ride to where I was supposed to stay, about 30km more south, but also threw about two kilos of fresh prunes in a bag of the huge carton box he had in his office to give to passengers (No pesticides he kept telling me 🙂 ). I will so have to get used to “normal” hospitality back home.

This time I was in Sutjetska on my own, and on my own two feet. Not with a jeep like last year. Though my goal was the mountain of Maglic, this was too much for one day on foot. One day, I WILL make Maglic..

The Czech people I met hiking with full backpacks up towards Maglic, and we chatted and chatted, so even though they were a lot slower because of their heavy backpacks, I stuck with them, and said goodbye when they were preparing to make camp. The officially restricted path into primeval forest Perucica with the remains of another partizan monument wasn’t actually guarded, so I sneaked in for a couple of 100 meters until it became too overgrown, and I didn’t want to damage anything there. Made it down just in time again, and back before nightfall to the place where I slept, thx to (again) some people who just stopped and offered me a ride.

Since I promised my host in Sutjetska to text her that I got safely back down from the mountains, but my phone died after being completely drowned by the hiking-in-the-rain in Durmitor, and no internet connection, I had to find some sort of human contact. So I hiked back in the pitch dark, over a scary, scary, wobbly bridge of which I knew from daylight, was full of holes in the wood, towards the main road. Here I found a restaurant where the cook not only spoke dutch, but turned out he used to live 3 streets away from where I lived in Rotterdam. And I got another variation of the fried cheese, or “kaassoufle” as the cook called it.

Went back through that same pitch dark to the guest house where I was staying, and spend the night looking at simply amazing stars. It being pitch-dark has the advantage of being able to see the milky way (I forgot it has actually a lot of different colors), and just too many stars to recognize the star signs. Even caught the last bits of what is actually a minor meteor storm…

Next day, I left Sutjetska. Took a quick peak at the partizan Monument in Tjentiste, since I was near anyway. Again, people from a little coffee shop down didn’t speak english or german, but too friendly, and guarded my backpack when I went up here in the burning sun.

Got a ride from a truck carrying fresh ALIVE baby fish in the back. Because of the blazing sun, we had to stop regularly to check if the fish were still alive (and boy, were they trying to jump out of those tanks!), and feed them oxygen from rusty gas tanks.. The truck driver didn’t speak english or german, but he was so happy every time I wowwed about the next view on the dried-out mountain highlands of Bosnia (those views… those VIEWS).

The truckdriver dropped me off at Gacko since he was traveling to the sea to deliver the young fish to be grown up. Got a very fast ride from Gacko to Nevisinje from 3 bosnian guys. None of them spoke english or german, so I had to improve my little bosnian fast.

Got a ride from a wonderful guy who not only gave me the ride, but insisted on buying me good bosnian coffee on the way, insisted on inviting me in his house for food and more coffee, and gave me two kilos of grapes and figs before he dropped me off close to the hostel in Mostar. And though we didn’t speak each others language (he had 3 words of english and german, I had, again, to pick up bosnian fast… hitchhiking is a frikkin good way to be forced to learn a new language quickly!), we got along really well, he had great music in his car too :). The hospitality here is making me feel reaaally guilty. (and no, not once I could sense some “hidden meaning” behind his friendliness)

Everywhere in Mostar you see posters with “Refugees are welcome”. Yep, even though Bosnia isn’t the richest country *cough*, they ARE welcome here. Just as the host of the hostel where I stayed said, yep, we know what it is to live in a country at war.

In Mostar, at the ruins near the bridge, someone called me “hippie girl” and invited me to smoke pot….. “Hippie girl”. HUMPF. I’m 48, all dressed in black, with worn down boots, smelly and sweaty.. and I’m a “hippie girl”?

A portuguese couple from the hostel offered me a ride from Mostar to Sarajevo. Original plan was to go to Kravice first, but since that was 3 hours back end 3 hours forth, we decided against it, and in favor of another tourist attraction, a 15th century monastery half in a cliff near Mostar. Well. tourist attraction indeed. But beautiful, yep.

Between Mostar and Sarajevo, every time you think: I’ve seen enough beautiful mountains, I’m immune to it by now, there’s another view to prove you wrong…

Sometimes during my trip even I myself thought, FUCK, I’m insane. Hitchhiking on my own through wild, empty mountains and hills in a country I don’t speak the language….

