Dirty hands, 80 cents and David Bowie

21 01 2009

Like bad sex all I ever get from visiting DIY shops are dirty hands and a headache – DIY shops, and anywhere that sells flat-packed furniture. Nevertheless, on my last visit to Ikea I did completely indulge myself in what I can only describe as a GIANT CREAM HAT. I’ve had one of these before in Stockholm and I think they’re a January/February delicacy. Just a giant puff of cream served with red berries; then you need a gallon of coffee to wash it all down and prevent your throat momentarily closing due to the build up of  lactose-phlegm.  Anyway, that was yesterday. Today takes us to postmodernism and illusions, hallucinogenic for some, illuminated with halogen for others. 


I’m declaring myself the postmodern Christiane F of 2009. Much like the Bowie-loving, drug addicted teen protagonist of the 1981 film, I too love to hang out at train stations! But for all the GOOD reasons. I’m smitten with Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof to a degree which is is more than necessary for a train station, but I need to quickly explain the difference between ‘Hbf‘ and any English train stations. When I traveled on a train out of Berlin back in the hot summer, the cheeriest train conducter I’ve met waltzed into my carriage (all glass and cushioned head rests and halogen-spotlighted vanity mirrors!) and sang ‘Kaffeeeeeeeeee? Capucccinoooooooo? ‘ I actually declined because I was so stumped, and half expected him to put out his hand for a 5 euro bill afterwards. 


England – trains late

Berlin – trains on time!

England – cup of weak tea/coffe/chocolate with floating rawhide

Berlin – proper cafes!

England – stale Cornish Pasty (if you’re lucky)

Berlin – Italian ice cream parlour!

England – yesterday’s copy of the ‘Daily Diana’

Berlin – Virgin media store!

England – small shop selling polo mints

Berlin – chemist, CLOTHES SHOPS, food court, supermarket

England – curling egg sandwiches, costing £5

Berlin – sushi, miso soup and noodles!

England – shambling psychotic strangers intent on starting conversations with you

Berlin – super-glossy businessmen connecting to WiFi and calling Geneva on their iPhones!


I actually go to the Hbf just to go to the Hbf! Maybe buy some new clothes (ok, before the pound started on its slippery slope), get some sushi, have an ice cream, marvel at all that shiny, shiny glass, hear Bowie singing ‘Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame‘ in my head. Everything I need is in that Hauptbahnhof and I’ve really got no excuse to leave it. I could just shunt back and forth on one of the S-bahns for a bit of a scenery change, but that’s all. Apparently you can also get all the way to Kazakhstan, but then I don’t believe everything I read on Wikipedia. I’m not that much 2009. Nevertheless, that would be one hell of a train journey!


A Taiwanese friend of mine told me it’s quite normal for her to meet her friends in the main train station when she goes back to visit, but things have always been super-swishy over in the Far East. I also like the local Hauptbahnhof here  because when you come out of the main entrance, it’s really, really eerie. Exiting at dusk reveals a big concrete, open plaza and then laid out in front of you is the government area, the Reichstag, and to the left you see the “Death Star” TV tower way out in the distance. Behind looms the megalithic glass construction of the station. Our images reflected back, and back again. Truth, standards and ideals lost in a labyrinth of mirrors; the reason and order of the Reichstag, symbolised in the the Brandenburg Tor, glinting back in the glossy windows. It’s a sharp shock returning to the heavy damp air of Berlin after being swaddled in the constant flurry of advertising, the shooting in and out of travel, consumerism, people, 80 cents to spend a penny. Train stations no longer about serving trains. Wir kinder vom Hauptbahnhof – I wish you a very happy 2009. choo choo. choo choo.