But I keep meeting the most wonderful people…

Impressions – Mrtvice Canyon – The “Canyon of Little Dead Things”

The good luck I’m having on this trip is getting close to truly absurd, or my guardian angel is getting way too good in his job (he’s pretty well-trained anyway). It’s too weird, I do stuff most people with common sense wouldn’t even start thinking about (going up slippery mountains just after a cloudburst, yes, alone, hiking (yes, alone) into a canyon the tourist office deemed too risky to not do in a group, hitchhiking after dark in a country where I don’t speak the language) and I experience the most wonderful stuff and meet the most awesome people…

Today I met a 60+ guy, the last guy still living in his village. I had to walk over his land to get to my goal of today. So, within 2 minutes, I sit in his orchard, with a cat on my lap, tasting his self-made raki, honey from the local bees, and a few fresh apples. Within no time, we exchange life stories, and I almost forget I wanted to hike. He walks me to the right path, and tells me he’ll make food for me when I come back. Since I still would need to hitchhike 35 kms back, I didn’t want to say yes. I start descending to Danillov Most, a medieval bridge. Not easy to find, you had to fight a few bushes 🙂 The road crossing the bridge didn’t lead anywhere, just to forest paths.

I have a most amazing hike in that hidden canyon… Mrtvice Canyon. Later some people told me it translates to “the canyon of little dead things”. Well…. it sure is alive: the climate in the canyon is steady all year around, warm and VERY wet. And no people, so nature can go wild. The trees grow beards, the moss can grow wildly, and create a true “Moss Cathedral”. To get there, you have to cross some private property, and the owner hung signs everywhere to point this out to the few people trying to reach the canyon. I didn’t meet him, and anyway, the wonderful elder guy who lived at the beginning of the canyon and invited me in his house had given me a “freepass” 🙂

I found the “Gate of Wishes”, a strange rock formation with a view on the unreal blue water of the river. This is where I met the only other hikers, who were followed by some local puppies :). And this is where I left a piece of my heart…. One of the most hidden treasures (& not easy to find!). The path I was taking was not risky at all, just, well… don’t stumble :). Made by the partisan army during WWII. Very grateful to them, since otherwise I couldn’t have hiked there. It’s not a canyon for rafting. Water, however, always finds a way. No matter how big the rocks are which are trying to block its flow. Sometimes, you only realize the size of a block of stone in the river in comparison with the trees around it.

Going out of the narrow part of the canyon, found a way down the forest to the old wooden bridge (with roman fundaments!), had to get up through more bushes again and another sorta-bridge made out of a few logs. Again, no roads lead from or to it, just forest paths.

It’s close to dark when I pass his house, but I just had to say goodbye to him. Within 1 minute however, I sit in his orchard, with a cat on my lap, a fresh huge cup of turkish coffee, that honey, great cheese of the local cows, and more apples. And the guy tells me he’s very sorry, but he doesn’t offer meat, since he’s a vegetarian, and all he needs he gets from his garden, or trades (he makes his own raki.. good stuff.. even in montenegro he sells it for 20 euros/liter).

Ok, how lucky can you get? In the middle of nowhere, I meet a vegetarian… a 60+, almost toothless raki-maker, who pretty soon after I trespassed discussed the situation of the refugees in europe with me… Oh, and he has a well-equipped guesthouse in the middle of nature. He doesn’t “run” it, since he asks no money for it, maybe a donation or what people are willing to pay. This guy, who grew up in the half-wilderness in a country like Montenegro, is a vegetarian, and lives the principles of the solidarity economy to the max..

Of course, it gets really dark, so he gets me in his 42-year old, Never would have found it if not local people stopped their car and gave me directions, Tito-car, drives me to the bigger road, and no, he will stay with me until I get a ride.. Which I in the end got from two Montenegrin police guys after their shift :). And I say goodbye to another friend I just made (though I guess from his side, and the amount of pats on the head (!) he gave me, I got adopted…)

And I already was so lucky today… After two busdrivers refused to take me with them to drop me in the small village on the road between Kolasin and Podgorica, I decided to hitchhike. After all, I got a spontaneous ride when I came back from the mountains in the dark yesterday. Got a ride pretty quickly from a guy who I made really happy because of me constantly omg-ing when we turned around the corner & the next beautiful mountain view. He dropped me off in the village, after asking in a local pub where it was best to drop me. Started walking (I had a vague internet description, and knew the path would be hard to find), a few cars drive by, stop, and ask me where I want to go. In between two old iron bridges, I walk past a woman waiting near a crossroad, turns out one of the drivers stopped there, and asked her to give me directions in english.. Never would have found it if not local people stopped their car and gave me directions.

And these are just a few examples… I keep meeting such absurd friendly people… it almost scares me 🙂

Impression – The Free shop on Location

Our Free Shop went “on location” for the neighborhood market in between the cherry & apple blossoms in the garden of Villa Kuriosum.

Made quite a few people happy with the stuff we brought, a woman walking away with exactly the same shoes which just died on her, other people who tried to sell stuff ended up swapping stuff with us, and even the gold-enameled kitsch vase found a new home.

Poor parents when their kids discovered all our cuddly toys. One little girl walked off with a (original DDR- someone told us) teddy bear almost as big as her, her daddy following her, shaking his head and mumbling “I just cleaned all her toys out”. Wouldn’t be surprised if we find that bear back in the shop in a couple of weeks..

Encounter: a new dentist in the neighborhood

Always nice to make a – new – dentist’s day…

When I explained to him that, though caries has a hard time getting a grip on my teeth, they are 50 shades of yellow, brown & black because of breathing fire, you just saw “this can only happen to you in Friedrichshain” crossing his mind.

He even made pictures of the inside of my mouth and plans to do more research on what the long-term effects of petroleum on teeth & gums are, cause I told him more fire-spitters know the problem….

And now I realize I introduced myself by telling him I’m one of those people who have a dentist phobia. And both this phobia as well as the many scars inside my mouth  – he was pretty amazed by those too – are caused by falling (mostly out of trees) a lot.

So… then I tell him I breathe fire as if it is something completely normal.
And no, there are no less dangerous substances than petroleum to breathe fire with, well maybe lamp oil.

I guess one of the reasons he told me I was one of a kind (Ha! wait till he gets more – pierced up & fully tattooed, but afraid of the dentist – Friedrichshainers in his chair) are the priorities I have when it comes to being scared shitless…

Impressions – Random Encounters in a Free Shop

Just some random impressions why I love volunteering in a give-away-shop..

  • The pensioned turkish guy, who “no I don’t need any help, do I look like it??” somehow manages to get his cart over the steps, and who tries to look in any direction except in THAT one, when two punk girls try on bras and t-shirts in the middle of the shop.
  • The six year old nerd-to-be, who desperately wants to help us, and after sorting all the children’s games and books on size, tells me about that he already hacked 3 computer passwords.
  • The elderly gentleman, who comes in in a suit-jacket, for three hours does nothing but try on women’s clothing, and walks out in his suit again.
  • A group of five mexican ladies, giggling and dressing each other up in front of the mirror in all the glittery, or ruffled or rather, well… dandy stuff that we normally have a really hard time even giving away…
  • Two young very normal looking guys come in, obviously feeling awkward, politely ask how much the old video- and music-tapes are, and after I explain the concept of a give-away shop, just go crazy for hours going through them. In the end, happily show me they even found a turkish movie, proudly tell me of their collection of 40 videoplayers and 1500 VHS-tapes (“we throw DVDs away), not only hang around for the coffee (and slightly concerned wonder if I had any already), but after going out the first time, run back in to make a money donation, and after another 15 minutes, come back with chocolate bars for us, and, stuttering, the promise, to bring any “modern” media next week.
  • The 60+ woman (“I do look young for my age, don’t I?), who arrives out of breath to bring huge bags of freshly washed clothing, because she likes the idea of the shop so much. But it includes a fur coat and some dead foxes, which, since we are also doing a vegan cafe, sort of makes us uncertain wtf to do with it. Takes 5 minutes for the stuff to disappear, a refugee taking the coat for his wife (“her dream”…), and a kid walks out cuddling the dead foxes…
  • The (russian?) heavily blonded, heavily maked-up and very well-styled lady (including cute hat!), who looks like she just stepped out of some movie from the 30-ies, and who every week brings another guy, who looks like she just picked him up from the street, to dress him up, look critically at the result, and re-dresses him in the next set of clothing
  • A guy picking up a few pair of children’s football shoes, and asking me, if they don’t fit, can I bring them back? Of course I say, it’s a give away shop. And he whispers in my ear, they’re for my grandsons, I can’t afford to buy them christmas presents, but I’m so proud of them.
  • An alternative looking young woman from Tel Aviv with her baby child, who followed her summer love to this city, and next got kicked on the streets, sitting on the floor in between all the clothing and just going crazy “all this stuff.. all this stuff, all for free..”

And so on…
So many people, so many stories in this city…